ayaan hirsi ali, dutch feminist and political writer, was born into a muslim family in somalia. she escaped her arranged marriage and ended up in the netherlands where she gained notoriety as a vocal opponent to the treatment of women by the religion of islam. she participated in a controversial film with theo van gogh, which was about the subjugation and suffering of muslim women in forced marriages and wife beatings. theo van gogh was murdered by an angry muslim radical as a response and death threats were issued.

she has written a new book called infidel, which is a memoir, and as she goes to promote her book, she continues her criticism against islam. she comes out and says plainly that islam is not a religion of peace. she describes the quran as "not a holy document. it is a historical record, written by humans. . . . and it is a very tribal and arab version of events. it spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war."

i haven't read her book, but i've seen many interviews with her and she comes across as a very compelling person to listen to. despite being very soft spoken, it is clear she always says what she believes and believes what she says. one of those beliefs is that islam is not a religion of peace. this is something most people are afraid to say in public due to its lack of any political correctness. sometimes it seems that political correctness tends to stifle what could otherwise be intelligent and interesting debate.

it certainly is a bold and seemingly heart-felt view she has, and after what she's been though, you can't blame her for feeling the way she does. certainly over the last few years, some muslims have been shown to be less than tolerant of any sort of criticism against islam or the prophet mohammed, usually resorting to violence which doesn't help the public perception of islam at all. all this seems to highlight the view that not all religions are the same.

there are some very interesting questions that come about due to all of this, such as whether or not a religion - violent or not - is just what one makes of it? and why does it seem that muslims tend to be more violent than followers of other religions? most muslims don't behave the way they are shown on television, so is it simply a case of media bias? or is there something inherently violent about islam as she implies?

regardless, religions make an already complicated world that much more complicated and harder to live in. and whatever you think of her views, you have to respect how brave and courageous she is. and you have to love the fact that she is free to voice those opinions.

here is a clip of
ayaan hirsi ali on real time with bill maher: