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Human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to keynote Boca event

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
 

(SunSentinel) – Acclaimed international human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali will provide the keynote to 500 women philanthropists at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s annual Lion of Judah Luncheon.

The annual event will take place Feb. 3 at the Polo Club in Boca Raton.

“We are privileged to hear a meaningful keynote address from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an important voice for human rights, a distinguished political leader and a true global champion of free speech,” said Lion of Judah co-chair Amy Ross.

Born into a Muslim family in Somalia, Hirsi Ali, 46, questioned her faith and the oppression of women at an early age. Upon being forced to marry a distant cousin, she fled to the Netherlands, claiming political asylum. Once there, she worked her way up from being a janitor to serving as an elected member of the Dutch parliament. As a member of parliament, she raised awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation. Traditions brought to Europe by fellow immigrants.

The best-selling author of “Infidel” has called for a reformation of Islam, earning a reputation of someone not afraid to speak her mind.

“Why am I not afraid? Imagine being raised in a religion that you emancipate yourself from. And then hearing on TV or reading newspaper headlines that say people are being massacred in the name of that religion,” said Hirsi Ali, who is now an atheist. “Imagine hearing that women are being raped in the name of that religion, and sold into slavery in the name of that religion. And that school children are killed by people shouting the core text of that religion. What would you do? Where would you hide?

“For those of us born into the [Muslim] faith and who don’t agree with the bad things being done in the name of the religion, you don’t just sit back and say ‘I understand the symbolic intentions’,” she said. “I can’t say, ‘well, I got myself out of that fix and now I’m going to bury my head in the sand.’ I can’t do that. I must help.”

In 2004 Hirsi Ali garnered international attention after the murder of Theo van Gogh, who directed her short film “Submission,” depicting the oppression of women under Islam. The tragic incident, as well as her life story, is recounted in her book, “Infidel.”

Hirsi Ali became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2013 and is a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at the Kennedy Government School at Harvard University. As founder of the women’s rights organization, the AHA Foundation, in New York, she works to protect women and girls from the honor violence she and others have faced.

“Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a compelling message of enlightenment, empowerment and inspiration that women of all ages will not want to miss,” said Ross.

This year’s luncheon also highlights the Code of Kindness, a global project promoting acts of kindness and generous deeds.

“As a people, Jews have always tried to make the world a better place, and how better to repair the world than with acts of loving kindness?” said co-chair Robin Rubin. “We will be weaving messages of kindness into our Lion of Judah Luncheon program so that our Lions, and our entire Jewish community, will continue to improve the world.”

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