Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

n May 4 this year, Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke to a roomful of people she'd never met, and apologised to them. The American Jewish Committee had invited her to receive its Moral Courage Award, at a time when she was practically being hounded out of her home and her adopted country. She told the assembly, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make, if you are Jewish.... I used to hate you." You can listen to the audio here.

In this, much smaller event (which I'm guessing was at the New York Public Library), she meets someone else she used to hate. The Somalia-born Hirsi Ali was a teenager then, going to school in Kenya, and had joined in demonstrations demanding death to Salman Rushdie, and burning his books.

Today she says she has grown up, and lost her fear of hell. "Forgive me for wanting to burn your book." She later tells him:
"What I learned from it was, I was trying to have a man killed whom I had never met, and I was participating in the burning of a book I had not read. So, actually what I was doing was demonstrating for ignorance."

She understands that simply sitting next to Rushdie (not to mention apologising to him) is enough to make a lot more people want to kill her too. She has achieved what Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma calls freedom from fear.
"It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."

- Aung San Suu Kyi, "Freedom from Fear"
Watch the video full size on Google Video. Wai to Hot Air and sugiero, who has links including more interviews with this courageous woman.

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