Bill Steigerwald

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born and raised as a Muslim in Somalia and is now the New York Times best-selling author of “Infidel” (Free Press), is an outspoken defender of women's rights in Islamic societies. A former member of the Dutch Parliament who speaks six languages, she's a freedom-fighter whose criticism of conservative Islamic cultures and their traditional mistreatment of women and children have made her internationally famous and brought her death threats. Hirsi Ali, who calls herself a “classic liberal” who desires the state to be limited to guarantee as much individual freedom as possible, is currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. She says "Infidel" -- the name she found herself being called when she would suggest some oppressive or backward aspect of Islam should be changed or reformed -- is her account of her transformation from "the world of faith to the world of reason."

Q: Why did you write “Infidel” and what do you want it to accomplish?
A: Whoa! (laughs) I wrote “Infidel” to answer the question asked of me by my publisher, my colleagues, by associates in Holland -- “Ayaan, how did your own process of enlightenment go? How did your own journey from being born and raised in a pre-modern, devout Muslim family to an ultra-modern society like the Netherlands go? And what is it that you still value in the moral framework that you were brought up in, and what is it that you don’t? And what is it that you value in our moral framework, and what is it that you don’t?” “Infidel” is the answer to that.

Q: It is a personal story?
A: Yes. It’s subjective. As I go from place to place promoting the book, that’s what I emphasize – it is my story.

Q: Who did you write the book for? Who is the audience?
A: Two audiences. One are those who have inherited the Western system of human rights and freedom and the institutions (that protect them) but who do not understand what it is not to have freedom -- in short, those who take freedom for granted. The other audience are those who share my Muslim background and who reject freedom on the basis of religious dogma or tradition, such as those who say, “I don’t care to send my children to school” or “I’m going to circumcise my daughters because this is what we always used to do.”

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..