The theme of injustice toward women in Islamic countries has become common in the West, but it has gained fresh currency through Ms. Hirsi Ali's European perspective, her study of Dutch immigrants and her own life. Born in Mogadishu, she grew up a typical Muslim girl in Somalia. When she was 5, she underwent the "cruel ritual," as she called it, of genital cutting. When her father, a Somali opposition politician, had to flee the country's political troubles, the family went to Saudi Arabia, where, she said, she was kept veiled and, much of the time, indoors.
At 22, her father forced her to marry a distant cousin, a man she had never seen. But a friend helped her to escape and she finally obtained political asylum in the Netherlands.
She was shocked when, as a university student, she held a job as an interpreter for Dutch immigration and social workers and discovered hidden "suffering on a terrible scale" among Muslim women even in the Netherlands. She entered safe houses for women and girls, most of them Turkish and Moroccan immigrants, who had run away from domestic violence or forced marriages. Many had secret abortions.
"Sexual abuse in the family causes the most pain because the trust is violated on all levels," she said. "The father or the uncle say nothing, nor do the mother and the sisters. It happens regularly — the incest, the beatings, the abortions. Girls commit suicide. But no one says anything. And social workers are sworn to professional secrecy."
More than 100 women a year have surgery to "restore" their virginity, she estimates in her published work. While only 10 percent of the population is non-Dutch, this group accounts for more than 60 percent of abortions, "because the Muslim girls are kept ignorant," she said. Three out of five Moroccan-Dutch girls — Moroccans are among the largest immigrant groups — are forced to marry young men from villages back home, to keep them under control, she said.
"The most important verse, which I still refer to, is in the Koran and it is the verse which says women should obey the male members of their families - their fathers and their husbands - and if they do not do that then the husband may beat his wife," she said.
"That's also a side of Islam and I've pointed to it and I've said there are millions of people who carry out just that simple verse.
"Millions of Muslim women all around the world are oppressed in the name [of] Islam.
"And as a woman who was brought up with the tradition of Islam, I think it's not just my right but also my obligation to call these things by name."