Tony Allen-Mills; 15/5/10
What are these? Why did you choose this place?” asks Ayaan Hirsi Ali, eyebrows arched in feigned alarm. We are in New York’s Algonquin hotel, just a few hundred metres from Times Square, where a Muslim would-be bomber parked a car full of explosives a couple of days earlier. Radical Islamists have been trying for years to kill Hirsi Ali, a softly spoken politician turned intellectual who combines the beauty of a film star with the uncompromising zeal of an Enlightenment crusader. She has been under siege since the ritualised murder in 2004 of her friend, Theo van Gogh, who had helped her make the film Submission, a blistering polemic about Islam’s treatment of women. A letter pinned to Van Gogh’s chest – or, rather, stabbed in place with a butcher’s knife – warned Hirsi Ali that “you will go down”. She went into hiding, exchanging a career as a Dutch MP for exile.