Ayaan Hirsi Ali at JHU in Baltimore, April 5th, 2011

(crossposted from my post at Secular Perspectives)

Last night my wife and I attended the talk given by Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Johns Hopkins University for their Foreign Affairs Symposium series.

We brought a copy of Infidel in case she would be signing books, and though the announced she would at the beginning of the talk, at the end they cancelled it.
The talk was enjoyable, though slow to start, and she is generally soft spoken and showed a sense of humor at times. The auditorium at Mudd Hall was pretty packed, and she received a rather nice round of applause at the beginning and end. I saw a few atheists from the local community, and stopped Bill Creasy from the Baltimore Secular Humanists to say hello as I was packing my camera up by the exit.
At points, I saw my wife daubing tears from the corners of her eyes, and others a large smile on her face. In the Q&A part, one Jew (two people who stepped up to the mic made sue to identify themselves as such, so I use their identification) made some rambling statement about god, the torah and Ayaan “trying to make believers reject god”. Her reply began “First of all, I find god to be very boring.” to which my wife burst out in uncontrollable clapping. Ayaan took pause, smiled and thanked her (and the few others that joined in).
Another questioner, who stuck in my craw, decided to try to take a smarmy potshot at Ayaan. In her talk, she stressed the importance of questioning things, and he said “Given the theme of your talk, I want to know what things you’ve been hesitant to question at your place of employment?” He was referring to the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute. It wasn’t even a real question, it was a childish political swipe… he might as well have stood up and said “I’m a liberal, I don’t like conservatives.” Then adjusted his diaper and sat back down.
Her answer was terrific, starting with “I have never hesitated to question anything.” The day she joined, at lunch, she asked “Is it a problem that I believe that homosexuals should be able to marry?
No.” was the response.
That same response was given when she stated she believed in euthanasia and a woman’s right to have an abortion.
“Those are all fine, they are your beliefs.” her fellows said.
“Then what am I supposed to believe?” she jokingly asked.
The questioner, not satisfied, decided that if she hadn’t hesitated before, that he needed to tell her not to hesitate in the future. His hatred for the conservatives at the think-tank seemingly taking precedence over.. oh, I dunno, discussing women’s rights in Islam – the topic of the conversation.

All the the quotes above are from memory, as I did not record the event.

I just recently purchased a new camera, and tried not to be annoying while taking photos. There was a professional there, and others, so I didn’t feel it was out of line.

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