Two women from Islamic countries, with vastly different ways of addressing women's rights, will speak in the Valley next week.
After a brutal gang rape, Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani Muslim, is working to educate and assist women in rural areas and to press for tougher rape laws in her country.
After growing up suffering abuse, Ayaan Hirsi Ali fled Somalia for Amsterdam, where she eventually won a seat in Parliament and became an outspoken critic of Islam.
Though vastly different in their approaches, both women have gained international attention, have been named among Time magazine's 100 most influential people -- and both live with constant death threats.
And Valley residents will have a chance to see both next week, in two different events.
First, on Dec. 6, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art will host Mai, who now runs the Mukhtar Mai Women Welfare Organization. Mai and Phoenix-born artist Casey McKee will discuss the importance of public awareness of activism and its crossroads with art. McKee will unveil images of a new piece of art that explores that idea.
Mai came into the international limelight about five years ago when she was gang-raped at the order of a tribal council in her rural area of Pakistan. The rape was meant to restore her family's honor after her younger brother had been accused of having an affair with a girl from a rival tribe.
But instead of remaining silent about the incident -- or killing herself, as rape victims routinely do there -- she prosecuted her attackers and became a women's rights leader in Pakistan, fighting her case all the way to the nation's highest court. Using her compensation, she started two schools in the village. And, using the international media awareness her case drew, she's demanding the Pakistani government do more to address women's issues. On average, a woman is raped every two hours in Pakistan, and two women a day die in honor killings, according to her Web site.
On Dec. 7, the Goldwater Institute will honor Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an internationally acclaimed author and advocate for the rights of women living in Islamic regimes. Hirsi Ali will receive the institute's "Goldwater Award for Liberty." Past recipients include former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, economist Milton Friedman and commentator George Will.
"She is a passionate voice for freedom and human rights around the world," said Starlee Rhoades, director of communications for the Goldwater Institute.
Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and grew up in a strict Muslim family. On her way to an arranged marriage in Canada, she escaped to Amsterdam. She eventually entered politics and won a seat in the Dutch Parliament. Now she has left the faith and become an outspoken critic of Islamic regimes, as well as the author of the New York Times bestseller "Infidel."
Seen by some critics as a "Muslim-basher," Hirsi Ali has received numerous death threats.
After losing her seat in Parliament, she moved to the United States and now works at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank.