More than 200 people crowded into the Pugh Hall Ocora Thursday night to hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak.

Hirsi Ali, an author and world-renowned critic of Islam,  spoke about her Muslim upbringing and her adult life.

She also answered questions from the crowd about various subjects including the subjection of Muslim women.

Hirsi Ali said that her decision to stop practicing Islam was a result of a combination of many factors including the treatment of women in Islamic societies and punishments demanded by Islamic scholars for homosexuality and adultery.

She said she was prompted to leave her faith after 9/11, pointing out how she and terrorists shared the same faith.

Toward the end of her speech, Hirsi Ali said that she believes significant progress can be made in the Islamic treatment of women if Islamic countries make more of an effort to assimilate into western society.

“She had been on our radar for a long time,” said Gail Sasnett, interim assistant director for public programs at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.  “She is a person who has sacrificed a great deal for her freedom and we felt like she would be a great person to tell her story.”

Some, such as Ismail ibn Ali, a UF senior and the president of Islam on Campus, do not consider Hirsi Ali a credible source on Islam.

“She goes around the world criticizing Islam by saying what happened to her when she was young is a part of Islam,” ibn Ali said.  “But that is not at all a part of Islam.”

Members of Islam on Campus expressed their opposition to Hirsi Ali’s beliefs.

Several members of the group stood outside of Pugh Hall during her speech while wearing signs that said, “I’m Muslim, and I’m free.”

Douglas Marler, a Santa Fe student who attended the speech, said he agreed with Hirsi Ali’s decision to leave Islam.

“I do not think it would have been possible for her to fight for women’s rights like she has if she was still practicing Islam,” Marler said.  “It is very hard to be critical of a religion from the inside.”

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