The History Man and the Fatwa Girl; Both Are Friends of Cameron: How Will the Tory Leader Take News That Think-Tank Guru Niall Ferguson Has Deserted A-List Wife Sue Douglas for Somali Feminist?

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 7, 2010 | Go to article overview

The History Man and the Fatwa Girl; Both Are Friends of Cameron: How Will the Tory Leader Take News That Think-Tank Guru Niall Ferguson Has Deserted A-List Wife Sue Douglas for Somali Feminist?


Byline: Katie Nicholl and Miles Goslett IN LONDON and Caroline Graham IN BOSTON

THE internationally celebrated historian and TV presenter Niall Ferguson has broken up with his wife of 16 years after a string of adulterous affairs.

The 45-year-old Harvard professor has left former newspaper editor Susan Douglas, with whom he has three children, for his mistress, the Somalian-born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ms Hirsi Ali, 40, is a lawyer and former Dutch MP who wrote the script for a controversial film that criticised Islam and resulted in the assassination of its director. She is currently living under police protection in America.

Professor Ferguson, whose books, television programmes and work with financial hedge funds earn an estimated [pounds sterling]5million a year, is understood to have been in a relationship with Ms Hirsi Ali since last summer.

Today, The Mail on Sunday can reveal how Ferguson's philandering behaviour - described by one confidante as 'more akin to a Premiership footballer's louche ways than an esteemed professor's' - wrecked his marriage to Ms Douglas, one of Tory leader David Cameron's closest friends, a leading member of the Tory 'A-list' of potential parliamentary candidates and a former Fleet Street editor.

Ferguson, who also has high-level links to the Tory Party, with a seat on the board of the Rightwing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies, has been seen with Ms Hirsi Ali at a number of high-profile events over recent months. Just two weeks ago they attended the Jaipur Literary Festival in India where they were photographed kissing in the opulent surroundings of the spectacular Diggi Palace.

Ms Hirsi Ali had been flown to the event secretly. She has been the subject of threats from Muslim extremists since writing the script for the movie Submission, which was critical of Islam.

When its director, Theo Van Gogh, was shot dead in an Amsterdam street in 2004, a death threat against Ms Hirsi Ali was pinned to his chest. Since then she has lived in safe houses in Washington and New York under constant armed protection.

Previously Ms Hirsi Ali lived in seclusion and under police protection in the Netherlands. She fled from Africa to Amsterdam in 1992 where she obtained political asylum. Ms Hirsi Ali, who became involved in politics and feminist issues including criticising the practice of female circumcision, which she underwent as a child, claimed she was fleeing Africa to escape an arranged marriage.

Now she lives in Boston where she works as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.

The pair are understood to have met at Time magazine's prestigious 100 Most Influential People In The World party in New York last May. Ferguson and Ms Hirsi Ali, who have both been on the list, were introduced by Belinda Luscombe, the magazine's art editor.

The flamboyant Ms Hirsi Ali, who was dressed in an eye-catching cobalt-blue cocktail dress, immediately captivated Ferguson, who was photographed with his arm around her waist.

Ms Luscombe, a friend of Ms Hirsi Ali, said: 'I think that is where they met for the first time. In all the years I have known Ayaan, she's never had a boyfriend. She's gorgeous, but with a fatwa, it's tricky to find guys.' According to sources within Ferguson's influential circle of academic friends, he has made no secret of his relationship with Ms Hirsi Ali.

The British historian Sir Alistair Horne, with whom he is currently writing the authorised biography of Henry Kissinger, is said to know about the affair, as does Mr Kissinger. However a spokesman for the statesman declined to comment yesterday.

'It's rather awkward because both Sue and Niall know Henry and his wife Nancy, neither of whom can understand why Niall has been bringing women other than his wife to private dinners,' said a source Ferguson, whose books include the bestsellers The Ascent Of Money, which was made into a Channel 4 TV series, and Empire And Colossus, for which he received a [pounds sterling]500,000 advance, confessed his adulterous affair to Ms Douglas last summer. …

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