Infidel Hardcover – Feb 6 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Readers with an eye on European politics will recognize Ali as the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as "brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women" had generated much controversy. In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage. While in transit to her husband in Canada, she decided to seek asylum in the Netherlands, where she marveled at the polite policemen and government bureaucrats. Ali is up-front about having lied about her background in order to obtain her citizenship, which led to further controversy in early 2006, when an immigration official sought to deport her and triggered the collapse of the Dutch coalition government. Apart from feelings of guilt over van Gogh's death, her voice is forceful and unbowed—like Irshad Manji, she delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion. 8-page photo insert. (Feb.)
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Hirsi Ali, internationally acclaimed for her book The Caged Virgin (2006) and her film depicting the oppression of Muslim women, which cost the life of her colleague Theo van Gogh, now offers a compelling memoir of her life. Stripped of her Dutch citizenship and threatened with the same fate as van Gogh, Hirsi Ali continues to defy conventions regarding Muslim women. She writes poignantly of growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya in a strict Muslim family. She was subjected to female circumcision and brutal beatings by a mother who wanted her to conform to the obedience expected of women. With the rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia, her ambitions were even more repressed. She defied a forced marriage and fled to the Netherlands, fighting for the rights of Muslim women and a more open practice of Islam. Her rising political prominence and outspokenness have made her a target of Islamic extremists. Hirsi Ali's spirited recollections and defense of women's rights to independence and self-expression are inspiring to women of all cultures. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Her personal candor is touching and establishes her credibility. In my opinion, she shows great restraint in remaining objectively descriptive of the most difficult events of her life. Besides not being able to put the book down as her story is a great adventure, I found it highly educative in understanding better the complexities of families and clan loyalties that many new immigrants must factor into their new life in their new country.
It is also an enlightening book for established citizens in western countries as they are also seeing their paradigms shift because the immigration waves use more social resources and change the cultural balance of their countries.
Compared to the horrors of the lives of millions of women entrenched in the dogma of some muslim fundamentalists, my life is a haven of freedom, choice, self expression and security. I will not easily forget Ali's message and I applaud her fantastic bravery.
Her prose in this book is not preachy or condescending, but rather she writes with a kind of matter of factness and earnest incredulity that is easy to relate to. Please give this memoir a read.
Born into a devout Muslim family, Hirsi Ali endured horrors that would make any Western person's jaw drop. What we call here an 'extreme' form of Islam - genital mutilation, misogyny, forced/arranged marriage, hatred for non-believers ie. 'infidels' etc. - was dubbed by Hirsi as 'normal' in her culture. (FGM of course, is the one gruesome ideology that actually predates Islam, and has been incorporated into the Muslim cultures of Eastern and sub-Saharan Africa)
The book is not just a compilation of life events pieced together. Hirsi tries to get a message across:
Her main argument conveys the notion that all these atrocities we see in the media about honour killings, forced marriages and suppression of freedom - in the name of Islam - are not anomalies or extremist forms in anyway, they are the cultural NORM. She backs her argument by pointing to the fundamentals of the Islamic religion, with plenty of direct quotations from the Muslim holy book stating ideas such as - kill nonbelievers (quoting many versus), one man is worth two women, violent and cruel torture is permitted for certain sinners, the list goes on. For pointing out these injustices, and the dire effects they have on people, especially Muslim women, she was threatened with death by militant Muslims and has to travel round-the-clock surrounded by armed body guards.
It is a good idea to get some background information on Ayaan Hirsi Ali before diving into the text.Read more ›
She makes the history of Somalia come alive under the dictatorship of Siad Barre, explaining the clan system and comparing the relaxed Muslim practice in that country with the strictness of Saudi Arabia and the hypocrisy and racism that go along with it. The short experience of Ethiopia and later the long stay in Kenya, both predominantly Christian countries, were different again and she really captivates one's attention with the places and the people. One of the most salient memories she recalls is the obsessive anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia. Where her family lived in the city of Riyadh, Jews were blamed for everything.
A sub-theme of the book is the increased radicalization of Muslims, partly because of the failures and the suffering brought about by Barre and the chaos of the civil war that unseated him. She noted this radicalization taking place amongst Somalis and others in Kenya where she spent most of her adolescence. This radical strain was brought to Africa by Arabs and Iranians, both Sunni and Shia, also reflecting the failure of secular ideologies and bad government in the dictatorships of the Muslim world.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Ayaan offers a great deal of information regarding her life in various places in the hostile Muslim world and her eventual escape to Holland and finally to America. Read morePublished 8 days ago by MCH
I couldn't put this book down. Most of the time I totally forgot I was reading a true story... the life of Ayaan has been so radically different from my own. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sheldon Nicholson
Excellent read. Makes one think and appreciate where we live.Published 5 months ago by Elda LePine Bell
This book was a true eye opener. I can hardly wait for our book club meeting in September to see what the
reaction is from our members. Read more