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Infidel [Paperback]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2008
One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.

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Infidel + Nomad + The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Problems of Cultural Relativism May 27 2007
By Bernie Koenig TOP 100 REVIEWER
As a philosopher who has defended a specific form of cultural relativism I found this book very challenging indeed. I mean this in a positive manner since Ali's life challenges many assumptions of liberal Western thought.

There are many forms of relativism: purely subjective, cultural, and adaptive, to list just a few. No one, except some anarchists defend a purely subjective version, since there can be no rational defence for subjectivism.

Since we learn our values culturally, some form of cultural relativism must be defended. But, as this book shows, it is one thing to be tolerant of other views, it is quite another thing to be tolerant of intolerance. As this book shows, to be tolersant of intolerance leads to greater intolerance.

If the status of women in one society is that of property, and people from that society move into a society where women are considered persons, there will be a clash. The lesson of this book is that people have to adapt to their new surroundings; they have to become part of the new culture. One cannot fight Somalian clan wars in Holland or in Canada. Those old definitons no longer apply.

On another level, Ms. Ali's book raises some very real questions as to the nature of democracy and how representative of people's views our political parties really are. In a parliamentary system parties must have platforms: we vote for parties, not for individual candidates. But the parties must be responsive to what the people see as being important, and cannot just implement a platform of their own. While there is less chance of this happening where there is some kind of proportional representation, it happens all too often in majority parliaments where the majority of seats were won with a minority of the votes.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding autobiography and history Sept. 22 2007
It is rare to find autobiography as absorbing as this. Not only because of the author's unusual path from the desert of Somalia to the USA via the Netherlands, but also on account of the engaging writing style. Clear and descriptive, the narrative of her eventful life had a profound impact on this reader. Born and raised in Somalia, she spent part of her youth in neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, describing through the eyes of a child what it was like to live there.

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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Read May 14 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I feared this book might be one of those tell-all exposés intended to take advantage of Ms. Ali's 15 minutes of fame or, more likely, an extended anti-Muslim rant. When you`re wrong, you`re wrong. The book is a fascinating journey through Ms. Ali's life from her start in Somalia right up to her departure from Holland for the U.S. Through here eyes we gain insight into the Muslim religion, the Islamic world view and the misconstructions of first world multiculturalists. Some may find the book is too long and too detailed or that Ms. Ali is a plodding unimaginative writer but, for me, the story never once lagged and her style painted clear, precise pictures. Perhaps most inspiring is Ms. Ali's humanity; her understanding, undying respect and love for those who wronged her often repeatedly; coupled with her determination to expose and correct the injustices perpetrated on third world women. A terrific book from a terrific lady.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and compelling work March 18 2012
By Ian Robertson TOP 100 REVIEWER
An astonishing and captivating book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes her life story in extremely clear language and a matter of fact tone. Ali's book is a contrast between her rigid and religious upbringing in her North African and Middle Eastern homes, and her later emigration to Europe and the US. Unlike most biographies, though, it is Ali's upbringing rather than her later accomplishments (which are considerable) that is most compelling - and likely to most of us in the West, startling.

'People in the West have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist,' writes Ali in the final pages of her book, and it is for this reason that the book is such a page-turner and so important. While we may have caught glimpses into life and culture in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia through the mirky mirrors of op-ed pieces or articles, Ali both provides a large, clear window and through the retelling of her story acts as our guide.

The culture is so foreign, with just a few geographic names and historical events recognizable, that it has a ring of science fiction. (Words such as Osman, Darod, jilbab, ma'alim are common). The events are very human and very alarming, though, and it is Ali's lack of anger, regret or moralizing that allows - compels - readers to read on.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that Ali is an exceptional girl and woman, and it is very clear that her departure from her culture is also an exception. In her culture, her upbringing and life are the rule, and there is no choice for almost any female in a similar circumstance.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READING
Couldn't put this book down. Must reading.
Published 1 month ago by Jennifer O Holden
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read !
Very enlightening autobiography.
Ayaan is a inspiring person and a proficient writer,she kept my attention all the way through the book .
Published 3 months ago by David Drake
4.0 out of 5 stars Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Infidel
I have long admired Hirsi Ali and found the book very informative.She delivers a very big reason why Islam should be banned.
Published 5 months ago by atricia hookham
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This book is amazing. It is full of the truth about a world that is so different from the west and the people that live in it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by shadirocks
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Daughters
I have often wondered why so much 'faith' is centered between the legs of a girl child or woman? Why? Why not the brain, the centremost place of character and personality? Read more
Published 7 months ago by Eleanor Cowan
5.0 out of 5 stars Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The honesty of the author is so pure. The time lines of the story were clear. Ayaan is an amazing woman.
Published 10 months ago by Myrna J. Budgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful insight
The best insight for the way a vast number of women living nowadays under the Islamic culture which by no means limited to Africa or the middle east. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bahaa Guirguis
5.0 out of 5 stars Every one should read this.
A clearly written, straightforward account of a brave woman's experiences and struggles. This author neither preaches her own beliefs or condemns others for their's. Read more
Published 17 months ago by B K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book
The book arrived quickly, it was a great read, by an amazing lady about her experiences in the Muslim turmoil in the mideast and since moving to Holland and the US.
Published on Dec 9 2011 by D. Majors
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for North Americans.
This book is wonderfully written. It gives a first-hand look into the horrors suffered by muslim women. Read more
Published on Nov. 9 2011 by f49
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