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Infidel Paperback – Apr 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416586040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416586043
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #166,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 22 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bernie Koenig TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 27 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ian Robertson TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 18 2012
Format: Paperback
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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