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Rachel reviews "Infidel", by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan was raised in a traditional Muslim home in Africa, she experienced an intellectual awakening in Europe and now critical of Islam, living under armed guard. In 2005, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
(Non-Fiction)Review of "Infidel"
An Autobiography by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
When I finished the last page of Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I closed the cover and commented on what a powerful book it was. Others have described the Hirsi Ali's autobiography as remarkable, amazing, or a a brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir. All such acclamations are warranted as Hirsi Ali uses clear and descriptive language to tell the story of how she became one of Time magazines 2005 one-hundred “most influential people in the world today.”
Born in 1969, Hirsi Ali was born a traditional Muslim girl. She was raised in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, where her family held steadfast to the doctrines of the Quran. Like the 6000 young girls that undergo female genital excision everyday, Hirsi Ali was forced to submit to excision in order keep her pure, as well as other cultural practices requiring her to take a secondary and subservient role in life, simply because she was female.
Click the link below to continue reading my review of "Infidel".
In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say, "She's ugly, she's disobedient, she's a whore - she's sleeping with a Jew." Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Early in life, Hirsi Ali began questioning why her brother was allowed to do things that she wasn't, just because he was male and she was female. The rationale for differential treatment on the basis of gender was one that she repeatedly tried to understand. In her attempt to become the devout Muslin that she wanted to be, Hirsi Ali joined fundamentalist groups and sought guidance from within the Quran, but the more she looked for answers to the questions that plagued her, the more questions she had. Even still, she fought a battle within herself: to uphold the family honor and be a good Muslim girl, or be true to herself and fight for her freedom.
In her early twenties, Hirsi Ali found herself unwillingly in an arranged marriage to a distant cousin living in Canada. While in Europe, awaiting her Canadian Visa, Hirsi Ali threw off the cloak of submission and took matters into her own hands, seeking asylum as a refugee in the Netherlands. Although she had no regrets for denouncing her marriage, Hirsi Ali recognized that in doing so she had cut herself off from everything that was important and meaningful to her family. She made a life for herself in Holland but still struggled with her religious identity.
Following the events of 9/11, Hirsi Ali found herself in a position where she finally had to decide whether or not she believed in Islam. After waging the battle, Hirsi Ali came to the conclusion that while she wanted to comply with the goals of religion, she could no longer subscribe to the doctrines of the Quran in it's entirety. Therefore, Hirsi Ali denounce her religion and became an atheist.
Hirsi Ali's willingness to be outspoken about the Muslim religion and the oppression of women lead her into a career in Dutch politics. She saw naivety in the Dutch willingness to support Muslim immigrants in their religious beliefs as doing so enabled the continued oppression of women. Her arguments were successful in bringing the plight of Muslim women into political debate and influencing some government policy.
In 2004, Hirsi Ali wrote a script, which was turned into a short film named "Submission". The film draws attention to the treatment of Muslim woman. The controversial film used women's bodies as a canvas, upon which are displayed troubling verses from the Quran, which further inflamed many in the Muslim community. Since the film's release, Hirsi Ali has lived under a real and constant threat to her life. While she has survived, under constant protection of bodyguards, the film's director and producer, Theo van Gogh, was brutally slain in broad daylight, in 2004. Some say by "plunging a knife into his body, the murderer transformed Van Gogh's corpse into a canvas of his own", but I think it only served to give credence to Ayaan Hirsi Ali's understanding on the treatment of Islamic women.
Infidel was informative, giving the reader a rare glimpse of the life of a young Muslim girl growing up in an Islamic society. It opened my eyes to a world that I know very little about. Throughout the latter half of the book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes reference to such doubts that she has encountered as she struggles to raise awareness of the injustices that occur under the guise of the Islamic doctrine. She asserts that the willingness of westerners to believe that such atrocities as female genital excision, forced marriages and honor killings only happen in small numbers or far away places is simply naive. But that rather our multicultural policies and fear of appearing racist actually foster an environment where such oppression of women can continue.
While I do not doubt the truthfulness of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's experiences and the complexities of the problems that she struggles to bring into the conscious mind of western civilizations, I find myself a little concerned about how well it applies to over 1.2 billion people, and whether all followers of Islam are so fundamental in their beliefs. My fear that it is all to easy to finish this powerful book and thank that all followers of Islam are incapable of adapting their faith to modern life by blending it with some reason and moral independence.
I struggle to find words to describe the book Infidel. I want to say that it was an enjoyable read, but somehow it strikes me as very inappropriate to use the term “enjoyable” in association with a book about so much hardship, oppression, and strife. Nonetheless, the book was a page-turner and one that was hard to put down, right from the introduction. I recommend this book as an informative and enjoyable read, but hope that those that do so will not use it as fuel for an Islam-phobic movement.
Learn more about "Infidel" at Amazon. (Amazon link has other reviews and pertinent information).