The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of Infidel, her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir. Narrated in clear, vigorous prose, it traces the author’s geographical journey from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and her desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.
William Grimes - New York Times
Even the bare facts of this unusual life would make fascinating reading. But this book is something more than an ordinary autobiography: In the tradition of Frederick Douglass or even John Stuart Mill, Infidel describes a unique intellectual journey, from the tribal customs of Hirsi Ali's Somali childhood, through the harsh fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia and into the contemporary West. Along the way, Hirsi Ali displays what surely must be her greatest gift: the talent for recalling, describing and honestly analyzing the precise state of her feelings at each stage of that journey.
Anne Applebaum - Washington Post
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.
Hirsi Ali (The Caged Virgin) first came to the world's attention with the gunning down of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist. A note pinned to van Gogh threatened Hirsi Ali's life for collaborating with him on Submission, a short film criticizing Muslims for wife beating and forced marriages. In this memoir, the Somalian-born author tells of her journey to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, undergoing genital mutilation, being schooled by strict Muslim teachers, and finally facing shame from her family and clan for turning against Islam. In her early twenties, she sought asylum in the Netherlands after escaping an arranged marriage. In Holland, the cleanliness, order, and freedom amazed her; she couldn't believe that a government could help its people and was not feared. As she adjusted to her new home, learning Dutch, attending university, acquiring citizenship, and eventually working as a translator for social services, she spoke out publicly, criticizing the Muslim treatment of women. She was elected to serve in parliament, where her controversial views brought death threats and an attempt to rescind her Dutch citizenship. During her brief tenure, she warned that radical Islam is often incompatible with modernity and democracy and that its enslavement of women presents a serious threat. A clearly written and fascinating account of exceptional courage, this book is essential for all libraries. Hirsi Ali reads her own words in clear, slightly accented English; strongly recommended.
Nancy R. Ives - Library Journal
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.... [Her] spirited recollections and defense of women's rights to independence and self-expression are inspiring to women of all cultures. —Vanessa Bush
Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian Hirsi Ali, now in hiding from Muslim militants angered by her outspoken views on Islam's enslavement of women (The Caged Virgin, 2005), offers a forthright, densely detailed memoir of growing up harshly amid revolution and religious restraint. "A woman alone is like a piece of sheep fat in the sun," Hirsi Ali's grandmother warned her frequently when she was a child absorbing the rigorous tenants of Islam in Mogadishu. Hirsi Ali, along with her younger sister, Haweya, and older brother, Mahad, were the children of a political dissenter of the Somalian government of Siad Barre, and frequently moved to safer places. Although their parents did not approve of circumcision, their absences allowed the strict peasant grandmother to arrange for the cutting of the three-Haweya, especially, was "never the same afterward." Their pious mother insisted on an education in the Qur'an, and their move to Saudia Arabia, without the protection of their father, proved disastrous: The mother was largely isolated, the children sent to sadistic religious schools. In Ethiopia, among the "unbelievers," they were treated more kindly, and in Nairobi, Kenya, the children attended British and Muslim schools. Here, Hirsi Ali began to read in English and have contact with Western ideas, especially about love. Recalcitrant and argumentative, she was given a fractured skull by her mother's ma'alim, or religious teacher. Amid civil war, a more conservative strain of Islam moved in, and Hirsi Ali was a convert, wearing full hidjab and practicing submission. She gained a secretarial degree and briefly indulged in a secret, short-lived marriage to her handsome cousin (the only way they could sleep together). Reluctantly, to appease her father, she agreed to an arranged marriage, then bolted to Holland to beg for asylum—her lies about her background caught up with her later when she ran for Dutch office. Crammed with harrowing details, Hirsi Ali's account is a significant contribution to our times.
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