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Infidel: My Life

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  59,483 Ratings  ·  5,507 Reviews
In this profoundly affecting memoir from the internationally renowned author of The Caged Virgin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her astonishing life story, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia to her intellectual awakening in the Netherlands, to her life under armed guard in the West.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of today's most admired and controversial political figures. Sh
Paperback, First Edition, 353 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Pocket Books (first published 2006)
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Andrew Breslin I think I will invent a word "Andyphobia" And anyone who dares criticize me or my ideas will henceforth be labeled an Andyphobe.

Throughout history,…more
I think I will invent a word "Andyphobia" And anyone who dares criticize me or my ideas will henceforth be labeled an Andyphobe.

Throughout history, there have been many people who have espoused various ideologies. Some of those people have claimed that their espoused ideology is not their own, but rather comes from GOD, but that does not excuse that ideology from criticism nor make such criticism any kind of 'phobia' or 'ism.' It is not one shred less appropriate to criticize these individuals and their ideas. Not one shred.

I am a former Catholic. Now I'm not. I think it's bullshit and has been responsible for enormous oppression through the centuries, and I say so loudly all the time. Does that make me a Catholicaphobe? Does anyone suggest there is anything wrong with that?

There was a time, a few centuries ago, where I could be imprisoned, whipped or killed for renouncing my faith in the Catholic Church. But not any more. I can talk as much as I want about how glad I am that I no longer believe in all that nonsense, and not only won't I be killed, hardly anybody will even notice.

Former Muslims, like Ali are 'apostates.' Simply deciding that you no longer believe in Islam and no longer want to practice it makes one an apostate. You don't have to write books about it. Why don't you hazard a guess as to the prescribed penalty for apostasy in Islam is, today, in 2015? Name all the Muslim-majority countries where apostasy is considered okay, a personal choice and a personal right, and then name all the countries where it is punishable by imprisonment or death.

Ali is a courageous individual who has the courage to speak up against oppression and injustice even at the risk of her own life.(less)
Grace Christopher well, I haven't read the book but I'm like Ayaan and also my name is Ayaan and I'm from Somalia, I think only the name of the book is reminding me the…morewell, I haven't read the book but I'm like Ayaan and also my name is Ayaan and I'm from Somalia, I think only the name of the book is reminding me the way I live in right now, and how everyone thinks about us. and also the fact that I cant tell my mom that I'm Christian. So wish me luck.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Petra Eggs
I was watching the BBC's 'Muslim Beauty Pageant and Me' hosted by and starring Dina Torkia, an English Muslim who wears hijab, not the black stuff but pretty fabrics. I thought this is going to be good. Balance. I'm going to see that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is feverishly hysterical and that what she says might apply to the immigrants from Africa and even more so from Arabia, but not to British Muslims.

The girls, who all wore hijab and a lot of makeup looked very pretty. They had to undergo physicals and
Mar 20, 2008 sisraelt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
MARCH 25, 2015
Immensely disliked this book and tired of all the comments so I took down my review. Moving on!
Oct 06, 2007 andreas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, really
"Infidel" is the personal story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who, after a loveless childhood (to put it very mildly), came to Holland at the age of 20 claiming refugee status to escape an arranged and forced marriage, and to assert her independence. She was accepted, found her way around, studied political science, became a citizen, fell away from Islam, and became a member of Parliament. In 2004 she and Theo van Gogh made the short film "Submission Part 1", which resulted in Theo's gettin ...more
May 23, 2013 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Any woman born as a Muslim who has the courage to write a book openly critical of Islam has my respect. A woman who has the brass to title that same book Infidel has my rapt attention.

Infidel by Ayann Hasli Ali is shocking, brutally honest, and captivating. This woman’s courage and resilience are a testimony to the human spirit. The letters and phone calls between her and her father are painfully real and troubling, especially when read in the context of the harshness and violence of the cultur
Amanda R
Jun 11, 2007 Amanda R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I feel like my imagination isn't big enough to even begin to comprehend what life is like growing up in Somalia, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia - as a female Muslim with an absent father and an abusive mother. Even though Ayaan does a good job covering her youth and describing her life to those who have no frame of reference for that kind of life, it still is hard to imagine. It goes without saying that those of us born and raised in the United States have been so amply blessed; its almost beyond compr ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Amari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Last week, I heard a colleague ranting about Islam and women's rights. He was reading this book and espousing Hirsi Ali's views. The next day, I lent him my copy of the Quran so that he'd have some background on the basic text of the religion he was trashing. I tend to find that all of the major religious tomes are ridiculous, hopelessly outdated, and that it's not a flaw in religion but a fault of those interpreting fundamental texts in fundamentalist ways when religion becomes less a spiritual ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Milan/zzz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, nonfiction
If I ever decide to make a list of the most important books I’ve read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali would surely find its place on it.

First time I’ve heard about Miss Hirsi Ali it was after murder of Theo Van Gogh because of his film “Submission-part one” which he made in collaboration with Hirsi Ali. Theo has been shoot and slaughtered in the middle of the day and the letter for Hirsi Ali (in which assassin is promising the same to her) was staked with knife in Theo’s chest. It was really a huge
May 28, 2012 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm kind of shell-shocked. The squishy Liberal views that have, up to now, dominated my concepts about immigration, multiculturalism, integration, Islam, the burqa, and a live-and-let-live philosophy, have all been shaken and stirred beyond recognition.

Hirsi Ali is an extraordinary woman, to have survived and risen above her incredibly dysfunctional upbringing. Dysfunctional in part because her family was rife with superstition, anger, and violence - largely because her mother was a volatile an
Aug 28, 2007 T.S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thos who enjoy autobiographies.
This masquerades as pure autobiography of the daughter of an iconic Somali revolutionary, who was absent for most of her life and left her, her brother, and her sister to be cared for by a heavy handed grandmother and an abusive mother. If I were rating the review as an autobiography, I would give it an additional star. As an autobiography, it does not let you down, although it does drag a little slower towards the end.

When reading this book, however, you quickly realize that there is somewhat o
Oct 05, 2007 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the reviews on GoodReads for Infidel have accused Ayaan Hirsi Ali of using the platform of autobiography to expound her political views and have suggested that any American reading this book may not pick up on a perceived subtlety of doing so (whereas, one suspects, in Holland this is quite obvious). My response to this is: of course she has. Any autobiography worth reading has to be more than a simple cataloging of life’s events; otherwise it would simply be a journal. Imagine reading B ...more
Mikey B.
Sep 03, 2008 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Remarkable Transition

What a transition this individual has gone through! This autobiography describes the Somalian author's early life in Mogadishu, Saudi Arabia, and Nairobi, Kenya. Most of it is repressive. She was beaten routinely by her grandmother and mother. She had to do household chores while her older brother went out with his friends. She was also genitally excised (clitoris and labia removed) - the sole purpose being to inhibit sexual enjoyment. It is another way to inhibit a woman
Tanja Berg
Sep 10, 2013 Tanja Berg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This would have been a four star rating, but I'm upping it to five because this book has significantly altered my world view. I've been one of those western liberals, thinking that Islam is mostly about peace and that the violence of it stems only from the fanatics. I'm revising that stance now and am wondering how I could ever have been so blind.

Here in Norway, where I live, everyone is ever so willing to adapt to immigrants. We change our school traditions so that we do not offend people who h
Debbie "DJ"
This book opened my eyes to the Muslim world and completely changed my views. It is remarkable what one woman can do to affect change. I cannot recommend highly enough, especially for women.
Nov 18, 2011 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
I first saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Real Time with Bill Maher a year or two ago and quickly placed her book on my to-read list. It was weird because I tried several times to order the book and it kept getting cancelled from several different vendors. Eerie. Especially when you consider that Hirsi Ali is such a controversial figure who lives her life with bodyguards under the threat of death to this day.

It’s a fascinating story. A young girl from a fundamentalist Muslim family in war-torn Somalia, Sau
Peggy Sue
Jan 23, 2008 Peggy Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read for all people trying to understand the Muslim attitude and outlook. Hirsi Asaan Ali is a courageous woman who has given us a peek into her mind on what a Muslim thinks. I quote so you can see how powerful she is.

"We Muslims had been taught to define life on earth as a passage, a test that precedes real life in the Hereafter. In that test, everyone should ideally live in a manner resembling, as closely as possible, the followers of the Prophet. Didn’t this inhibit invest
Feb 17, 2008 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biography, Africa, Saudia Arabia, Islam. War, religious freedom, Womens rights
oh gosh.. only 30 pages into this book and I'm not sure I can read it..
Female castration/ mutilation - this isn't in the dark ages.. this happens in mid 1970 and still happens today!!

This is an incredible biography of a girl who was born in a country torn apart by war, in a continent mostly known for what goes wrong rather than right. Measured by the standards of Somalia and Africa she states she is privileged to be alive and thriving.
She states; "Where I grew up, death is a constant visitor.
I found that her view of Islam was extremely negative and she sounded more bitter then she exclaimed. The situations that she faced in a closed society where women's rights are pretty much non-existent I felt somewhat tainted Her opinions and descriptions about Islam..... They were quite biased and one sided and at most times I felt more resentment then honesty which is quite sad, she brought though some very good points about mutilation and the rights of women in such societies. But got distrac ...more
Libby (Streed's Reads)
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Ayaan Hirsi Ali did it again--she easily pulled a five-star rating out of me for a second time. I had inadvertently read " Nomad " before "Infidel" because I did not have knowledge of this book as being her first one.

Once I started reading, "Infidel," I was hoping that she would not simply re-state everything I had already read in the other text. S
Mike (the Paladin)
I'm not putting this on any shelf except for Biography and history. The subject matter may touch on other topics but i don't want to mislead nor put anyone off. This book is informative, insightful, sad, frightening (even horrifying). I would say that this book is not to be missed.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a young woman who was reared in a strict Islamic family and country. This is the story of her journey through loss, pain danger, growth, development and it's still going on.

I'm not going to say much
Jan 25, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Buffs of autobiography, history, comparative religion, skeptics, feminism, & everybody else
Infidel is an amazing book, on many levels. It’s an amazing story, work of historical analysis, political philosophy, and dissection of Islam as viewed through the autobiography of a remarkable woman (Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan) who will not fail to point out that among Muslim women, she is singularly fortunate. Just look at what she has done through the power of logos: mastered languages (she is fluent in Somali, Arabic, Swahili, English, and Dutch), logistics (she has negotiated her way from the po ...more
Feb 14, 2010 Deena rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great article on why I dislike this book, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I'm going to just copy and paste some excerpts outlining her biases.

"Now, I’m no fan of religion – of any kind. But Hirsi Ali’s simultaneous condemnation of Islam and obvious admiration of Christianity was disturbing. As with any religion or ideology, it’s how it’s practised that impacts on people’s lives and on society.

Many of Hirsi Ali’s criticisms of Islam could be applied to funda
Jan 30, 2017 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is spectacular.

I totally admire the honesty and the bravery of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a very impressive and important woman. Her story of life, with it's many twists and turns, in various African and Middle Eastern countries as a child and a teenager is fascinating, and very revealing when it comes to the culture of Islam; especially in relation to free thought and the treatment of women.

The story of her escape to freedom in Holland, the warmth of her reception there, and the impact
Feb 05, 2017 Jessaka rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
So Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and other atheists really love her story and offer it as proof that Islam is an evil religion, but of course so are all religions to them. The new atheist writers desire to destroy all religious beliefs of others. I watch Bill Maher, and I love his ideas and beliefs, but just not those on religion. I know better; I know better to not agree with the other atheist writers too. Nothing is all bad or good. For as many books on the evil of religion that are produced, I can ...more
Mar 13, 2007 Jody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the spiritual and intellectual odyssey of a very remarkable and courageous woman. Ali was born in Somali and raised in a Muslim family. She also lived in Ethopia and Kenya before fleeing to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage. While there she became an interpreter for the government and an advocate for the rights of Muslim immigrant women. She eventually became a citizen of that country and a representative to the Dutch parliament.

After she produced a film called "Submis
howl of minerva
An extraordinary woman. Her criticism of Islam and of sociocultural practice in Islamic countries is for the most part measured and reasonable, though only her most extreme utterances get airtime. She clearly states that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not an Islamic practice but a north African cultural one.

The extreme patriarchy, honour killings etc. she criticises are similarly not Islamic per se, though they are often justified and perpetuated in the name of Islam. The rosy spectacle rel
Dec 31, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Just finished Infidel. I leave the memoir with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I appreciate the strides that the author has made in life, considering the huge obstacles she has overcome. Additionally, I admire her outspokenness concerning women's issues. I left the book feeling an even greater resolve to support organizations and charities that are working to level the gender playing field. It causes me to reflect on my own personal practices and belief systems that work against equity (of any
Oct 16, 2016 Irene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the memoir of a woman in flight. As a child, she left Somalia fleeing political repression, than Saudi Arabia fleeing religious repression, than Kenya fleeing domestic repression and physical abuse, and as a young adult living in Holland, she fled the repression of a strict moral code and the Islamic faith that embodied it. Ayaan introduced me to cultures that I know little about. I admire the resilience and strength of this woman.
Mar 01, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing story of a very courageous woman. She was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya. For so many years of struggling with the inequalities and injustices for women in the Islam religion she runs away to Holland as a refugee to avoid an arranged marriage. She becomes a citizen and political figure who fights for women's rights from Muslim worlds. In doing so she has lost her family ties and also stays in hiding for fear for her life.
Jun 17, 2012 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, religion, islam
There is obviously something wrong with a society that accepts the male right to kill a female who disobeys him, female genital mutilation and/or the virtual enslavement of the female population. Aayan Hirsi Ali minces no words. She says the fundamental problem in countries that accept this is their religion - Islam. She traces these actions directly to the Koran and those who believe in it and/or accept it.

The initial chapters were the most interesting for me. In describing the members of her o
Tamora Pierce
Ayaan Hirsi Ali began life in Somalia, the child of two devout Muslims, one of whom was working to organize a rebellion against the country's leader at the time. Because his work was dangerous, he moved his family to Saudi Arabia when Ayaan was eight. That was the first of three more moves within Africa, and the first of many of Ayaan's separations from her father. Living with a rigid, doctrinaire mother who trusted no one who was not from their own Somali clan, Ayaan saw civil war, endured fema ...more
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"Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Somali: Ayaan Xirsi Cali; born Ayaan Hirsi Magan 13 November 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia) is a Dutch feminist, writer, and politician. She is the estranged daughter of the Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh's movie Submission led to death threats. Since van Gogh' ...more
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“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” 648 likes
“As a woman you are better off in life earning your own money. You couldn't prevent your husband from leaving you or taking another wife, but you could have some of your dignity if you didn't have to beg him for financial support.” 220 likes
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