Infidel
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Infidel

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  38,284 ratings  ·  4,359 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, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, to her intellectual awakening and activism in the Netherlands, and her current life under armed guard in the West.One of today's most admired and con...more
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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sisraelt
Although it is an autobiography her outlook on Islam is extremely biased. I don't know the Q'uran inside out to argue her points but despite all that I think every religion has the fanatics and extremists and the more liberal followers. It's a generalization to base it on her experiences in Saudi Arabia and denounce it all together. There are millions of Muslims practicing Islam throughout the world and they're not all going home to beat their wives and kill Infidels to gain entry into Heaven. I...more
Kinga
Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that Islam as a religion is backward. And for that some Muslims want to kill her, apparently Qur'an says they should. Am I the only one that thinks this is proving her point??

Anyway, lots of reviewers here say she is biased, and doesn't paint the TRUE picture of Islam. Well, of course, she is biased. It's her autobiography. She will say what she thinks. She was born Muslim, lived in two countries where Islam was official religion including Saudi Arabia (it doesn't get more...more
andreas
Oct 06, 2007 andreas rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Amanda R
Jun 18, 2007 Amanda R rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Telly McGaha
Aug 28, 2007 Telly McGaha rated it 3 of 5 stars 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...more
Milan/zzz
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...more
Amari
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
Chris
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
Mary
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...more
Peggy Sue
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...more
Patricia
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
Mikey B.
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...more
Peggy
Mar 20, 2008 Peggy rated it 5 of 5 stars 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....more
Bruce
Jan 25, 2010 Bruce rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Shruti
It's amazing how quickly I let hope and self-belief drain out of me, while somehow for cynicism and despair I seem to find perennial sources, within and without. A Jane's courage, a Lessing's vision give me a secret song to sing (for a while) and hold me anchored (for a while), but then the ever-so-vulnerable and fearful nose pushes up against the familiar(and oh so ubiquitous) Grind of Life and churns up the inevitable entrails of judging, of being judged, of lying, of being lied to and lo, I f...more
Bill
Nov 12, 2008 Bill rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: everyone should read it
This book is not unlike Into Thin Air as it is a story of incredible courage and perseverance in the face of extreme danger. On the other hand it is nothing like Into Thin Air as there are no physical mountains climbed in this book. It is an autobiography of a Muslim child/girl/woman from the shacks of Somalia that ultimately rose to be the first African to serve in the Dutch parliament. Her escape from Islam has not been just physical but equally spiritual and emotional. The liberation of her m...more
Jody
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...more
Betsy
Jan 01, 2012 Betsy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: GR Atheist Book Club Group
This is an excellent book. Hirsi Ali writes well, direct, and painfully honest. She does not complain excessively about the horrendous treatment she received as a child; she just describes it matter-of-factly. But it clearly influences the rest of her life. Nor does she treat herself as unusual, which she is. Very intelligent, brave, loyal, caring ... an incredible woman, but with some very human flaws which she doesn't hide.

Her story is very compelling, a fairly easy read. Not only is the stor...more
Worthless Bum
This book is the incredible autobiographical account of a remarkable and beautiful Somali rationalist. Born to humble origins in Somalia, she eventually rises to become a member of Dutch Parliament. It was interesting learning about the cultural differences between the various places Ayaan lived during her childhood, of the clan based Islam in Somalia, the more layed back system in Kenya, and the Sharia in Saudi Arabia. She experiences culture shock when she moves to Europe, and eventually aband...more
Evan
If anything, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography suffers most from a case of misleading advertising. This work has been heavily marketed (and attacked) as heavy-hitting political and social commentary, an anti-Islamic polemic, and a wake-up call to European society along the lines of Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason. Unfortunately -- and this is no detriment to its other merits -- it just isn't. It is a deeply personal autobiography by the middle daughter of a promi...more
Lena
Sep 20, 2007 Lena rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
This is an utterly fascinating book on so many levels it’s hard to count. As a memoir, this chronicle of Hirsi’s journey from the good daughter of a Muslim Somali family to her current role as an outspoken critic of Islam who lives under 24-hour armed guard is gripping. The stories of trauma she endured as a child—from violent abuse to life under an oppressive dictator to the horrors of war viewed firsthand—are not easy to read, but I couldn’t put the book down as I sought to discover how she su...more
Marieke
Ayaan writes beautifully and I admire her for her courage to leave a terrible situation and start fresh in a new country and culture, master yet another new language, and become a politician. That is why i gave it four stars. for her description of Islam, i would give her zero stars. Non-muslim and western people who read this book should understand that she does not truly understand Islam and that her perception of Islam is in no way representative. Her ideas about it play directly into the fea...more
Zachariah
I'm torn between giving this 2 or 3 stars. I went ahead and gave it three because it is a remarkable story and I do very much respect what she has lived through. But man do I disagree with much of her opinions. I have no problem with her using her autobiography as a platform for her own political views because, after all, it is her book but I do think she is very wrong in those views. You basically have a person that was brought up to be a religious fanatic and by the end of the book she has rid...more
Louise
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...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Reading this I was frequently reminded of Frederick Douglass' middle biography, My Bondage and My Freedom, which I read a few months ago. That's not to say I would equate Ayaan Hirsi Ali in stature or as a writer. This doesn't have quite the eloquence, the striking lines or piercing psychological and sociological insights of Douglass. Given Hirsi was born in Somalia, grew up there and in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya and received her higher education in the Netherlands, it's doubtful she had...more
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
Donegal
I have never been particularly interested in reading memoirs, but this book may have shifted my thinking on that.

Not only is it eloquently written, the story in utterly engrossing. As a Westerner who grew up and is currently living in a heterogeneous town in a heterogeneous state in the American Midwest, I have had limited insight into other cultures, Muslim cultures included. Until now. Ali gave me an insider's perspective that I'd never had before. One may hear stories, gather bits and pieces...more
Mag
A fascinating life journey from Islamic fundamentalism to humanistic atheism, advocacy for Muslim women rights and immigrant integration. And, most certainly, a harrowing journey it had been. The story of Ali is fairly well known- she had to live with bodyguards in fear of her life after being critical of Islam and of practices of female genital circumcision in particular. She shares Salman Rushdie’s fate in this respect.

There are a couple of points that I would like to briefly comment on since...more
Michael
Ayaan told her story of the abuse she suffered from her mother, her male family members and her religion and culture. It is a story shared by many women who share that religion and culture. At great risk to her life, she told that story to expose the barbaric treatment that she and those many women experienced because it was a commandment from a man many centuries ago. Obedience to this commandment has been handed down through the years and enforced by the ignorance and blind obedience to that r...more
Hercina
Jan 22, 2014 Hercina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Strong minded people and/or simply most of the Women
4.5/5

Quite interesting and gripping from the very first chapter.
Ayaan describes well her life, she doesn't try to beautify her past, nor her expectations about the future. She is so humble, honest and her writing pleasantly reveal a woman who knows who she is and what she wants. She is not afraid to doubt what she was told, from the very moment of her birth, was true and correct. She has to find out the truth for herself and by herself, and this courage, this brilliance in a time and in a place...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.” 503 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.” 142 likes
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