Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Infidel” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  54,710 Ratings  ·  5,186 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 co ...more
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Free Press (first published 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Infidel, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Nicole There are myriad books criticising other religions, not just Islam. And I am certain that there many other books (including fiction) written in praise…moreThere are myriad books criticising other religions, not just Islam. And I am certain that there many other books (including fiction) written in praise of it. My impression with this book in particular is that Islam was not kind to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, so her views will naturally be critical of it. It's important also to remember there is actually a line between being critical and being bigoted.
So why read these books? How can we ever understand different perspectives if we never listen to/read them? It doesn't mean we will always agree, but knowing where someone is coming from is the first step in building bridges and having positive, productive discussion (and, perhaps eventually, action).(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)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsNight by Elie WieselAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
32nd out of 3,313 books — 3,802 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling1984 by George OrwellPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once
486th out of 16,383 books — 77,104 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 25, 2015 sisraelt rated it did not like it
MARCH 25, 2015
Immensely disliked this book and tired of all the comments so I took down my review. Moving on!
Petra X
There seems to be a concerted effort to vote this book down. I checked on the last 20 or so 1 star ratings (no reviews). All were people who joined in May, none wrote reviews. Most had no friends, most had added about 20 books. The ones that GR suggests when you join. There are too many reviews for this to matter but it is interesting that there is a person/people who hate this book so much they want to try to bring it down.

I've just watched the BBC's 'Muslim Beauty Pageant and
Oct 06, 2007 andreas rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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
May 09, 2016 Lyn rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 28, 2014 Amari rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2009 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
Aug 28, 2007 T.S. rated it liked it
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
Nov 21, 2007 Chris rated it liked it
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
Aug 20, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
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
Mikey B.
Feb 21, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 30, 2012 Mary rated it liked it
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
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.
Tanja Berg
Jan 10, 2014 Tanja Berg rated it it was amazing
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
Peggy Sue
Jan 23, 2008 Peggy Sue rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2008 Peggy rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 25, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 03, 2010 Deena rated it did not like it
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
Mar 13, 2007 Jody rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 05, 2015 howl of minerva rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2016 Libby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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. She did not. In fact, while the author's voice was consistent in both pieces of literature, the reader was educated with a series of micro-histories tha
Feb 23, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 22, 2012 Louise rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2008 Bill rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was ok
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
Tamora Pierce
Sep 07, 2009 Tamora Pierce rated it it was amazing
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
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
Apr 24, 2015 Alona rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow! What a life story!!
I'm rating this purely as a biography.
What an amazing brave young woman.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Why I am Not a Muslim
  • Slave: My True Story
  • Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women
  • Leap of Faith : Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
  • Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror
  • Iran Awakening
  • The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith
  • Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur
  • This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President
  • Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist
  • The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
  • The House at Sugar Beach
  • Do They Hear You When You Cry
  • Things I've Been Silent About: Memories
  • The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine
  • Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
  • Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment
  • The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland
"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
More about Ayaan Hirsi Ali...

Share This Book

“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.” 622 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.” 206 likes
More quotes…