Jake's Reviews > Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
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's review
Jun 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, religion, politics, women-authors
Read from June 09 to 13, 2010

"We make our sons. This is the tragedy of the tribal Muslim man, and especially the firstborn son: the overblown expectations, the ruinous vanity, the unstable sense of self that relies on the oppression of one group of people--women--to maintain the other group's self image."

I found the above quote to be one of the most powerful statements in Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book Nomad. It is all the more significant because it occurs in a chapter devoted to her brother who, Ms. Hirsi Ali argues, is as much a victim of fundamentalist Islam as she was. This book is more than just a memoir of one woman’s personal journey. Through frank reflection, Hirsi Ali makes a bold rebuke of Islam, but also of groups and institutions that she regards as passive enablers.

“Textbooks gloss over the fundamentally unjust rules of Islam and present it as a peaceful religion. Institutions of reason must…reinvest in developing the ability to think critically, no matter how impolite some people may find the results.”

For me, the most informative sections of this book deal with immigration. Through personal and professional experience, Hirsi Ali has attained a high degree of insight into this problematic issue. She lays some blame at everyone's feet, but shows empathy for various parties. People on both sides of the Arizona/Mexico border could learn a lot from reading this book. I know I did.

Some of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's subjective reasoning struck me as faulty. She is prone to generalization and exhibits a double standard. She gives recognition to moderate Christians and Jews but not moderate Muslims. To her credit she admits this contradiction. Yet she justifies it by claiming even moderate Muslims take the Koran to be inerrant (a generalization that may not be true in every case). Regardless, I thought this book was rooted in the best kind of vigorous debate. She praises this approach late in the book.

"When I came to the West what I found truly amazing was the fact that believers, agnostics, and unbelievers could debate with and even ridicule one another without ever resorting to violence."

At a time when tempers are running extremely high in the U.S.A., I hope this generalization remains generally true. Bottom line: I strongly recommend this book as a resource for increasing one’s understanding of the great friction between Islam and Western society.
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Reading Progress

06/10/2010 page 23
8.3% "If the book is as thought-provoking as the Introduction, this is going to be an intense read."
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