andreas's Reviews > Infidel

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
M_50x66
's review
Oct 06, 07

Recommended for: everyone, really
Read in May, 2007

"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 getting killed and Holland's being thrown into near chaos. For her security, she was hidden for two months and a half. A bit more than a year later, when the book was almost finished, her citizenship was revoked but later reinstalled, she resigned from Parliament, and left for the US to work at the American Enterprise Institute. Surely stuff for a book, but that's not even the main story.

The main story is the oppression of Muslim women, back where Hirsi Ali grew up but also in Holland, where African Muslim immigrants often seem to live the way they used to – outside Western society and in disregard of Western values. The descriptions are stark. Husbands who are almost universally evil, mean, and violent. They are completely unaware of the fact that their wife is a person, an individual, a partner. A man would be a good husband if he doesn't beat his wife, this is what the author's girlfriends hoped for growing up. A sad world where a decent man is a precious commodity.

Where Hirsi Ali grew up, violence was everywhere, in the streets but also in the home. The unifying theme of her childhood was brainless brutality, one group against another, and men against women. People are organized in clans, and diversions and differences between them are the defining principles of identity. Violence, utterly pointless and to no one's benefit, is always present.

In the smaller scheme of things, I was born on the wrong side of the fence. But I have not suffered much hardship from it, and the fence came down when I was only 14, opening a world of opportunity. In the larger scheme of things, thankfully, I was born safely on the right side of the fence. The fence that separates Africa from the rest of the world, and madness from reason, poverty from wealth, life from death. This is what the book doesn't tire of pointing out. Sadly, the fence isn't coming down and opportunity will continue to elude most Africans.

For all the horrors of Hirsi Ali's childhood, of civil war, of fleeing violence and the most wretched conditions, the most shocking paragraphs of the book describe the author's and her sister's genital mutilation, a process whose enormity the more neutral terms excision and infibulation are utterly inadequate to describe. The author has suffered a violation so atrocious, brutal, and painful, painful even to read, that it is almost beyond my imagination. I am strangely thankful for the graphic description because up to now I no clear idea what the procedure entailed. But more so I am speechless that anyone would consider this wise or necessary. It surely takes a sick, brain-washed mind empty of independent thought and a heart empty of compassion and tenderness to advocate or perform such an operation.

The first two thirds of the book are all personal account and analysis, but the last third calls for action. It is a long, angry rant against the excesses of literally read Islam. It is about liberating women, encouraging them not to submit, imploring them to stand up against inequities and for their freedom. Hirsi Ali is passionately outraged, and it is a pleasure to read. She has a reason for her anger and fights for a cause. She wants to abolish sharia and set Muslims women free.
58 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Infidel.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Libbie Great review of a great book.


message 2: by Heba (last edited May 13, 2010 10:21PM) (new) - added it

Heba "The fence that separates Africa from the rest of the world"? "Opportunity will continue to elude most Africans"? Must you insist on making such egregious generalisations?

As if moral atrocities aren't to be found on any other continent.


message 3: by Sam (new)

Sam Jl i'm sorry she had a bad experience in Islam, but really what she experienced was not true islam it was a missfortunate misinterpreted Islam


Michael Atrocities are found everywhere there are humans who believe in the fear based myth and horror stories used to control the ignorant masses. Throughout the history of mankind, the same fear stories have been recycled and relabeled by every religious charlatan who discovers he can control behavior by saying..."oh that's the lightning god and he is angry because you disobeyed his holy word."


back to top