Infidel: My Life (2006/published in English 2007) is the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-Dutch activist and politician. Out of consideration for the safety of the female ghostwriter, her identity is not given, as Hirsi Ali has attracted controversy …
Hirsi Ali writes about her youth in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya; about her flight to the Netherlands where she applied for political asylum, her university experience in Leiden, her work for the Labour Party, her transfer to the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, her election to Parliament, and the murder of Theo van Gogh, with whom she made the film Submission. The book ends with a discussion of the controversy regarding her application for asylum and status of her citizenship. …
Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria described it as “an amazing book by an amazing person”. …
Reporter Lorraine Ali in Newsweek magazine gave the book a negative review, claiming that the reader will feel “manipulated” by Hirsi’s story. She said that “Hirsi Ali is more a hero among Islamophobes than Islamic women.” She also said that Hirsi sounds as “single-minded and reactionary as the zealots she’s worked so hard to oppose”.
I’d agree with both those reviewers.
Her seemingly gradual emancipation from tribalism and Islam to become a secular, agnostic parliamentarian working to call attention to crimes being committed against Muslim women in Europe seemed somewhat … unbelievable to me.
On the other hand … I’ve traveled more in Muslim nations than any other Canadian I know, yet I was shocked by the author’s life story.
My perspective as a white male guest in famously welcoming and hospitable societies left me with very favourable impressions of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. Even Yemen.
My first trip was 1994 and I did come back reporting that the bleakest aspect of Islam was the plight of women. But I had no idea just how bad it was (at least in Somalia) until I read this memoir.
She recounts her genital mutilation. And those of other women. Horrific.
It’s an African tradition. Though, as she points out, Islam has done little to educate or eradicate the practice. Today it mainly happens in 27 African countries and Yemen.
FGM has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, but the laws are poorly enforced. There have been international efforts since the 1970s to persuade practitioners to abandon it, and in 2012 the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing FGM as a human-rights violation, voted unanimously to intensify those efforts. …
Though Ayaan Hirsi Ali life’s work is in support of Muslim women, I suspect any group of Muslim women would count many who disagree with her.
Not all Muslim men beat their wife (or wives). Not all Muslim women are powerless in their families.
It’s bad. But not as bad as you’d be led to believe by this autobiography.
Bottom line. You should read this unforgettable book. Thanks for recommending it to me, Jane.
related – I watch the film ‘Submission’ by Theo van Gogh. Not impressed.