Sunday, March 18, 2012

REVIEW: INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I have wanted to read this book for ages, and I am so glad that I did.  This is a perfect example of me not knowing much about a subject and then learning A LOT by reading a book about it.  In this case, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's life was a window into the muslim world from a woman's perspective;  although I know that this is not necessarily atypical of a muslim woman's life.  I get that.  But the opening of this book is just riveting.  It starts out with the violent murder of Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam.  The killer shot him numerous times, and then plunged two knives into his chest pinning a note to his victim's body.  The note threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali along with western countries, among other things.

Now THAT got my attention.

Ayaan's life was filled with spiritual questions that at times had her re-embracing Islam and at other times questioning the very existence of Allah.  Having been there in my own life, I related to her on this very basic level.  As a young adult I imagine many people question the faith that they were raised in, and some embark on their own way, and others cling to the religion of their youth.

One area that I felt I learned the most about was in female genital mutilation, which she talks about a fair amount, and being a chapter leader with Dining for Women and an activist for women's rights all over the world, I was fascinated to have an insiders look into this practice.  Many women in cultures that still practice FGM actually take it as an honor and a right of passage.  Some women hold it as proud badge that they have been cut, and worried that if they were not, that no man would ever marry them because they would be seen as "unclean".  After reading "Half the Sky", Nicholas Kristof also alluded to this fact, and wrote that in order for this practice to end, it would take many years of undoing the traditional, religious and cultural beliefs of the people with which this is an everyday occurrence.  It reminded me that when trying to fight for women's rights in other countries, that we must also look at how certain barbaric practices in our culture, may have other meanings for women in those areas.  It reminded me how complicated these issues are.  And I needed reminding.

The other thing that struck me, was how Ayaan was living a cloaked life as a muslim, she was covered, she was following all of the rules of Islam, yet at the same time was reading American romance novels and watching North American television shows.  She was seeing how women in the west had much more freedom, they talked back to their husbands, they had jobs.  This was all very appealing to her, and planted a seed that would stubbornly grow, until she could not reject the desire to be free any longer.  It made me realize that countries that suppress the female population, would feel the need to censor their lives, because once the women see how other women are living, some would be like Ayaan and want to escape to another area where they could live free, or more free.

Ayaan was severely abused by her mother, I mean like "Mommy Dearest" kind of abused.  But what is interesting is that she doesn't really realize it, I don't think.  This made me very sad for her.

The first 3/4 of the book was excellent, but once she entered school and politics, I felt it just lost its personal touch and was just a list of accomplishments and more of an autobiographical list of events.  In fact, after her first relationship, which she presented in such interesting detail, and her fears of intimacy with a man etc, when she finally did fall in love with a European, there was no mention of anything that after almost 1/2 of the book spent on her cultural differences and religious issues surrounding relationships and men.  That was frustrating.  It was just plainly put, we met, we fell in love.

Ayaan's tireless and relentless call to action to give more rights and freedoms to muslim women all over the world must be applauded, but it does not come without controversy and threat to her personal safety at all times.  She started a foundation called AHA Foundation that works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

So, all in all, I'm glad I read it.  I have no plans to read Nomad, because quite frankly, I can't imagine what else could have happened since Infidel that could fill an entire other book, but maybe I'm wrong.  Anybody out there read both books?  Is it worth reading?

Love to hear your thoughts...

RATING:  3/5

4 Blabs:

Mystica said...

I'd like to read this (like you just this one book). We hear so much on this subject all the time, and for every step taken forward there seems to be hundreds taken back. The case of the 16 year old in Morocco a few days ago a point. Seems a hopeless subject at the same time.

Lisa said...

Hi Mystica
Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for your comment! You know what is amazing though about the news of the 16 year old girl? Absolutely tragic, unbelievable, but this is the practice and law in some countries, BUT, because of this devastating story, hundreds of women's rights activists demonstrated in front of the parliament building in Morocco, demanding that that particular law on sexual violence be repealed. Here is a link to the video where the protesters have banners and signs with Amina Filali's photo on it, demanding that history not repeat itself. This is fantastic, and maybe out of this tragedy, the law will finally be changed and rapists will have to go to jail instead of being free as long as they agree to marry their victim. There is always hope! :0)

Kristin said...

I recently read this and like you, had been wanting to read it for a while. I still need to write my review, but I also found myself learning a lot about things I didn't know too much about. This is quite a profound book. Great review!

brainella said...

I have this book in my to-read pile but have yet to get to it. I may need to move it up the pile to read it sooner. Good review.

Post a Comment