705 of 759 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid chronicle of a triumphant escape from cultural confinement
Autobiographies often suffer from late-life authorship--a time when the fires are damped and the events foreshortened by time. This one--by a woman still in her thirties--is an exception to nearly every rule of the genre. Not least for its electrifying readability: it consumed every free moment of the two days it took to finish it. Putting it down was simply not an...
Published on February 17, 2007 by Steve Summers
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This was one of the books selected from my book club. The first 100 pages were a struggle for me to keep reading, just didn't hold my interest. Then after about 150 I was hooked! For us in America, just getting past all of the names! She warns you in the beginning that names are important to her. Once I realized I would not need all of the names and started just...
Published on September 15, 2008 by Bob Kat
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125 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting autobiography of a courageous woman,
It is difficult nowadays to get an objective, nuanced opinion on Islam, neither flattering nor biased against it. If I were to recommend a way to try and achieve this, I would suggest reading several good books on the matter, including this one among them.
This is a wonderful autobiography. I knew that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a controversial thinker, but I was afraid that her life would be boring. However, the author manages to narrate her own life and circumstances in such a way that I could not put it down, and read it in less than two week's time. I highly recommend it.
Other books that I would recommend reading (as Khaled M. Abou El Fadl -scholar trained in both Islamic and Western law- says, non-muslims "first and foremost [are to] learn and understand, because nothing helps the puritans' cause as much as Western ignorance, prejudice and hate") would be the following:
ASSESSMENTS OF ISLAM:
1) The best, impartial, wise: "Islam. History, present, future" by Hans Küng (written in German, already available in Spanish, English translation coming in 2007).
2) Harsh but well argued: "Muslims in the West: Redefining the Separation of Church & State" by Sami Awad Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh.
3) Moderate Islam at its best: "The Great Theft : Wrestling Islam from the Extremists" by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl
1) General: "The Venture of Islam", by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (nowadays a classic included in any bibliography on Islam).
2) Turks: "The Turks in World History" by Carter Vaughn Findley.
3) Political theory: "God's Rule : Government and Islam" by Patricia Crone.
4) Jihad: "Understanding Jihad" by David Cook (it also seems interesting although I have not read it yet: "Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice" by Michael Bonner).
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing,
This review is from: Infidel (Paperback)
This was one of the books selected from my book club. The first 100 pages were a struggle for me to keep reading, just didn't hold my interest. Then after about 150 I was hooked! For us in America, just getting past all of the names! She warns you in the beginning that names are important to her. Once I realized I would not need all of the names and started just listening to the story it was an amazing story. I must confess I was among those who are clueless! Be sure to watch the video on U-tube, and the interviews with her. She is a truly amazing lady!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For Western Civilization Nations,
Ms. Kirsi Ali presents a startling and graphic account of the fanaticism of radical Islam. Western populations would be well advised to be aware of the plight of women, the barbaric justification of homicide, and the ultimate goal of imposing Islamic law upon the targeted nations of jihad. It is a stunning and horrifying eye-opener.
79 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a courageous struggle for human freedom and dignity,
Ayaan Hirst Ali is the Somali born human rights activist who came to the world's attention when the murderer of Theo van Gogh left a message accusing her of defiling Islam. She at the time was living in Holland where she had sought refuge after not taking the flight to Canada to an arranged marriage she did not want. In Holland she worked hard, graduated from Leiden University, tried to help Islamic women who were being persecuted by their husbands. She also became a parliamentarian. As the death threats to her mounted , she who as a young person had supported the fatwa on Salman Rushdie , she understood that she must move to safer territory. She now makes her home in the United States where she is a member of a conservative think- tank 'The American Enterprise Institute'.
Ali is fundamentally a human rights activist who believes in Enlightentment values. While she is deeply concerned about Islam's failure to provide women with basic human freedoms- she is concerned about all of mankind having freedom of speech and expression, the right to be educated, the ability to choose one's own path in life.
Her own courageous example in which she chose to go outside an oppressive framework and stand alone is perhaps too difficult and extreme for most to follow. But clearly her passionate conviction, her clarity of expression do speak to the very real need to provide each and every human being on earth basic freedoms and the opportunity to create their own life in dignity.
64 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A call for Reformation within Islam,
This is an extremely important work as it reflects the growing emergence of enlightened women's sensibilities in the world of Islam. It is a clearly written accounting illustrating the kind of intellectual and emotional journey many Muslim women around the world are experiencing as they gain education and freedom of thought. Ali's story will likely be carefully, and eagerly, considered by Muslim women and those of us who want to understand Islam better, from a woman's point of view. Ali's journey is also important for all of us, Muslim or not, women or not. Why? I'm an evolutionary biologist who writes about social conflict and war and the effect that silencing women in matters of war has had on the human history of war ("Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace" by Judith L. Hand (not Latta)). The global empowerment of women and their participation at planning sessions and negotiating tables--women from all sides of our many conflicts--is the necessary, critical catalyst for creating a better, less violent future. By so clearly presenting her own journey, Ali shines a light that clarifies an arguably necessary reformation that must occur within Islam if that better, less violent future, is to be created for the benefit of us all.
105 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call,
[...] This is a riveting, deeply moving auobiography of a woman, reared in an oppressive Muslim society, who fled to the West and gradually came to embrace western values. When she coproduced a film depicting the abuse and oppression of Muslim women, she received death threats, and her coproducer was murdered. She has given us a wakeup call. We will all need to have her courage to overcome this totalitarian ideology that threatens the values we hold dear.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting autobiography & illuminating history,
This review is from: Infidel: My Life (Paperback)
It's rare to find autobiography as absorbing as this. Not only because of the author's unusual path from the desert of Somalia to the USA via the Netherlands, but also on account of the absorbing writing style. Clear and descriptive, the narrative of her eventful life had a profound impact on this reader. Born and raised in Somalia, Ayaan spent part of her youth in neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, recounting what it was like to live there through the eyes of a child.
She gives a lively account of the history of Somalia under the dictatorship of Siad Barre, explaining the clan system and comparing the relaxed Muslim practice in that country with the rigidy of Saudi Arabia and the hypocrisy and racism that go along with it. The short experience of Ethiopia and later the long stay in Kenya, both predominantly Christian countries, were different again and she really captivates with her descriptions of places and people. One of her most salient memories is the obsessive anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia. Where her family lived in the city of Riyadh, Jews were blamed for everything.
A sub-theme of the book is the increased radicalization of Muslims, partly because of the failures and the suffering brought about by Barre and the chaos of the civil war that unseated him. She noted this radicalization taking place amongst Somalis and others in Kenya where she spent most of her adolescence. This radical strain was brought to Africa by Arabs and Iranians, both Sunni and Shia, also reflecting the failure of secular ideologies and bad government in the dictatorships of the Islamic world.
There are sympathetic but honest portrayals of her family and friends: her mother who showed healthy signs of independence early in life but eventually lost hope and became embittered, her loving and tolerant but mostly absent father, her brother who stayed in Kenya and her sister who, when she couldn't cope in Holland, died tragically after returning to Kenya.
Far from stirring up feelings against Islam, this book makes one contemplate with empathy the location of each individual's birth, how little free choice there really is in a closed society, the powerful hold of your community's history and culture, the difficulty of resisting brainwashing and how grateful people in free societies ought to be for the blessings that a lot of us take for granted.
Infidel is also about a second journey: A journey of the mind from the strictures of stifling, oppressive faith to the liberation of enlightenment and the embrace of Western values like individual freedom, freedom of speech and the rule of law. The fact that the individual mattered and had a right to life, to choice and freedom, was a joyful discovery.
This theme interweaves with the history she so deftly chronicles: the collapse of Somalia, the slow decline in Kenya, Dutch politics in the face of dysfunctional multiculturalism that however well intended, harms individuals in the immigrant communities and society as a whole. More information of these developments in The Netherlands and Europe as a whole is available in While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer and Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too by Claire Berlinski.
It is humbling to read of the author's wonderment and appreciation when she discovered Dutch society where even the police were friendly and helpful and where everything worked. Ayaan clearly loves The Netherlands; her words radiate with gratitude and appreciation of the culture and society. I especially enjoyed the account of her studies at the University of Leiden where she studies the great Western philosophers.
Sometimes harrowing, the story of Infidel includes innocent childhood memories, mutilation, war, deprivation, tragedy, adventure, drastic adaptation and inspiring achievements. It is clear that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an unusually courageous, empathic and resourceful individual. There are 11 black & white plates of family and other people who played a part in her life. As far as the religious aspect is concerned, I recommend the following informative books by two equally courageous women: Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America by Brigitte Gabriel and Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror by Nonie Darwish.
135 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's a face representing real women suffering under Islam,
I read it in 3 days. A fascinating page turner.
Ali has lived in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands. You get a first hand account of the respective cultures. Worse yet, you get a feeling of the repression women and girls suffer at the hands of Islam.
She does not flinch from the truth -- despite the legions of fanatics that now want to kill her. You owe it to her to read this book, and you owe it to yourself.
The book leads to true comprehension of the evil we will all have to face. Don't taking the life journey she has so eloquently laid out! Don't pass up the chance for an understanding of a very closed culture with a tour guide that has lived it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is an important & courageous addition to a much needed debate.,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Her childhood was unkind and she endured more heartache, abuse and tragedy than most people can ever imagine in an entire lifetime.
Ms. Ali grew up in a family and culture where strict adherence to Islamic traditions where observed. This adherence controlled the way she would behave with family members, what she could read, who she would marry and how she would live.
When her father arranged her marriage to a man from Somalia, living in Canada, she was forced to accept it and flew to Europe where she would wait for her time to go to Canada. During this visit to Europe she began to question, ever more deeply, the contradictions of her faith and the assumptions she grew up with about the western world.
Not wanting to live as her mother had, with no sense of self and no freedom to choose, she decided to travel to the Netherlands and take political asylum there. Here she attended the university and fell in love with the freedoms that were afforded to her and the world that was opening up for her. After she graduated from the University with a Masters in Political Science she eventually made her way to the Parliament.
Even without discussing her religious conclusions, her story is a fascinating story of triumph that makes Infidel a worthwhile book.
After 9/11 Ms. Ali denounced Islam and begun to express her views of the oppression of Muslim women in the Netherlands. She received a lot of notoriety, primarily because her opinions were not being voiced by many other prominent figures, for fear of offending Muslims or being called Islamophobic. The fact that she was, in fact, a Muslim made her points of view even more controversial and offensive to the Muslim community.
If Ms. Ali had grown up Christian and later denounced her Christianity I doubt seriously that anyone would even hear her story. There would be no death threats and she wouldn't be the scorn of millions of Christians. The reason for this should be examined carefully, especially in this era where the western world and western culture are under attack by Islamic extremists.
I take her story as representative of a portion of Islam and not the entire religion. I am aware that there are millions of peaceful followers of Islam. I believe the majority of them are, in fact, peaceful and follow a different interpretation of their religion then the extremist minority. All Muslims I know, personally, fall under this peaceful category of followers. However, in a religion of over a billion followers, it is important to understand the percentage of this minority for only a small percentage could mean millions of people and thus make the threat to the free world ever so perilous.
Whether you agree or disagree with Ms. Ali's conclusions, it is a tragedy that she has to walk around with body guards in The United States of America. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written a very important and courageous book. Enjoy!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The True Battle Is For Human Rights,
Societies must be judged on the human rights it guarantees to its citizens. The subjugation of even one person by law - or conveniently skirting laws that have been written - to any form of slavery is the acceptance of institutionalized hatred.
This is a chilling autobiography by Ayaan Hirsi Ali which concerns the sickening human rights violations of women and the systematic trampling of basic freedoms through the Qur'an. She pounds away at the enslavement of women and the intolerance to other religions/cultures.
In history, appeasement has proven to be a failure time and time again. Without each person having the individual freedom of the mind, body and soul, there will need to be heroes like Hirsi Ali to remind the world where the political priorities must re-focused each day.
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Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Paperback - April 1, 2008)