Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It has taken me a while to get around to reviewing this book. I finished it a few weeks ago and it is still effecting me. This is only the second book I've read that chronicles a modern African experience. The first being A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Both left me with a painful ache in my heart for the suffering that must be going on right now on that continent.

Infidel is something of an autobiography that tells the author's journey from Somalia to Holland, from Muslim to atheist. By the end you will understand why she is now an atheist. If you had any interest in becoming a Muslim before reading this I don't see how you could hold onto that desire after.

It also tells a story of sexual oppression and abuse that is also happening this very day. Hers is a first-hand account of how horribly unequal women are in the eyes of men. Even passive, god fearing Christians like to point out how the bible holds women as second-class citizens. So it isn't just Muslims, but those women sure seem to have it worse than any others.

While reading it I wondered how much strength it took for Ali to run away from her forced marriage. What made her different? If given the chance how many other women do the same? A man I work with is from Pakistan and arranged for his daughters to marry men from Pakistan, even though the girls grew up here in America. I know that one of them refused. Fortunately, he's something of a passive man so he didn't kill her like we read about. But I wonder what went on in their house. If she hadn't been in living away at college would she have had the choice she made? I remember when he was asking me about the visa process (my wife is from outside the US and my wife and I did the visa application ourselves) and he told me about the arrangement I cringed inside. I couldn't believe it was 2006, in the United States, and this guy was arranging a marriage for his daughter. When he told me earlier this year that it didn't work out, that his daughter wouldn't follow through with it, I was so happy that she took a stand. But so many women don't get that choice.

Last night my wife and I watched "Submission: Part 1", the short film that got Theo Van Gogh killed and put Ayaan Hirsi Ali into hiding. I wish women all over the Muslim world could see this film or read her story. I wish they could have the chances and the courage to take those chances like Ayaan Ali did.

I was deeply moved by this story. If you haven't read it I strongly suggest you do.

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