Friday, August 17, 2007

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I recently read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is famous for creating the short film Submission about the experience of women in Islam. Shortly after this film was screened in Holland the producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered.

Ali has lived in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Holland. This autobiography is particularly enlightening in that it traces her life through many different types of Islam - traditional and cultural, religious and committed, secularized, both politically liberal and totalitarian. Ultimately Ali commits to the path of reason and rejects religious belief. Hers is a journey of experience, faith, dialogue, intense committment and struggle.

Ali describes the family love and cultural background which she grew up in with great affection. She also does not withhold any of the details of genital mutilation, beatings, forced marriage, unemployment, war and exile. Throughout she displays amazing and singlehearted committment to challenge and change. She aspires to follow in her father's footsteps and become a political leader. This book should tear apart many false stereotypes about women and Islam. The message is clear, that Islam oppresses women and the only route out is a modern state based on reason.

It is a controversial book from many perspectives but it contains a story that demands to be heard and responded to.

Here are a couple of reviews NY Times and Boston Globe.

Last year I read Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb, a novel with a similar cultural background.

PS. Submission was available on the internet at one time, but it has been taken down. Disturbing.

1 comment:

Sam C said...

FYI, it's available on YouTube at the moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6CakuoaCf4