InfidelBook - 2008 | 1st Free Press trade pbk. ed.
Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.
Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.
From the critics
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…I was invited to appear on a Dutch TV program about women in Islam. There were a number of short items on girls in the Netherlands who had escaped their parents’ abuse, and about girls who chose to walk about veiled even though they were living in Holland.
When I was asked for my opinion, I explained that Islam was like a mental cage. At first, when you open the door, the caged bird stays inside: it is frightened. It has internalized its imprisonment. It takes time for the bird to escape, even after someone has opened the doors to its cage. P 286
I listened to the news of riots that had erupted in Nigeria. A young woman journalist assigned to cover the Miss World competition there had written, “Muslims thought it was immoral to bring ninety-two women to Nigeria to ask them to revel in vanity. What would the Prophet Muhammad think?...He would probably have chosen a wife from one of them.”
More than two hundred people were killed in the riots that broke out. The office of her newspaper was burned down, and the reporter was forced to leave the country. ..[Then], instead of blaming the violence on the men who were burning down houses and murdering people,[a British woman who had organized the pageant] blamed the young reporter for making “unfortunate remarks.”
I was incensed by this excusing of fanaticism. That journalist...was right: the Prophet married most of his wives because they had caught his eye...
Johan handed me a photocopy of the letter. He didn’t tell me it had been stabbed into Theo’s chest by his killer, just gave me some pages written in Arabic and Dutch.
I read them. The letter was structured very precisely, like a fatwa, a religious verdict. It opened with "In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful", followed by a quote from the Prophet Muhammad, the swordsman. Then there was a summary of all the “acts of crime” I had committed against Islam. Then came a verse from the Quran, and a challenge from the writer on the basis of that verse, asking me if I was prepared to die for my convictions, as he, the letter writer, was. He went on to curse the United States, Europe, Holland, and me, and signed with the name “Sword of the Faith.”….Remkes told me the letter was found on Theo’s body, along with a poem of martyrdom….
The kind of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia,.. is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves a feudal mindset based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypocrisy, and double standards. It relies on the technological advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam.
It is always difficult to make the transition to a modern world….It was difficult for me, too. I moved from the world of faith to the world of reason...Having made that journey, I know that one of the worlds is simply better than the other. Not because of its flashy gadgets, but fundamentally, because of its values.
The message of this book,..is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.
I first encountered the full strength of Islam as a young child in Saudi Arabia...the place where the Muslim religion is practiced in its purest form, and it is the origin of much of the fundamentalist vision that has, in my lifetime, spread far beyond its borders. In Saudi Arabia, every breath, every step we took was infused with concepts of purity or sinning, and with fear. Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are cut off, women still stoned and enslaved, just as the Prophet Muhammad decided centuries ago.
My central, motivating concern is that women in Islam are oppressed. That oppression of women causes Muslim women and Muslim men, too, to lag behind the West. It creates a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation. It would be better for everyone – for Muslims above all – if this situation could change.
When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at the reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn’t so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so. [p 349]
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