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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Gem of a Book
Hirsi Ali's previous book, 'Infidel', ranks as one of the best I've ever read. If it were a work of fiction, I would acclaim its writer as one of the greatest of our time. That it is also true makes it even more of a compelling read. 'Nomad' is its worthy successor in every way. Whereas 'Infidel' was a systematic account of her life, this book constitutes more of a...
Published on 20 May 2010 by A. Norman

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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Admire the woman; question the analysis
I admire Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a truly remarkable woman. Born in Somalia and fluent in six languages, she grew up in a middle-class Somali family. Contrary to her father's wishes, she was circumcised at the age of seven by her paternal grandmother. Her family was forced to flee Somalia after her father led an unsuccessful revolt against the country's ruler. She and her...
Published on 23 Aug 2010 by A. O. P. Akemu


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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Gem of a Book, 20 May 2010
By 
A. Norman - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
Hirsi Ali's previous book, 'Infidel', ranks as one of the best I've ever read. If it were a work of fiction, I would acclaim its writer as one of the greatest of our time. That it is also true makes it even more of a compelling read. 'Nomad' is its worthy successor in every way. Whereas 'Infidel' was a systematic account of her life, this book constitutes more of a compendious collection of her messages about women, integration of Muslims into Western society, and personal freedom. The result is a stunning thesis, drawing from a myriad of sources, to construct an argument of compelling, inexorable logic, while still retaining the compassion and humanity of its predecessor.

The book itself is divided into four sections. In the first, she gives accounts of the lives of her immediate family members, and describes in each case how a combination of tribal mentalities and the oppressions of Islam have ruined their lives. In the second, she tells of how she came to leave the Netherlands, why she chose to live in the United States, and the status of Islam there. In the third, she explains each of the three reasons which she believes hinder integration of Muslims into Western society. In the fourth, she details what we can do about it. (All of this is listed and explained in the Introduction to the book.) Some of the book is derived from her own personal experiences, other parts are from the experiences of people she knows, and some is from other sources. All of it is moving, fascinating and inspiring.

It is a rare book that can simultaneously horrify you, with its blunt, uncensored, hard truths, and uplift you with its message of reason, hope, and Enlightenment values. I couldn't recommend it more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight, 24 May 2013
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A fascinating insight into another world, how tough and regimented and outdated and cruel can anyone be to their daughters/womenfolk and children all in the name of 'religion'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars everyone should read this, 13 Jan 2013
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Yenda M. Smejkal (luton, Beds, England) - See all my reviews
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hirsi ali is a superlative auto-biographical writer. she is engaging on every page.

she makes very good arguments, and touches areas which many are afraid to touch upon.

i cant recommend this highly enough
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ayyan Hirsi Ali, 25 May 2010
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MarkusG "Markus" (Stockholm, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up in muslim societies in Somalia, Saudi etc, and fled to Holland when her father tried to wed her to a man in Canada. Hirsi Ali is today one of the most prominent critics of islam. And the price for this is living with bodyguards under constant threat of death. If you want a feel-good or PC description of life under islam, this book is not for you.

After an introduction "Nomad" deals with Hirsi Alis' family, and the problematic relations with her father and mother after she chose to become an "infidel". This part is very interesting as it provides glimpses of life in a muslim family and culture. It is also a story of opression of women, physical violence, sexual taboos and the fear of hell.

The following part is about her move to USA. She really likes the US, but sees it as threatened from the inside by the rise of fundamentalist islam. She is met by angry muslims when holding speeches at universities (in one case, a girl in headscarf cried out "Who in hell gives you the right to talk about islam?". And another student replied: "The first amendment!". "That was inspiring", Hirsi Ali comments (p 135).) She also comments on how there are student activist groups for everything, but nothing for the right of muslim women, women fleeing islam or against violence in the name of islam.

She also delivers in depth criticism of islam as an opressive system where women are reduced to breeding machines under sex apartheid, and where people are taught to be submissive, afraid of allah, and not to question religious authority. This has created docile subjects, easily manipulated by radical imams.

The temperature rises when Hirsi Ali confronts western feminists who have failed to criticise the opression of women under islam. She also accuses multiculturalists to deny muslim children the opportunity break free from the shackles of religion and superstition. "In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn't translate into a rich mosaic /.../ It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance and abuse." (p 261). The remedies she proposes are increased exposure of muslims to open debate and enlightenment values, and more active spread of christianity, which she sees as a more humane religion. This can seem surprising as Hirsi Ali declares herself to be an atheist.

Hirsi Ali has got many valid points and insights into the problem of islam, and islam in the West. After all, it is not those who criticise christianity or western values who have to use body guards 24-7, and live in fear. It is those who dare to criticise islam, like Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Soorah Hera, Irshad Manji, Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Lars Vilks and Kurt Westergaard. Just for voicing their opinions. Ayyan Hirsi Ali is a bright and very courageous human, the very opposite of those who condemn her. I recommend everyone to buy and read her book.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Admire the woman; question the analysis, 23 Aug 2010
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A. O. P. Akemu "Ona" (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
I admire Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a truly remarkable woman. Born in Somalia and fluent in six languages, she grew up in a middle-class Somali family. Contrary to her father's wishes, she was circumcised at the age of seven by her paternal grandmother. Her family was forced to flee Somalia after her father led an unsuccessful revolt against the country's ruler. She and her family finally settled in Nairobi, Kenya. En route to an arranged marriage in Canada, she sought asylum in the Netherlands. There, she studied political science at the University of Leiden, abandoned her ancestral Islamic faith and became a Member of Parliament (MP) under the banner of the VVD, a Dutch liberal party.

A VERY PERSONAL STORY
This book is primarily an autobiography. Ayaan Hirsi Ali gives a fascinating account of her childhood. Her authoritarian father, Abeh, loved Ayaan and her sister, but was a violent taskmaster to Ayaan's older brother. Ayaan's mother, on the other hand, mollycoddled the brother, valuing him above her other children simply because he was male. Fast forward to Ms. Ali's life in the Netherlands. Her apostasy deeply hurt Abeh, leading to estrangement between father and beloved daughter. Despite the years of hurt, Ayaan and Abeh finally reconcile. In a very moving scene, Ms. Ali describes how Abeh sent for her while on his deathbed. At last, they reconcile one week before Abeh passes away.

Ms Ali's family troubles extend beyond her relationship with Abeh. Her brother divorces his wife and becomes 'mad'; her cousin is infected with HIV, yet manages to deny ever having sex; another cousin, trapped in a dreary, immigrant neighbourhood in London, has abandoned all hopes of earthly happiness. Luckily for Ms Ali, living in the Netherlands - far from the poisonous influence of her Somali relatives - she flourishes and comes to terms with herself.

SHE IS NO SHRINKING VIOLET
Ms. Ali does not shy away from addressing the failure of many immigrants in the Netherlands to integrate and become productive citizens. While working for the Dutch Social Services, Ayaan Hirsi Ali experienced the failure of the multiculturalist social model: incidences of domestic abuse--especially against women--were much higher among immigrants; school drop-out rates among immigrants were also appallingly high; and young Muslim immigrants seemed to fall prey to a virulent form of Fundamentalist Islam. She challenges the concept of multiculturalism, excoriating its left-wing high priests. Ms. Ali surmises that multiculturalism is an inherently racist concept because it assumes that immigrants' ancestral traditions are inherently inferior in the modern world and, therefore, need to be 'protected' in the West "..like an exotic mask in a smart modern museum".

A FLAWED THESIS
Ms. Ali's thesis is that there is a dark, unspoken presence in the 'Muslim mind' (whatever such a reductive term means) that prevents Muslims from integrating into mainstream Western society: Islam. All strands of Islam, according to Ms. Ali, are fundamentally opposed to the values of modern post-Enlightenment society (individual responsibility, free thought, critical thinking). Ms. Ali's prescriptions for solving the integration problem, her 'Enlightenment Project' as she calls it is:

1. TEACH MUSLIM KIDS TO THINK CRITICALLY. Because Muslims hold that the Quran is perfect and unchangeable, they do not question it. Children are taught to defer to authority to the detriment of critical thought. Only by teaching Muslim children to question the Koran will the stranglehold of religious authority be relieved.

2. CONVERT MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS TO CHRISTIANITY (GENTLY). Christian churches in Europe should not be afraid to 'contend for the souls' of Muslim immigrants. Churches, according to Ms. Ali, could 'evangelise' among immigrant communities by providing support services and counselling to immigrants. Ms. Ali reports that she had seen this form of benign evangelisation help some of her Somali co-refugees assimilate very well into Dutch society.

The first proposal is hardly controversial. Who opposes critical, independent thought? Why not teach every child to think critically and independently? The second proposal, however, may not sit well with many who take a dim view of the Church. However, Ms. Ali's proposal is worth considering. If Church groups have the resources, social capital and heart to help immigrants acculturate to their new societies, why should they not compete to provide spiritual succour to immigrant families? Why leave the field to Islamists?

Ms. Ali's analysis of Dutch society is unsatisfactory. She blames the multiculturalist stance of Dutch elites for the inability of Muslims to integrate into Dutch society. The truth is more complex: political correctness, lip service to multiculturalism, conflation of immigration with asylum, poor immigration policies, and the secularisation of the power structure of Dutch society have all contributed to the problem. Like other European societies, Dutch society is grappling with issues of identity. Ms. Ali does not discuss these other trends. This is perhaps forgivable since hers is not a sociology textbook, but an autobiography.

REDUCTION, COMPRESSION, GENERALISATION
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's thesis suffers from a more serious handicap: over-generalisation. She extrapolates her Somali Muslim experience to the rest of the Muslim world. To Ms. Ali, Islam is synonymous with her Somali experience. Valid as her experience may be, it beggars belief to suppose that the nomadic, animist Islam practised in Somalia is representative of global Islam. How about Islam as practised in poor, but stable countries such as Senegal and Ghana? What is the connection between Islam as practised in Indonesia and Islam in Somalia? Are Indonesians fundamentally opposed to modernity? If so, how has the country sustained high growth rates in the past decade, slowly pulling itself out of poverty? How come many Indonesians successfully integrated into Dutch society? No, Somali Islam is not the only form of Islam practised across the globe. Ms. Ali hastily compresses a complex heterogeneous reality (Islam) into a simplistic animist pre-modern caricature. What a shame! She should know better.

In addition to hasty generalisation, Ayaan Hirsi Ali uses the ugly phrase, 'clash of civilisations'. The phrase, popularised by Cold War theorist Professor Samuel Huntington (see The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuter 1997), posits that the great civilisations (Islam, the West, Hinduism, Chinese civilisation) are reducible to static, essentialist categories defined by religion. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that civilisations are far more complex than such a phrase allows. What, for example, is the eternal quiddity of Westernness? This is by no means a simple question; every generation since the Enlightenment has struggled with this question. More insidiously, Huntingdonian logic suggests that non-Western peoples are pitched in deep existential conflict against the West. Really? As if non-Western peoples spend all their time worrying about the West.

Lastly, it is not clear that civilisations are doomed to a constant state of war. After the World War II, no one could have predicted that European societies, which had been at war with each other for centuries, could live in peace. Yet, today, Europe is prosperous and somewhat united. By using the term 'clash of civilisations', Ms. Ali inadvertently perpetuates a corrosive intellectual discourse. Yes, integration of many Muslim immigrants into Dutch society is an important social concern. No, failure to integrate does not a clash of civilisations make.

CONCLUSION
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's grasp of post-Enlightenment thinking and Western history is admirable. In Nomad, she comes to terms with herself, her roots and her place in a world vastly different from that of her birth; Nomad is a coming-of-age story. She is undoubtedly an intelligent and courageous woman - and I deeply respect her for that. However, the underlying assumptions of her story - that there are uncontested Western and Islamic essences, that the West faces an existential threat from Islam abroad and within the West's borders - does not survive careful scrutiny. Even though her gripe with multiculturalism is valid, her analysis of its causes and impact on Dutch society is facile and self-serving. I admire the woman. I question her analysis. I think Nomad deserves only three stars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voice for those who cannot speak., 6 Aug 2010
By 
Bobby Smith (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
This was a truly breathtaking book, rich in culture, intelligence and honesty. Part memoir, part political warning, the author takes the subject of Islam and describes it in mostly unflattering terms.
I approached the book initially with some scepticism, influenced, no doubt, by the Western attitude of seeking to avoid generalisations - especially where the barbed subject of multiculturalism was concerned.
However, the deeper I got in this book, the more I realised the author was actually trying to be reasonable and that her sole ambition, rather than to denigrate Muslims, was to save people from writing off their lives - by embracing concepts such as citizenship and free thinking - as opposed to the closed mindset favoured by most religions.
I did, however, disagree with some of her conclusions. For example, she argues that Muslims have no grasp of financial control - as demonstrated by her early living in Holland, where she struggled to cope with money. Surely, though, this is more a cultural thing? My wife is a Nigerian Christian and she experienced similar problems when she arrived in England in the early 1980s. It struck me that the problem was more people growing up with little grasp of monetary acumen (like most of us over here now!) than a religious mindset.
Overall, though, I agreed with most of her arguments and can only wonder what the burgeoning Somali community in England think of her critical writings. The barbaric 'cultural' practice of female circumcision was certainly deserving of condemnation, not to mention the way the 'liberal' left in the West condone such practises under the 'cultural identity' misnomer.
The saddest thing about her views - most of which I agree with - is the fact that some feel the need to admonish her for writing the book in the first place; as if we should not question Islam itself. That, I guess, more than her impassioned and clever writing, is what makes her central point valid. Miss Ali is a brave, determined and thought provoking woman and writer - a dangerous enemy indeed for the Islamic propagandists.
Incidentally, readers may also like the book my wife and I wrote, as it concerns cultural `differences' - although from a more positive outlook:One Love Two Colours: The Unlikely Marriage of a Punk Rocker and His African Queen
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More constructive suggestions needed?, 1 July 2010
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P. Mandeville "london gal" (london UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
I admire Ayann Hirsi Ali; she has achieved so much in her life. However she is beginning to repeat herself a bit - unless this book is compiled from various articles? It is still an interesting read especially if you havent read anything by her before. I agree with her points on the reformation of Islam, although that religion is interpreted so differently by different people. My husband is a Muslim, from Gambia - I am an atheist. Some people need the reassurance they seem to get from believing in a God and good luck to them as long as they dont impost their views on others. It would be even more interesting if she could consider what would be the best method of producing inward debate among Muslims - acceptance is the foundation of the religion, so difficult to shift.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing view of Muslim world, 7 Jun 2010
By 
HJR (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes in graphic detail how backward looking, oppressive, anti-intellectual, orthodox and fascist the Muslim religion can be. She dissects the problems the western world has with the orthodox section of that religion and gives a stark warning as to what lies ahead if the west does not tackle the issues caused by this believe. She compares it to the development the Christian believe went through during the last centuries from an equally backward looking and oppressive religion to a modern set of believes and ground rules that value other people's believes.

As she says there is nothing wrong with the religion as such, it are the power hungry clerics that are the problem. Hey, have we not seen this somewhere before? Think corrupt communism, capitalism, dictators anywhere, etc. Anywhere where people want to have power over other people they dream up rules and dress them up in whatever is convenient for the era.

Another good book to read is The Messenger by Kader Abdollah. Currently it is only available in Dutch, but keep an eye out for it. The author has placed the verses of the Koran in chronological order so Muhammad's life story becomes visible. It describes the development of Muhammad from a lost soul to power hungry war chief and his inability to convince his followers himself, so he has to rely on 'messages' from Allah to solve problems he faces himself in his daily life. Very well written semi-fictional story based on the verses.

It is very revealing to see how you can guide uneducated people into believing anything. And again, this is not limited to the Muslim believe. Catholics, Jews, Hindus and all other religions use fear for the unknown (read God) to get people to do what the clerics (people in power) want them to do. No God has ever told people to mutilate themselves. There were reasons for these mutilations back then. Male circumcision was performed to stop the foreskin harbouring desert sand and causing infections and the female version was used to exert power over women. Other decision such as not eating pork or sea food were borne from the fact that there were no fridges in those days and thus were unsafe foods to eat. These reasons were lost over time and thus contributed to a non existing God. How convenient!

The moral of all this is that you need to question why people do the things they do. And in order to be able to do that you need to educate people. No surprise that education of the people and women in particular in Muslim countries is held back. It enables the people in power to lie about whatever they want without being questioned. As Goring (the original dark master of modern spin) once declared that in order to make people believe what you say, you just have to keep on repeating the same message. Rings a bell? Keep on reciting verses without questioning them........
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 July 2014
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Very informative. Learned alot
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5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and insightful, 7 April 2014
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S. Topzand "Sandy" (Utrecht, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (Paperback)
I like how Ayaan uses her own background to analyse culture clashes of today and suggest solutions to the issues. She makes a lot of sense.
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Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations
Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Paperback - 13 May 2010)
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