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Infidel Paperback – 3 Mar 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 237 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (3 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416526242
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416526247
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Fascinating' -- Penny Wark, The Times

'Remarkable . . . I haven't stopped thinking about it or talking
about it for long' -- Mary Wakefield, Daily Telegraph

'Stunning . . . An astonishing story . . . She has started a
crucial debate, at the cost of endangering her life' -- Simon Kuper, Financial Times

'[A] rather remarkable book . . . Infidel shows that a determined
woman can change more history than her own' -- Christopher Hitchens, Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

In this profoundly affecting memoir from the internationally
renowned author of THE CAGED VIRGIN, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her astonishing
life story, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia to her
intellectual awakening in the Netherlands, to her life under armed guard in
the West.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of today's most admired and controversial political
figures. She burst into international headlines following the murder of
Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened she would be next. Eagerly
awaited, Infidel shows the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished -
and sometimes reviled - political superstar and champion of free speech.
Raised in a strict Muslim family and extended clan, Hirsi Ali survived
civil war, female circumcision, brutal beatings, an adolescence as a devout
believer, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four countries
under dictatorships. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum
in the Netherlands, where she fought for the rights of Muslim women and the
reform of Islam, earning her the enmity of reactionary Islamists and craven
politicians. Under constant threat, she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells
how a bright, curious, dutiful little girl evolves into a pioneering
freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic
ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more
significant. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
It is 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 engaging writing style. Clear and descriptive, the narrative of her eventful life had a profound impact on this reader. Born and raised in Somalia, she spent part of her youth in neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, describing through the eyes of a child what it was like to live there.

She makes the history of Somalia come alive under the dictatorship of Siad Barre, explaining the clan system and comparing the relaxed Muslim practice in that country with the strictness 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 one's attention with the places and the people. One of the most salient memories she recalls 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 Muslim world.
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Format: Paperback
It's not often that one reads a work of non-fiction that is both intellectually brilliant and as gripping as a thriller. This is Hirsi Ali's autobiography, and it succinctly covers a spectacularly broad sweep of topics as it follows her life path from her birth in Somalia to her emigration to the US as a celebrity hunted by Islamic fundamentalists: the oral traditions and clan structure of Somalis; the relationship between Somali culture and Islam; female genital mutilation; the hierarchies of inter-African racism; the Muslim Brotherhood; the Somali civil war; the political culture of the Netherlands; the murder of Theo van Gogh; and much more. Hirsi Ali has been accused by various wishy-washy liberals of being an `enlightenment fundamentalist', but there is nothing judgemental or hectoring about her writing; she explains even horrific events matter-of-factly, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusion from facts that speak for themselves. She writes with great human sympathy about friends and relatives whose flaws might seem to make them unworthy of it, from the traditionalist grandmother who had her genitally mutilated and the mother who beat her mercilessly to the Dutch minister who tried to revoke her citizenship. The characters in her life story are all too human.

Hirsi Ali's self-declared mission is to fight the oppression of women in Islamic societies. She has often been accused of attributing to Islam abuses, such as genital mutilation, that are local cultural practices not sanctioned by the Koran. But this criticism is unfounded; as she makes clear early on, her point is that the authority of Islam, as it is interpreted in traditional societies, is used to sanction such abuses.
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This is a well-written, personal account of one woman's journey through her own mind and the world around her. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born into a traditional Muslim family in Somalia and lived in Kenya and Saudi Arabia in her youth. Absorbing her beliefs from the societies around her, she became a "pious" Muslim, praying regularly and covering herself, so she believed, for the pleasure of God. However a lingering rancour towards what she often perceived as the myopic and misogynistic practises of the various Muslim societies she lived in festered within her, provoking an internal tension. Fleeing to Holland as a refugee was the epiphanic catalyst she needed to "free her mind" from the shackles of the dogma she had been brought up in. What she saw, felt and experienced in this "enlightened, civilised, tolerant and progressive" society was in sharp contrast to the lands she had left. Europe and the West, she concluded, were infinitely more advanced than their Eastern counterparts; their societies far more civilised and humane. Enrolling at university, she began to study social science in a bid to understand the principles which underpinned these liberated, progressive societies. Her conclusion? The societies of the East were rooted in stagnant and moribund principles derived in large part from religion: the subjugation of reason to dogma, patriarchal social structures which inhibited the empowerment and participation of women and a fearful demonisation of the "other"; a fertile breeding ground for intolerance and a rigid, binary view of the world which contributes, in no small way, to the modern phenomenon of terrorism.Read more ›
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