8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Alleviating the darkness,
This review is from: Infidel (Hardcover)
Light in The Darkness, 17 Oct 2007
By Philip Minchom - See all my reviews
This is a very good, very readable and fascinating book ; the fascination is the description of the clan-system of Somali society and its mores and customs, all within the context of Islam and different only in degree and detail from related cultures. The interest is in how this talented woman overcame all the difficulties inherent in her origins to achieve a degree of personal enlightenment and a desire to help others to do the same.
Going from obscurity as a weakling, abused, loveless child in a mediaeval, war-torn part of Africa to prominence in the government of a modern and well-run western country is an extraordinary achievement. There is one aspect of the Somali clan-system which seems attractive : the way all members of a wider family are supported by the clan, financially and in other ways and on a world-wide basis - However this only for as long as they don't step out of line. As with some extreme sects in the West an individual who becomes "excluded" is very much out in the cold, but in a much more forbidding and cruel environment. The pressures to conform are thus very strong indeed.
In my view, "Infidel" should be required reading for anyone concerned with the serious social problems arising from the so-called clash of civilisations. The book is very well and clearly written and the frank and detailed account of growing up within the Somali clan system - including graphic and chilling descriptions of what female circumcision in childhood actually involves - casts a great deal of light on what divides West and much of the not-West. Whether or not this and other "cultural" practices represent true Islam is beside the point, they are closely associated and as few people seem to have truly read, studied and understood the Koran as have Christians the Bible.
With seriousness and logic she shows why standard attitudes of tolerance and particularly the various approaches to multi-culturalism need serious reconsideration (notably in Europe).
The lack of anyone to negotiate with is not the only complication in dealing with the fanatics.
Coming from the desert boondocks of the intensely family-tribal and sad land of Somalia, via a very difficult "childhood" in Saudi Arabia and the environs of Nairobi, to being a refugee in Holland, Miss Hirsi Ali's natural intelligence eventually overcame the unpromising obscurantism and irrationality of her society of origin. Learning yet another, very difficult, language she worked and studied - and changed her whole outlook on the world. And also her nationality so that, and at a still young age, she was able to become a member of the Dutch parliament ; there achieving a measure of world notice as she set to work following-up on her rational and rigorous re-assessment of the culture and faith of her birth.
This was at the time of Pim Fortuin ; she enlightened the public debate about immigration
policy and the effects of multiculturalism to the point where important, uncomfortable, matters long not discussed were brought firmly into the light. In the subsequent uproar the Dutch government had to accord her round the clock protection against the declared determination of fundamentalists to assassinate her. As they managed to do to one of her collaborators
A subsequent attempt by that administration to expel her from the country - seemingly because of the block-headedness of an individual minister (Or possibly for more sinister reasons? She does not suggest this herself) failed amid confusion and led to the break-up of the governing coalition ....
The story stops at the point where Miss Hirsi Ali moves to the United States. It is to be hoped that one day she can write a successor volume describing further achievements in the difficult task she has chosen.