June 14, 2007

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Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Free Press, 2007, 353 pages)
Reviewed by Mary C. Johnson news@hippopress.com

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Somali-born member of the Dutch Parliament who was forced to flee to the United States following an Islamist’s murder of Theo van Gogh. Together with van Gogh, Hirsi Ali had made the film Submission, an artful protest of the treatment of Muslim women.

Infidel tells of Hirsi Ali’s transformation from devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to her eventual renunciation of the faith when she understands the harm Islam perpetrates, especially on women and through terror. Hirsi Ali endures civil war, female mutilation, and life in four troubled African nations before escaping an arranged marriage by seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

Some of the book’s most moving passages include scenes in a refugee camp in Kenya, Hirsi Ali’s frank acknowledgement of the sexual feelings that her religion forbade her, her troubled relations with a father who disowns her and a sister who becomes mentally ill, and her dislocation while the Dutch secret service tries to keep her safe following van Gogh’s murder. While the book’s events are dramatic, Hirsi Ali’s tone is understated and elegant. Reading Infidel is like sitting down with a revolutionary hero who thinks she is just doing her job as a human being. A