Friday, September 12, 2008


Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the stunning story of a young woman who was born into a strict Muslim family in Somalia and whose life took her to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and ultimately the US.

She questioned her upbringing, the interpretations of the Koran, stood up for herself and others, she got out of an arranged marriage, sought asylum, earned her college degree and even became a member of the Dutch Parliament.

She describes in detail the female castration ceremony. The act is described as painful and is frankly hard to read, but Ali also describes for the reader the cultural and social aspects of the act.

Throughout her story, Ali struggles with the incongruity she finds between the culture and norms she is born into and what she finds in real life. Her questioning of the "rules" costs her the relationship with her father, and the rest of her family. When she comes to the Netherlands she finds that her voice is one that people long to hear. She speaks out and becomes the target of death threats and is placed into protective custody - a protection that she finds oppressive.

Infidel is inspiring and in spite of the subject matter accessible. We discussed at length Ali's ability to change her narration style as her story progressed. When writing about life in Somalia as a young child Ali's 'voice' doesn't sound like that of a college educated member of Dutch Parliament.

Ali also does not vilify Muslims and takes care to honor them while she openly questions and discounts many of the teachings that she finds inconsistent.

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