Last year Dad asked if I'd heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He'd heard her speak on some TV program. I had seen an article about her (or maybe an interview with her) in World Magazine so I was somewhat familiar with her.
For his birthday I gave Dad a copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Infidel. He read it and recommended that I read it, too. "But please read it soon," he said to me, "because I've promised to loan it to several other people also."
So I read it last week. Once I'd begun, I had to finish it. It's a compelling book. Ms. Ali ruthlessly tells all about her childhood and young adult life as a Muslim. Without ever playing the victim card, she openly condemns the cruelty and viciousness of a religious structure that exploits women and those who are weak, yet also finds the positive and hopeful elements of her life to remember and share. She lived in many different African countries, then moved to Germany, then to Holland, and finally to the U.S.
She said she was astounded and amazed at the cleanliness and order that she saw in Germany and Holland. She had always been taught that only nations that embraced the true religion of Islam would prosper and have peace, yet the countries in which she had lived (Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia) did not have the same material standards as those European countries. She was also surprised at the difference in how women were treated and that was what spurred her into politics and into writing.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes:
"Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better, and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on earth is valued in the here and now, and individuals enjoy rights and freedoms that are recognized and protected by the state. "
"When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so."
This was a thought-provoking memoir/autobiography, and I'll be recommending it often to other readers. ( I wish I'd had it to read before I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Now maybe I'll go read The Kite Runner.)