March 31, 2007
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   A Gift: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Her Book Infidel
ali cover
A couple of weeks ago, I saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Bill Maher show. What is this I thought? I had been following her remarkable career as a member of Parliament in Holland and was already a big time fan.

In fact, I elevated Ali to hero status by putting her photo beside my computer screen along with another female hero, Malalai Joya of Afghanistan.

On Maher's show, Ali was much better than the other two guests, a California Congressman(Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA) who loved to talk and an actor(Steven Weber). On the show, she "got" America better than the vast majority of Americans. During the show, Ali made a point (which I am inadequate to convey) that the Western world should be conveying to Islamic society: (my interpretation) "The western world wants to tolerate your religion but 'there are some aspects to Islam that are incompatible to Western society and we cannot and do not accept it.'

infidel dvd cover
I had seen Ali on Sixty Minutes months before and was truly impressed. Her bravery was evident in so many ways. And, now she had written her memoir, Infidel. I immediately went to and bought it.

Infidel is one of the most influential books I've read. Having just published a memoir of my Vietnam days, I grasped what a memoir was suppose to be. First of all, it is the writer's recollections of what happened years ago- one's life's story which is often painful and difficult to write because the author is always questioning the veracity of what's written or at least I did.

Once I started reading Ali's book, I could not put it down. I marked significant passages; and, by word of mouth, have promoted it vigoriously. Infidel is powerful reading. I love to read to learn. This book did it for me. First of all, I learned about tribes in Somalia about the only thing I knew about Somalia was the book and movie, "Black Hawk Down."

Infidel describes Ali's life growing up: her moves to various countries as a child, etc. She describes life for her as refugee in Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia.-Always, it is with clan, a full cast of family, and extended family and family drama. Her growing up years were horrendous, but Ali has the "spark" amidst the chaos. The book also tells the story of attempted reconciliation with a father and other family members, decisions made in the moment, an ill-advised marriage and the process of "becoming" who she is today-always questioning, thinking, attempting to figure life out.

In Infidel, the sense of inferiority in a male dominated culture is a theme throughout the book. The basic thesis of Infidel is a cry for women's equality in Islam.

Finally, Ali simply determines equality for women can't happen in the Islamic religion if one follows the teachings of the Koran, i. e., women should obey their husbands, a woman is worth half a man, and, as an aside, infidels should be killed.

This conclusion is not coming from some Islamaphobe- these beliefs are found in the Koran.

I think the description of female circumcism drove home how utterly perverse thinking is in some African Islamic cultures and so impossible to understand. A 5 year old mutilated- all little girls mutilated for a misguided religious belief that to Western minds is simply inconceivable.

Ali details her thinking in finally leaving this culture and fleeing to Holland. In Holland, she begins the process of her education amidst the process of gaining refugee status and then citizenship. All is not without pain. Ali presents the dilemma of the Western world as they deal with a Muslim culture mired in the Middle Ages. Holland is a country with an elevated concept of multiculturalism, tolerance, and yet, hypocrisy.

The denial of Ali's adopted country of what needs to happen in dealing with Muslim communities is all to pervasive. Her book simply spells it out. Holland lets them live in their enclaves, go to their own schools, and literally accept their blind adherance to Islam which is simply incompatible to the Western world. What it reminds me of is the old Southern idea, of "separate but equal." In the south it was racism, in Holland and other Western countries, it is more denial. Ali forced her new country to confront it. They didn't like it.

For many Americans, Holland semmed to be the epitome of a liberal and open democracy; but, when the chips were down, they didn't measure up. These weren't just Ali's assertions. To this reader, it was just obvious. Circumstances appeared to simply converge where Holland didn't step up to the plate. It all culminated in the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

submission movie poster
Theo Van Gogh created the film Submission about the abuse of four Muslim women from a script written by Ali. After the movie was released in August 2004,Van Gogh was murdered in November 2004(shot 8 times, throat cut, stabbed with knives left in torso) by Mohammed Bouyeri.

I remember it well from news reports and now to hear Ali tell about it is mesmerizing. It is fanaticism revealed. I would like to have known Theo. From Ali's description, Theo was off the charts, living life large. I think he would have been more at home in San Francisco than in Holland. Ali's description of him, and the making of the movie, Submission, made me desperately want to see the film. Her treatment by the Dutch during this time under the guise of protection leaves me cold. Isolating her surely looked like giving a nod to terrorists and fanatics to me. Once you do that, they've won.

Ali tells it like it is. She doesn't hedge about the utter ignorance of Islamists in talking about their religion of peace and tolerance, "These were fairy tales , nothing to do with the real world I knew," she said.

I don't want this review to be a book and so I must end it. Read this book. It is not one that preaches intolerance, rather states the facts. I came away with a couple of thoughts that have stayed with me.

What is it about this remarkable woman that produced the "spark." Surrounded by family, clan, tribe, still somehow or another she "got it." I find this awe inspiring. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a gift to America. We must honor and cherish her; and, above all, we must protect her and make sure she can go about her business while at the same time, not being cowed by our enemies.

I don't know Ayaan Hirsi Ali thinking in coming to America, but it makes me proud that we're a country where she can. Every caring American needs to read this book. God bless her and God bless America. JA

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