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An award-winning humanitarian and courageous freedom fighter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali stands as one of the most influential and outspoken political figures of our time. Yet, she is also demonized by conservative Muslims worldwide, including members of her own clan and family, for speaking out against the injustices of the Islamic faith. Determined to voice the truth in Infidel (Free Press; February 6, 2007; $26.00), her remarkable and unflinchingly honest memoir, Hirsi Ali recounts her transformation from what she terms, “the world of faith to the world of reason,” a change she believes is vital for the most troubled regions of the world.
Hirsi Ali made international headlines in 2004 following the shocking murder of Theo van Gogh (with whom she made the controversial short film, Submission), by a young Muslim radical. The murderer pinned a note to van Gogh’s body warning Hirsi Ali that she would be next, which has compelled her to live under twenty-four-hour police protection ever since. Refusing to be silenced, however, she continues to speak out with her powerful and timely message of equality and religious reform. Already a bestseller in Europe, Infidel details the formation of Hirsi Ali’s insights on Islamic reform, and introduces a path to realizing a fundamental shift of values in modern Muslim society. Tracing not just her personal history but also the history of the militant Islamic movement throughout Africa and the Middle East, Infidel charts the influences and beliefs that have defined the past thirty years, including the rise of the powerful, Saudi-financed Muslim Brotherhood.
The daughter of a leading political opponent to the Somalian dictator, Hirsi Ali grew up in exile with her devout Muslim family, moving from Somalia to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and finally Kenya to escape persecution. She was forced by her traditional grandmother to endure female genital mutilation, in spite of her father’s opposition to the procedure. As her homeland slid into a brutal and unforgiving civil war, which were the destructive effects of clan rule, she became more devoutly committed to Islam, attempting to find meaning in her suffering. In Infidel, Hirsi Ali recounts a disturbing history of rampant abuse and deep-seated intellectual and spiritual deprivation that led to her first acts of defiance against cultural rules–from a secret marriage to her cousin that jeopardized her family honor to her bold decision to disregard long-held customs in order to attend secretarial school and work outside the home.
Refusing to accept the limiting standards of her faith any longer, Hirsi Ali fled Somalia to escape an arranged marriage, and obtained political asylum in the Netherlands. While earning her masters in political science she learned of a world she never knew existed, and began to question the very seed of her Islamic roots. She was elected to the Dutch parliament, and dared to challenge the fraudulent version of equality in the rigid laws of her religion and within Dutch society. Against searing criticism and rejection, Hirsi Ali spoke out against the oppression of Islamic women, the lack of individual rights, and what she considered archaic values that only sustained the poverty and tyranny of Muslims within her homeland and abroad.
Hirsi Ali is a living embodiment of the political and religious turmoil that continues to devastate our world today. Through her personal transformation, she offers a deep understanding of her culture and a promising message of resilience and renewal. As she writes, “We in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of [a transition to the modern world] unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.” Fearless in her passion for equality and reform, Hirsi Ali has dedicated her life to advancing the rights of Muslim women around the globe.
Infidel is a profound, authentic, and inspiring memoir that lays bare the essential struggles between religion, faith, and freedom that define our turbulent times. It is a brave and urgent call for awakening, and a confident portrayal of one woman’s extraordinary evolution.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005, and Reader’s Digest‘s European of the Year. She has also received numerous human rights awards. Hirsi Ali currently lives in the United States, where she is a resident fellow of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.
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