Ayaan Hirsi Ali (or as it used to be Ayaan Hirsi Magen) is a Somalia-born former Dutch politician. In this book she tells about her background in Somalia, her ancestry (very important), the clan she belongs (very important), Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Her father is involved in Somalian politics in the days of the dictator Barrè and later on. Most of the time he spends away from his nuclear family working for the political causes of Somalia.  This work of his forces his family to stay in other countries. For Ayaan these years have been very formative, for she saw at first hand the strict ways of Islam in Saudi Arabia. During her stay in Nairobi she gets involved with the local Muslim Brotherhood (also including sisters), she even was present when people protested against Salman Rushdie after the publication of his Satanic Verses.  She decides to dress in a more traditional way. Already at a young age she shows to possess an independent mind and an inquisitive mind.

When her father has arranged a marriage with a Somali man living in Canada she decides to stop her journey to Canada in Germany, she decides to go to The Netherlands where she applies for a status a an asylumseeker. Very soon she gets permission to stay in The Netherlands. She works hard to learn the language, to get acquainted with Dutch life. She does all kinds of odd jobs to be selfsupportive. She decides to go for further studies and in the end she finishes her studies in politicology at Leiden University, the oldest university in The Netherlands. Later on she gets elected to the Dutch Parliament on a ticket from the Liberal Democrats. In parliament she raises the issues of the position of muslim women, integration of people from non-Dutch descent, the negative effects of the islam. She makes a short movie (called “Submission”) with the cineast Theo van Gogh (indeed related to the famous painter) about what the Quran says about women. When Van Gogh is killed in broad daylight in the streets of Amsterdam by a muslim, the life of Ayaan is at danger as well. Security forces keep her in hiding, even abroad. In the end she leaves Dutch parliament and moves to the United States of America to take up a position at a thinktank.

A few things that struck me in this well written book: 

  • the ‘blame it on the Jews’-attitude she encountered in Saudi Arabia and in the circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. All negative things that happen are caused by Jews. 
  • in The Netherlands she is surprised by the way society is so well organized. Should not be there total chaos (fitna) in this land of the infidels? Should not a life under Allah’s law be much better? 
  • In Dutch society she witnesses so many muslims (especially Somali) who try to stay away from mainstream society. Many have a poor grasp of the language, many are unemployed, many think their own society is better than Dutch society.
  • Her sister Haweya also moves to The Netherlands, she has a very difficult time in this country, she is even treated in a psychiatric hospital. In the end she moves back to Nairobi. Two sisters with two different stories.
  • Ayaan confronts people who say that violence and terrorism and maltreatment of women etcetera have nothing to do with islam. She does not want to look away and she is of the opinion that all these things are connected to islam. 
  • when she talks about her political work (in and out of parliament) she does not mention the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, with his strong anti-islam sentiment. They were together and worked together in parliament for the same political party. A remarkable omission. 
  • Ayaan describes her route from being an islamic believer to a more strict way of believing in her years in circles of the Brotherhood to the days that she became an infidel. To her this last step is a step into freedom. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Infidel – 2007 

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

4 thoughts on “INFIDEL

  1. It has actually been a very long time I read it, in 2008 I guess, I was still in Uni then. It is a novel that left a very strong impression on me. Too good to be true. The writer coming from where she comes from what she’s been through made it to a European parlamentt. It was admiring! Her narrative too is impeccable.


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