Ayaan Hirsi Ali is incredibly brave and strong, and every word in Infidel reflects this her fortitude, which never crumbles, even in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds. Born into a respectable clan in Somalia, subjected to the unspeakable atrocity of female genital mutilation, she leaves Somalia and lives in Saudi Arabia, as well as Kenya, both places where Somalians are subject to derision and racial humiliation. Promised to a Canadian man as an arranged bride, she leaves Africa but escapes her fate in Germany by seeking asylum in the Netherlands. Granted refugee status, she slowly sheds the shackles of religion and commits apostasy, gradually becoming an atheist. Once she decides to cross this particular Rubicon, there is no turning back and she is hunted by Islamic fundamentalists, those same people who killed Theo van Gogh for the perceived insult caused by his movie.
Facing further travails of a political nature, she is stripped of her Dutch citizenship and deported to the US, where she lives today. The decision by the Dutch is eventually revoked but Ayaan is content to live in the US, where she can reach a larger audience. A natural target for violent extremists who are out to prove the peacefulness of their religion, she has become a cause celebre for atheists and feminists alike, for freeing herself from some of the most ancient forms of traditional subjugation. Not much of the book’s philosophical content will be a surprise to the Western reader, since the general perception is that moderate Islam is badly in need of a Spinoza right now. A Michelangelo or Da Vinci wouldn’t hurt, but a Spinoza would really stir the great Islamic drink. Since Ayaan essentially argues for an accelerated Enlightenment in Islam to free the women subjected to the same atrocities she was subjected to, it is hard to argue with her. This book might make you sad, or angry, but it will captivate you to the end. Bonus points for extremely critical, self-deprecating analyses throughout the book, the kind most of us are seldom able to make about ourselves.