In the grand tradition of the Brothers of Judea, here’s a review for a book that came out three years ago and lots of people have already reviewed. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the autobiography of a woman who was born in Somalia, grew up there, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, and then moved to Holland and thrived. The author talks about her family, her relationship with God and Islam, and her movement from devoted Muslim to atheist Westerner.
The drama in the book comes from the tension between Ali’s faith and her ever increasing knowledge. As she learns about the world and her place in it, sometimes the teachings of her mother and religion do not always match up. She shifts between non-observant, to very observant, and back to non-observant again. After Ali moves to Holland, this conflict becomes an external one as she renounces Islam and speaks about the dark side of the faith, resulting in threats and the life of one of her friends.
Ali’s story is a refreshing, no holds barred look at the reality of the culture clash between the West and East which is taking place primarily in Europe. Ali like many other Somalians traveled to Holland to escape the Somalian civil war, and she observed her fellow immigrants while she was there. She said they looked down on the Dutch, saying that they were unclean, heathens, immoral, etc. The vast majority of Somalian immigrants believed they were better than the Dutch. They showed no interest in assimilating, they created their villages in the refugee camps and refused to learn Dutch customs, language or culture. Ali talked about how confused she was, the Somalians hated the Dutch and thought they were inferior, but Ali could tell Holland was a better country in every measurable way than Somalia. It was cleaner, more peaceful, even the buses ran on time. Ali mentioned earlier in the book how she was taught from childhood to hate the West and especially the Jews, but when she got there, it was obvious to her the West was better than the culture she had come from.
What’s remarkable about Ali as a person and her story is that she led the awakening in Holland and possibly Europe in general to the truth about the immigrants coming in. The new immigrants to Europe hate European culture and extol their own, even though in Ali’s view their culture is primitive and violent. Ali saw the Dutch people for what they were, unwilling to criticize the Muslim immigrants because of fears of being called racists. But Ali felt there was nothing racist about advocating that immigrants should assimilate into the Dutch culture and speaking out against some of the most brutal customs such as wife-beating and genital mutilation. I think the book is empowering because it tells Westerners that it’s OK to criticize aspects of Muslim culture and to not be afraid of being called a racist.
Infidel is an easy to read, gripping tale of a conflict that is probably one of the most relevant today. The Iraq war is far away and so is Israel/Palestine, but Muslim immigrants are moving into Western countries like yours all the time and sometimes (not all the time) they bring customs that are morally wrong with them. We should not be afraid to stand up and say such customs are wrong.