Anyone who reads Infidel will never be the same. No woman will be the same. No man will be the same. If you are unchanged after reading Infidel, shame on you!
Infidel is the memoir of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman raised in northern Africa in the 1960s and ‘70s. Ayaan spent her earliest years in Somalia during the period of her father’s imprisonment by the Somali dictatorship for political resistance, and then fled with her family to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, at every step enduring isolation, suffocating dependency, the abuse of her increasingly embittered mother and grandmother, and the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood surrounding every aspect of her life. Ayaan suffered firsthand not only the strictures of her Muslim religion within the family—including genital excision at age 5, constant beatings and mockery, virtual indentured servitude, and arranged marriage—but the increasing fanaticism of the Muslim world around her. As her family more and more closely embraced Islam as the rock in their ever-shifting lives, Ayaan struggled to break free and discover herself as a thinking questioning individual. Eventually, she fled marriage with a husband she had not chosen, hid from a family duty-bound to hunt her down and drag her back to the fold, and sought asylum in Holland, a world as foreign to her as Saudi Arabia would be to most of us.
In her new life, Ayaan had to literally re-invent herself. Completely alone, she worked in multiple jobs of every sort to pay for rent, food, and tuition in school, while teaching herself new languages, history, economics, politics, and adopting new cultural paradigms for herself. She eventually became a Dutch citizen and parliamentarian in order to champion the rights of Muslim women, in particular, who constitute a large segment of the immigrants in Western Europe. Her public rejection of Islam led to death threats, tragedy, political crisis, and her eventual flight to the U.S. where she continues to write, teach, and agitate for change. Described as a “female Salman Rushdie”, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has lived a life few of us in the West could imagine and opens our eyes to a reality many in the West choose to ignore in the name of cultural relativism or, worse, political expediency.
Infidel is not only the memoir of a strikingly courageous woman, but a frightening reminder that humanity still has a long way to go.