Saturday, March 17, 2007

Infidel

Infidel….that’s what she’s now called so that’s what Ayaan Hirsi Ali entitled her autobiography. Ali, a truly amazing woman with an indomitable spirit, tells of her journeys from Somalia, to Saudi Arabia, to Ethiopia, to Kenya, and to the Netherlands and of her journey from domination under Islam to freedom in the West.

Ayaan notes the bigotry that was omnipresent wherever she roamed. Contrary to multi-culti catechism declaring the West racist and ethnocentric and the cause of all evil in the world and all non-Western traditions noble and good, her experiences demonstrate what honest observers of human nature and interactions have long known---that all cultures have practiced ethnocentrism, racism and bigotry. It’s only natural. (Something to keep in mind the next time someone tries to justify something that you know is wrong by saying, “but it’s only natural!” Not everything natural should be done.) These are ancient defense mechanisms to keep oneself safe from potential enemies.--- It’s also especially counterproductive and wrong in a mixed society in which people from numerous different ethnic groups need to live and work in harmony.--- She witnessed the disdain for differing clans for one another and the way different ethnic groups were looked down upon in Saudi Arabia also although they were of the same faith.

As a young girl, Ayaan was “circumcised”, or more accurately, mutilated. Among many of the African tribes where she grew up, the practice of “female circumcision” or female genital mutilation was common. While the Arab Muslims do not perform this cruel procedure on little girls, in which the clitoris and inner labia are cut off and then what’s left sewn shut leaving a tiny opening for urination and menstruation, Ali notes that neither is the practice condemned. The same imams who constantly sermonize about women and their submission and sexual purity never get around to condemning the barbarity of female genital mutilation because, as she believes, it serves its purpose in their minds.

She recollected hearing the beatings of female neighbors at night in Saudi Arabia and the lack of personhood of her mother there who without a male escort couldn’t buy in the market. She remembered the treatment of women who had been raped in some of the countries in which she lived; they would be outcasts, considered immoral and impure. And she remembered the beatings she and many other children had received growing up and the way her brother was allowed to rule over her and her sister. Yet despite her dysfunctional familial experiences, she remained devoted to and devoid of bitterness toward her parents.

In her early twenties, Ayaan fled to the Netherlands rather than fly on to Canada to live under her new husband’s rule after an arranged marriage that she had neither agreed to nor been present for. She sought asylum. Amazed by the smooth functioning of society there, the prosperity and their freedom, she determined to learn why their political system was so much more successful than the ones under which she had lived. She learned Dutch, studied to pass college entrance exams, and eventually earned a master’s degree in political science, proceeding to work at a Dutch think tank. Sadly, Ayaan became an atheist---sad, but understandable, as it’s easier to believe in no God than to believe in one who condones such cruelty as she had witnessed toward half of the population.

In gratitude for all she had received from the hands of Dutch taxpayers, she decided to become a contributing member of society there herself. Her greatest passion became to end the subjugation and abuse of Muslim women in the West. Eventually, she ran for and was elected to Parliament.

Throughout her life in Holland, Ayaan noticed that many of the other refugees did not assimilate. While living off the generosity of the Dutch people who welcomed them, granted them asylum, and supplied their needs, some of the Muslims denigrated the Dutch as kufr. The women’s shelters at which she interpreted were inhabited by a disproportionate number of Muslim women, and young women whose families did not adopt Dutch values could be beaten to death by male relatives as “honor” killings if they had Dutch boyfriends, for example. In Parliament, Ayaan had the political power to bring these injustices to the attention of the populace and the government so that something could be done about them.

Of course, Ayaan Hirshi Ali is best known for the film, “Submission,” which she made with Theo van Gogh, in which she attempted to draw attention to the suffering of immigrant women there in Holland. The rest is history, as van Gogh was shot on the streets of Amsterdam. His attacker, an angry Muslim male, then slit his throat and stabbed a note to his chest. Ali was kept under guard for several months after.

Naturally, others may walk away from her tale with other impressions and learned lessons. The experiences that resonate with one heart may not with another. Regardless, Infidel is a real page turner which many will find fascinating. Read this book.

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2 Comments:

At 3/18/2007 11:50 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

I plan on reading the book but it'll be a while. I'm curious, presently about the idea of non-assimilation.

With all of the racist pandering going on in the US right now about illegal immigration, stemming mostly from the fact that the Spanish speaking population seems uninterested in integrating with the rest of US culture, I'm wondering how the Netherlands had dealt with the parallel issue.

 
At 3/20/2007 7:03 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

They haven't, heretofore, and that's causing them many problems. They wanted to help their various immigrant populations feel more comfortable so they allow them to live in their own neighborhoods and have their own schools, and allow them to remain on public assistance. While it is normal for people to congregate amongst those most like them---that happened with immigrant populations here in the US with the huge waves of immigration in the early 1900s and in the 1800s but there were schools where second generation learned and no public assistance----it is a big mistake to allow an immigrant to live off the generosity of ones people indefinitely and never have to assimilate or fit in if they don't want to.

 

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