book review: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

infidel book reviewInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This is an autobiography of a Somali, ex-muslim woman. She starts of by telling her readers about her childhood and her family moving from Somalia to Kenya to Saudi Arabia and then returning to a few of those places. Her childhood started out okay till the rise of the civil unrest in Somalia when her mom was forced to move them. She had a tough childhood where she was picked on by her mother, loved by a father who wasn’t there, a rebellious sister and brother. As a teenager she went through phases on wanting to follow the Islam religion more closely or how the culture required her to follow the religion. She struggled with guilt for liking western ideas and worldly things and constant thoughts of going to hell. But it wasn’t until her father tried to marry her off that she decided enough was in enough and she escaped to Holland and sought asylum.

She was later disowned by her father for ending the marriage, lost her once vibrant younger sister to death and her mom appeared to have some deep mental issues. In Denmark, Ayaan became an atheist and got involved in politics, and towards the end of the book we read a lot about her political views, her problems with islam and views on the Dutch government.

My thoughts

I was really into the book in the beginning. I understood Ayaan struggle with her religion and wanting to be more free and explore. I think she told her story well, especially her experiences in the various countries. It appears that upon her arrival in Holland, she became arrogant or maybe more self-aware. I chose the term arrogant because upon mingling or barley mingling with the Somalis already in Holland when she arrived, she began calling them barbaric and faulted them for not wanting to integrate.

My thoughts on integration

Similar to Ayaan, I do think some integration is necessary upon arriving in a new country. I say some because, fully integrating to me is losing oneself. But I think foreigners in a new land should integrate some as in learn a little bit of the language so you can communicate better, learn how to eat certain foods (advice to myself), learn about the history, and whatever else you have an interest in. Basically open your mind to new ideas.

I’ve had this conversation about Ghanaians abroad so many times. Many of us have joined the Ghanaian community which isn’t bad in itself but I see how it has limited so many people and have kept them out-of-the know. The problem with just sticking to the Ghanaian community and not branching out is that it’s more than likely the people you are surrounded by know as much as you know and no more. For example, if there is a mentorship program for kids that may be beneficial to some Ghanaian kids, the children in the Ghanaian community may not know about it due to sticking together and not branching out. Without making connections outside of the ghanaian community, a lot of things could possibly pass us by. 

I know people who have been in the USA for years and cannot speak English, granted speaking English isn’t the greatest accomplishment, but these people can’t apply for jobs they really want, can’t get their driver’s license, are being cheated by some Ghanaians when it is time to get their green card or get naturalized and so many more disadvantages. I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we go to a new place and do not bother learning about our surrounding. It makes us timid and more vulnerable and if we meet the wrong people, possibly get taken advantage off.

I will also mention that it is important to discern between what is right for you and what isn’t. right?! Ah! Maybe I will write a more extensive post on this topic…now back to the book review

I was saying, I understood her frustration with the other Somalis in Holland not wanting to integrate but I also didn’t think she gave them a break. She especially knew how tough it was to break away from ones culture and so her judgmental eyes were very unnecessary.

Also, it appeared Ayaan hated Islam or was afraid from of it or scarred by it! I can see the bad taste islam left in her mouth, but at times I think Ayaan herself couldn’t tell what was Islam and what was culture. I know many cultures sometimes intertwine both, but I think if you are going to write a book about such strong feelings, you should be more responsible and separate both.

I’m hesitant to rate this book because I really liked some of the things Ayaan had to say and to be frank hated some things too. But I wonder if she would have written this book a little different if she didn’t take her anger and feeling out on Islam and take it on the deserving parties, her family. I feel like it’s a misdirected anger.

I want to meet someone who fully liked this book and if any of you are looking for your next book, can you read this so we can discuss

One last thing, she said we needed to hold Islam accountable for 9/11 and I just felt so uncomfortable with that. Okay, so we know  terrorists do things in the name of Allah, but that was their interpretation of what the Quran says. How I interpret something as a Ghanaian or Christian does not affect every Ghanaian or Christian. I don’t know. This book was good but problematic  and this is the longest book review anyone has ever written. I actually don’t know that for a fact.

5 thoughts on “book review: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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