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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Infidel

I've recently read Infidel, the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's life to date. I say "to date", because she's still in her thirties and has many years ahead - unless, of course, an Islamist fanatic gets to her first.

Infidel was published in Dutch a few months ago, and the English translation has just been released. The narrative takes us from Hirsi Ali's birth in Somalia in 1969, through her childhood and young adult life in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopa, and Kenya, her escape to freedom in the Netherlands (via Germany), and her tumultuous career as a critic of Islam, including her involvement in the short film Submission, whose director, Theo van Gogh, was subsequently assassinated - then left with a five-page letter stuck to his chest by the blade of a butcher's knife. The letter was addressed to Hirsi Ali, and its gist was a warning that she would be the next to die.

The book takes us up to Hirsi Ali's most recent relocation, to the United States, in 2006.

Though its author's story is often harrowing - as in the account of her cruel "excision", or genital mutilation, as a little girl - it is still joyous overall. The joy lies in Hirsi Ali's totally unashamed denuciation of the economic, social, and sexual suppression of women in the name of religion and traditional culture, and in her passionate, wholehearted embrace of Enlightenment liberalism and universalism. Many Western intellectuals equivocate about the values of liberty, reason and science. Indeed, they sometimes appear to form a little Taliban in our midst. We would all be better off if they, and the world, would take Infidel's message to heart.


Blake Stacey said...

One more book gets pushed on the reading queue!

I have often thought, probably with too little sympathy, that having a fatwa put out upon one's life is a sure way to know that one has arrived as a writer. It is so difficult to touch people's emotions, and even harder to learn how they have been touched. . . . So, if anything you write makes a person want to kill you, I have to say that you have, in a macabre, 180-degrees-deviant way, succeeded.

Should I ever achieve that dubious honor, I expect that between the episodes of terror, I'll find myself unbecomingly joyous.

Probably means I've got some bad wiring in this head of mine.

Unknown said...

I went to my lovely local corporate bookstore last night to pick this up and I couldn't find it anywhere. Went on their computers and did a title search and it said "NOT YET PUBLISHED - OUT FEBRUARY 2007". Yeah, it was only February 26. WTF. I'm going to go to another lovely local corporate bookstore tonight and pick it up there.

Russell Blackford said...

I picked mine up at Borders (yes, I know a lot of people don't like Borders but it's the best bookshop in Melbourne). If it's already available in far-flung Australia, I'm sure you'll be able to find it where you are.

Anonymous said...

Borders was the first local bookstore I tried. The second local bookstore was Barnes & Noble (it was sold out there). I'm going back to Borders tonight. Hopefully it will be in stock. I realize I could've ordered it on Amazon and it would've been here by now, but I hate buying books online (even if it is cheaper and easier and requires zero driving).

Russell Blackford said...

Haha, my local Borders is better than yours. :)

Blake Stacey said...

I'm just a little peeved that my local Borders doesn't stock all the volumes of Ennis and Dillon's Preacher. (And hey, this is mildly amazing: the Wikipedia article for the Preacher comics is the first Google hit for the word "preacher"! Sometimes I love my culture.) Sure, Vol. 2 is out of print, but why did they only have Vols. 6 and 7?