Infidel — My Life, released in 2006 by author Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a memoir about a young woman growing up in Somalia. In 2005, TIME recognized Ali as one of 100 most influential people in the world and the book is a New York Times bestseller. Ali is an activist for Human Rights in the Netherlands and founder of AHA Foundation, that promotes and protects women and girl’s rights.
A intense and engaging story that takes us to a Somali reality. Also based on studies and personal experiences as well, Infidel – My Life is a must read if you like autobiographies.
Infidel begings by telling about the murderer of Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker killed in 2004 after producing Submission, a movie made in partnership with Ali. It represents women’s roles in Muslim culture, with Quran lines written in a woman’s body. Furthermore the murderer put a note near van Gogh’s body saying Ali would be the next victim because of the production.
This fact is an essential part to understand how this production was made of everything she approaches, including religious extremism. Ali’s story is ultimately one of triumph, as the reader sees her journey from an obedient girl to an outspoken activist fighting for her freedom.
Childhood and Emotional Violence
To answer a common question like “who are you?” was essential to memorize since young all the men in her family up to eight centuries before — “I am Ayaan, daughter of Hirsi, son of Magan, son of Isse…” A simple act that represents how patriarchy the society was and impacts on a young girl’s life.
It all begins in Somalia, where Ali lived with her family. As a young, Muslim Somali woman, she explains more about the religion and the culture that comes with it. Due this situation, themes like female circumcision and social organization through family genealogy in Somalia are important topics throughout the novel.
Infidel highlights the nuances of being a woman born and raised in Somalia. Detailing how circumcision contributed to many psychological and physical impacts for her and her siblings, which is really intense.
96% of Somalian girls and women between 15 to 49-years-old had been through female genital mutilation. One of the highest rates of several procedures in the world according the World Health Organization.
Her father, an activist against Somalia’s president, had to move out from Somalia with the family because of threats. Then she traveled to Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia, which becomes fundamental facts for the story. That was how she learned English and started reading western books, forbided in Somalia at the time. Also telling about how was life in extremist and flexible places for women.
The book present her own questions about religion, lifestyle and society. Because of this, it demonstrates also what she was taught about her social role and religion in her younger years.
At a certain point, she had to make new decisions and change her life. Running away and living as a refugee in the Netherlands, her own journey of a new life begins.
In a brave narrative, she talks about seeing Islam as more than a religion, as a political ideal as well. Ali approaches family and social exclusion in the new country as part of her choices. Also, her story crosses with other people she met and it suits to exemplifying points. In 2003 Ali became a politician that fights for Human Rights in the Netherlands.
It’s an interesting, deep, incredible narrative. You can find it on Amazon right here.
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