Ayaan Hirsi Ali
If I ever decide to make a list of the most important books I’ve read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali would surely find its place on it.
First time I’ve heard about Miss Hirsi Ali it was after murder of Theo Van Gogh because of his film “Submission-part one” which he made in collaboration with Hirsi Ali. Theo has been shoot and slaughtered in the middle of the day and the letter for Hirsi Ali (in which assassin is promising the same to her) was staked with knife in Theo’s chest. It was really a huge shock with big impact across the Europe.
Later “Submission-part one” was in the program of the Free Zone Film Festival here in Belgrade and among the guests was Belgrade’s Imam and the conversation after projection was very interesting (I wrote about that evening HERE). Sadly I would have much more and much better question now after reading this book.
Anyhow Infidel was one of the most wanted books on my wish list and you can’t imagine my thrill-ness when I saw in Belgrade’s bookstores that it has been translated in Serbian. I’ve read book in one swallow and then reread it slowly but it raised the same emotional reaction.
It starts with the life of her grandmother and later mother in Somalia with such a vivid description of very strict life in Muslim community. Her grandmother was an incredibly strong woman capable to accept the destiny and justify it as an Allah’s wish. You might think that her actions might be quite brutal with her granddaughters (and also comparing with the treatment with her grandson) but she was following tradition and was believe that she’s doing right.
There in first part we are introduced how important is to know who your ancestors are. It is actually fundamental to be familiar with entire family tree hundreds of years ago because in Somalia first question when you meet someone will be “Who are you?” and then they are starting to recite all ancestors until they find a mutual one. That can save your life (it saved Ayaan’s) because the whole population of Somalia is divided in several clans and everything there is based precisely on that. Any kind of help: health care, shelter, financial helps … etc. It’s horribly tight bond between them (and horribly huge risk if you disgrace your clan).
Later we see first “rebellion” in the actions of Ayaan’s mother but still she was women who followed the rule and also was able to accept her destiny because that was Allah’s will. Ayaan’s family was a kind of nomadic ones because due to her father’s political activism they had to hide and run away from one place to another. Therefore she lived during her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
While reading those pages it was as if I’m reading some fictional story from another dimension. Of course accent was on the women in Islam. Obligation to be covered, obligation to not leave the house without a man, obligation to accept (everything), obligation to not argue, obligation to bear, obligation to be sexually available to her husband whenever he wants to “plough his field”, obligation to be obedient, obligation to submit. Because word “Islam” means “submission”. Moreover she was unfortunate enough to belong to the Muslim community where girls must be circumcised (I wrote about Female Genital Mutilation HERE). So indeed that part was like something from another world.
We can see how she was growing up physically and religiously. How she wanted so badly to be a good Muslim woman who follows all the rules but in the same time she has had many questions in spite the fact that questions are forbidden. It is one breathtaking image of immense mental struggle between her believes, what she has been taught it’s the only truth and the life facts which were quite opposite. It was literally painful to read, emotion was quite similar to claustrophobia.
Eventually she started to talk with criticism about her own religion, she was loud in her statement against position of women (that especially refers in Muslim communities in European countries i.e. Holland) and naturally pile up the anger of Muslim world on herself.
It is a breathtaking story of a woman who (in her own words) was lucky. Once she was a child from the desert with extremely limited possibilities but who became elected member of a Dutch Parliament.
But what has the biggest impact on me is that I “found” myself in the book. Namely I realized that I belong to the huge majority of European (say) Christians (I guess) who are trying to avoid speaking with criticism about other religions because that might be connected very easily with racism (nationalism, fascism, etc). Since I lived in the country that has fallen apart in undoubtedly religious war (it was civilian war of course but in first place it was religious one) I’m trying to be very tolerant and to understand the point of views of the “opposite” side.
I realized that I do have very (say again) “Christian” look on Islam and religions in general. I honestly believed that all religions (therefore Islam as well) are good, are love, peace, tolerance etc. Right? Wrong!
Ayaan Hirsi Ali in this book is telling us that Islam is love and tolerance (in very limited sense) but ONLY inside the Muslim world. For all others who aren’t belonging to that world it is a threat because it gives a strict order to all believers to convert or kill the rest of us who are considered as nonbelievers. Another amazing thing is that many inside the Muslim population are not aware of that because the Holly Koran is written in Arabic, language they don’t understand. What a paradox!
What is written in Koran is not only religious message but an absolute constant that is defying every singe aspect in believer’s life. It is quite unbelievable that it is expected from nowadays believers to strictly follow the rule (and apply sanctions) of desert tribes of Saudi Arabia in the 7th century! But still if they’re not following those rules (or even if they think of theirs reasons) they’re not good believers and deserve to be punished. And those things about unbelievers are written in Koran.
Now I really don’t know what to think? That’s why I’d love if I could have another opportunity to speak again with Belgrade’s Imam who is a very dear man, but I’m wondering if he’s not aggressive toward Christians and doesn’t call his believers to be aggressive; if he doesn’t think that he lives in the country of nonbelievers; if he preaches love, peace and tolerance he must be considered as a bad Muslim from the point of view of the followers of traditional Islam about whom Hirsi Ali is writing because that is not what Koran demands.
This book, her entire life is a monument of freedom of speech. Her criticism has arguments. Europe is also criticized with every right. Remember Danish cartoon scandal? A cancellation of theater plays which has the theme Prophet or even include Prophet together with representatives from other religions etc? That culture of self-censorship will completely ruin European values. That is not our heritage; that is not heritage of modern world! Allowing speech of hatred which is targeting people who are not Muslims (that can be heard in the mosques across the Europe) we here are accepting and justifying it with freedom of speech; When Muslim communities in the Europe are practicing traditional Islam that violates numerous human rights, we here are justifying that with religious freedom! Is female genital mutilation performed on young girls on the kitchen table in the middle of Europe religious freedom?
As I said I’m quite confused (this book is so enormously thought provoking); I’m not paranoid person, on the contrary. Moreover my contact with Islam is not nearly like this. I studied Farsi for several years and have many Iranian friends and I adore their cultural heritage; I know members of Muslim communities here and they aren’t nearly fanatics, they are my friends and I can unquestionably rely on them. I guess we [Serbia] are not rich enough to be interesting for refugees from much more rigid and traditional environments.
Hirsi Ali speaks with arguments and with statistic data of (mainly) women victims of Islamic fanatics inside their own families here in Europe. Many are victims of self combustion with gasoline (because they had sex before marriage) in a front of their fathers and brothers. If she refuse to kill herself they [father or brother] would kill her. That’s not, that can’t be religious freedom!
It’s high time for us to realize that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.