Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, was raised Muslim, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa and Saudi Arabia. In 1992, Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands as a refugee. She earned her college degree in political science and worked for the Dutch Labor party. She denounced Islam after the September 11 terrorist attacks and now serves as a Dutch parliamentarian, fighting for the rights of Muslim women in Europe, the enlightenment of Islam, and security in the West.
Hirsi Ali (The Caged Virgin) first came to the world's attention with the gunning down of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist. A note pinned to van Gogh threatened Hirsi Ali's life for collaborating with him on Submission, a short film criticizing Muslims for wife beating and forced marriages. In this memoir, the Somalian-born author tells of her journey to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, undergoing genital mutilation, being schooled by strict Muslim teachers, and finally facing shame from her family and clan for turning against Islam. In her early twenties, she sought asylum in the Netherlands after escaping an arranged marriage. In Holland, the cleanliness, order, and freedom amazed her; she couldn't believe that a government could help its people and was not feared. As she adjusted to her new home, learning Dutch, attending university, acquiring citizenship, and eventually working as a translator for social services, she spoke out publicly, criticizing the Muslim treatment of women. She was elected to serve in parliament, where her controversial views brought death threats and an attempt to rescind her Dutch citizenship. During her brief tenure, she warned that radical Islam is often incompatible with modernity and democracy and that its enslavement of women presents a serious threat. A clearly written and fascinating account of exceptional courage, this book is essential for all libraries. Hirsi Ali reads her own words in clear, slightly accented English; strongly recommended.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Readers with an eye on European politics will recognize Ali as the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as "brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women" had generated much controversy. In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage. While in transit to her husband in Canada, she decided to seek asylum in the Netherlands, where she marveled at the polite policemen and government bureaucrats. Ali is up-front about having lied about her background in order to obtain her citizenship, which led to further controversy in early 2006, when an immigration official sought to deport her and triggered the collapse of the Dutch coalition government. Apart from feelings of guilt over van Gogh's death, her voice is forceful and unbowed-like Irshad Manji, she delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion. 8-page photo insert. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.