Discuss ‘Infidel’ on Sept. 19
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:11AM
Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Time magazine’s woman of the year in 2005, has captured the attention of the world for her staunch opinion that radical Islam has enslaved Muslims, especially women.
She now lives in the United States under a death sentence fatwa.
How did this charismatic woman who was once a devout, hijab-wearing Muslim turn into an avowed atheist and unabashed freedom fighter against Islamic extremism? Her autobiography, Infidel, tells the story.
Hirsi Ali grew up in a fundamentalist Muslim family in Somalia. Her mother and grandmother beat her into submission and subjected her to genital mutilation while her father, who opposed this barbaric act, spent years in prison for opposing Somalia’s Soviet-backed dictator. Her younger sister became mentally ill and later committed suicide.
Hirsi Ali herself claims that after the family moved to Kenya and she started attending school, it was Charles Dickens and the fictional detective Nancy Drew that planted the first seeds of rebellion in her soul.
When her father made arrangements to have her marry a distant cousin, whom Hirsi Ali considered a “bigot” and an “idiot,” she fled to Europe and ended up in the Netherlands. There she received political asylum. She worked at various jobs, from cleaning to being a translator at refugee and battered Muslim women centers. After learning sufficient Dutch, she began studies at Leiden University, where she received a degree in political science.
Her disenchantment with Islam grew stronger and stronger. She wrote many inflammatory articles and gave speeches critical of Islam and Muhammad. She began receiving death threats and then went into hiding. But she would not be silenced.
Come to our discussion of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the main library, 834 Lake St. Copies are available at the library.~.
Irene Balks is a librarian in Adult and Teen Services at the Oak Park Public Library.