Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali


11 Critic Reviews

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.
-Publishers Weekly


In this profoundly affecting memoir from the internationally renowned author of The Caged Virgin and Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her astonishing life story, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, to her intellectual awakening and activism in the Netherlands, and her current life under armed guard in the West.

One of today's most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following an Islamist's murder of her colleague, Theo van Gogh, with whom she made the movie Submission.

Infidel is the eagerly awaited story of the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished -- and sometimes reviled -- political superstar and champion of free speech. With a gimlet eye and measured, often ironic, voice, Hirsi Ali recounts the evolution of her beliefs, her ironclad will, and her extraordinary resolve to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family and extended clan, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries largely ruled by despots. In her early twenties, she escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim immigrant women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Even though she is under constant threat -- demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from her family and clan -- she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.

About Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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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.
Published February 6, 2007 by Atria Books. 385 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, History, Travel, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Infidel
All: 11 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 1


Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Mar 01 2008

Crammed with harrowing details, Hirsi Ali’s account is a significant contribution to our times.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Ian Buruma on Mar 04 2008

This uplifting story of liberation is entirely plausible, but it gives Hirsi Ali’s descriptions of life in the West an idealized, almost comic-book quality.

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NY Times

Reviewed by William Grimes on Feb 14 2007

The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of “Infidel,” her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir.

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Reviewed by Natasha Walter on Mar 02 2008

She proves herself here a true writer, able to sum up a scene that may be completely foreign to the reader in a way that makes it a living, breathing experience, unforgettably raw and immediate.

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Publishers Weekly

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Dec 18 2008

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.

Read Full Review of Infidel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly


Above average
Reviewed by Anne Applebaum on Feb 27 2008

Hirsi Ali's rejection of religion in favor of reason, intellect, and emancipation seems to make everyone nervous.

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Reviewed by Adam Lee on Jun 23 2008

I really do feel that this book spoke to me in a way that no other atheist author ever has. Books about human rights and ethics in the abstract are one thing, but Ayaan Hirsi Ali has lived that battle, not just contemplated it. Her deeply personal and candid recounting shows unmistakably why these things matter...

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Above average
Reviewed by The Oprah Magazine on Mar 01 2008

Her new memoir, infidel, fleshes out the fierce polemics of her 2006 essay collection The Caged Virgin, and unveils the motives behind her self-emancipation.

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Journey With Jesus

Reviewed by Katie Finlay on Mar 01 2008

Infidel is both compelling and provocative, an important contribution to the debate over religious values, women, and civil society.

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Gather Books

Reviewed by Joy H. on Sep 07 2008

This memoir will grab your imagination like no other, transport you into a world you have never known, and introduce you to the intimate world of a young Muslim woman.

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Book Coasters

Reviewed by Penny on Sep 01 2010

She is a unique writer and the opinions, detailed memories and analysis of her subject matter make her immensely readable. Whether you agree with her analysis or not does not detract from a fascinating story and exciting although dangerous adventures.

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