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A Complete Summary of Ayaan Hirshi Ali's "Infidel"

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Review of "Infidel" by:Ayaan Hirshi Ali's on sale at Chapters Bookstores for about $25.00 or less. It's on Canada's best sellers list. It's a New York Times Best Seller.

Background è Ayaan was born in Somalia, raised Muslim, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa (Somalia, Kenya and, Mogadishu) and Saudi Arabia.

The cult of virginity is one of the centerpieces of the Koran, absolutely mandates both male supremacy and female misery.

She talked quietly and demurely but graphically of the ways this cult makes the lives of women a misery, either by depriving them of a sex life altogether or by forcing them into expedients (painful anal penetration, the resealing of the hymen) that are dangerous as well as unpleasant and degrading. Xiv – Forward

The cause of backwardness and misery in the Muslim world is not Western oppression but Islam itself; a faith that promulgates contempt for Enlightenment and secular values. It teaches hatred to children, promises a grotesque version of the afterlife, elevates the cult of "martyrdom", flirts with the mad idea of forced conversion of the non-Islamic world, and deprives societies of the talents and energies of 50 percent of their members: the female half.

Xvi – Forward

There is another viewpoint that must be stated without equivocation: if Muslims want to immigrate to open and developed societies in order to better themselves, then it is they who must expect to do the adapting. We no longer allow Jews to run separate Orthodox Courts in their communities, or permit Mormons to practice polygamy or racial discrimination or child marriage. That is the price of "inclusion" and a very reasonable one. The demand for special consideration for Islamists – even to extent of press censorship, where they can invoke tradition – is the demand not to extend our multicultural and polyethnic culture, but rather the demand to negate it. Are we to admit membership of the societal mosaic those who scream with hatred against immodest women, Jews, homosexuals and Hindus(and this is not to exhaust the list)? If so, then we are knowingly admitting enemies on the same footing as friends. Relativism has not right to make such an exorbitant claim. Xix - Foreword

This is a war of ideology between secular civilization and clerical barbarism. These passages are from the great author and scholar's opening to The New York Times Best Seller "Infidel" By Ayaan Hirshi Ali


When my grandmother was about ten years old, her father, an Isaq herder,died. Her mother married her uncle. This is common practice. It saves a dowry and trouble.) When my grandmother was about thirteen, that uncle received a proposal for my grandmother's hand from a wealthy nomad named Artan, who was about forty years old. (PG 7)

Artan was already married, but he and his wife had only one child, a daughter who was a little younger than my grandmother. When he decided to take another wife, Artan first chose the father of the bride: he must be a man from a good clan, with a decent reputation. The girl must be hardworking, strong, young, and pure. My grandmother, Ibaado, was all that. Artan paid a price for her. (PG 7)

My mother told us stories, too. She had learned to care for her family's animals, and herded them through the desert to places that were safe. The goats were easy prey for a predator; so was a young girl. If my mother or her sisters were attacked by men out in the desert it would be their own fault: they should have fled at the first sight of an unknown camel. If they were ever captured they were to say, three times, "Allah be my witness, I want no conflict with you. Please leave me alone." To be raped would be far worse than dying, because it would tarnish the honor of everyone in their family. (PG 9)

Of course, my mother had no right to a divorce under Muslim law. The only way she could have claimed one was if her husband had been impotent or left her completely indigent.

If she divorced, my mother would be used goods – no longer a virgin. And besides, they argued, she would get a reputation that she was not baarri.

A woman who is barri is like a pious slave. She honors her husband's family and feeds them without question or complaint. She never whines or makes demands of any kind. She is strong in service, but her head is bowed. If her husband is cruel, if he rapes her and then taunts her about it, if he decides to take another wife, or beats her, she lowers her gaze and hides her tears. And she works hard, faultlessly. She is a devoted, welcoming, well-trained work animal. This is baarri.

If you are a Somali woman you must learn to tell yourself that God is just and all-knowing and will reward you in the Hereafter. Meanwhile, everyone who knows about your patience and endurance will applaud your father and mother on the excellence of your upbringing. Your brothers will be grateful to you for preserving their honor. They will boast to other families about your heroic submission. And perhaps, eventually, your husband's family will appreciate your obedience, and your husband many one day treat you as a fellow human being.

If in the process of being baarri you feel grief, humiliation, fatigue, or a sense of everlasting exploitation, you hide it. If you long for love and comfort, you pray in silence to Allah to make your husband more bearable. Prayer is your strength. Nomadic mothers must try to give their daughters this skill and strength called baarri.(PG 12)

Chapter 1: Bloodlines "Infidel" BY Ayaan Hirshi Ali Chapters Bookstores: Price $20-$25. It's a great read…go out and buy this book right now…you'll be glad you did!!! P.S…Makes a great gift as well!!!

My mother didn't want to move to Ethiopia, because Ethiopians were Christians: unbelievers. Saudi Arabia was God's country, the homeland of the Prophet Muhammad. A truly Muslim country, it was resonant with Allah, the most suitable place to bring up children.

Saudi Arabian law came straight from the Quran: it was the law of Allah. (PG 37)

This was Saudi Arabia, where Islam originated, governed strictly according to the scriptures and example of the Prophet Muhammad. And by law, all women in Saudi Arabia must be in the care of a man.

Without a man in charge, no taxi driver would accept her in his car. (PG 39)

And all the women in this country were covered in black. They were humanlike shapes. The front of them was black and the back of them was black, too. You could see which way they were looking only by the direction their shoes pointed. We could tell they were women because the lady who was holding our hands tightly to prevent us from wandering off was covered in black, too. You could see her face, because she was Somali. Saudi women had no faces. (PG 40)

She wasn't supposed to go out on the street without these new guardians of ours, our uncles, and neither were we. To phone them she had to scuttle down to the corner grocer, with my ten-year-old brother in tow, acting as her protective male. (PG 41)

Now our mother began insisting that we pray when the mosques called, five times each day. Before every prayer we had to wash and robe ourselves, and then we had to line up and follow her instruction. After the evening prayer we had to go to bed.

They called Haweya and I Abid, which meant slaves. Being called a slave – the racial prejudice this term conveyed – was a big part of what I hated in Saudi Arabia.

Everything in Saudi Arabia was about sin. You weren't naughty, you were sinful. You weren't clean; you were pure. The word haram, forbidden, was something we heard every day. Taking a bus with men was haram. Boys and girls playing together was haram. When we played with the other girls in the courtyard of the Quran school, if our white headscarves shook loose, that was haram, too, even if there were no boys around. (PG 42)

But as soon as we left the mosque, Saudi Arabia meant intense heat and filth and cruelty. People had their heads cut off in public squares. Adults spoke of it. It was a normal, routine thing: after the Friday noon prayer you could go home for lunch, or you could go and watch the executions. Hands were cut off. Men were flogged. Women were stoned. In the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia was booming, but though the price of oil was tugging the country's economy into the modern world, its society seemed fixed in the Middle Ages. (PG 43)

Men do not pray alongside women. Women pray behind, because though they cover themselves for prayer, that cloth could shift and uncover a piece of clothing, or skin, which could distract the men and lead them into sin. (PG 44)

Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly beaten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their screams resounded across the courtyard. "No! Please! By Allah!"

Arabs are very tolerant of small children – but the boys were in charge. They would turn off their mother's TV program and order their older sisters off their chair.

In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Later, when we went to school, our teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say "She's ugly, she's disobedient, she's a whore – she's sleeping with a Jew." (PG 47)

To be a woman out on her own was bad enough. To be a foreigner, and moreover a black foreigner meant you were barely human, unprotected: fair game.

When my mother went shopping without a male driver or spouse to act as guardian, grocers wouldn't attend to her. Even when she took Mahad along, some shop assistants wouldn't speak to her. She would collect tomatoes and fruit and spices and ask loudly "how much?" When she received no reply she'd put the money down and say "Take it or leave it" and walk out.

None of the Saudi women we knew went out in the street alone. They couldn't: their husbands locked their front doors when they left their houses. All the neighborhood women pitied my mother, having to walk on her own. It was humiliating, it was low. (PG 48)

But real school in Saudi Arabia was just like madrassah. We studied only Arabic, math, and the Quran, and the Quran must have taken up four – fifths of our time. Quran study was divided into a reciting class, a class on meaning, a class on the hadith, which are the holy versus written after the Quran, a class on the sirat, the traditional biographies of the Prophet Muhammad, and a class on fiqh, Islamic law. We learned to recite the ninety – nine names of Allah, and we learned how good Muslim girls should behave: what to say when we sneezed; on which side we should begin to sleep, and to what position it was permissible to move during sleep; with which foot to step into the toilet, and in what posture to sit. The teacher was an Egyptian woman, and she used to beat me. I was sure she picked on me because I was the only black child. When she hit me with a ruler she called me Aswad Abda: black slave girl. I hated Saudi Arabia. (PG 49)

We told our father we didn't want to be girls. It wasn't fair that we weren't allowed to go out with him and do all the things that Mahad could. Abeh would always protest, and quote the Quran: "Paradise is at the feet of your mother!" But when we looked down at them, our mother's feet were cracked from washing the floor every day, and Abeh's were clad in expensive Italian leather shoes. We burst out laughing everytime, because in every sense of the word, Paradise was not at her feet but at his. He was important, he was saving Somalia, he had lovely clothes, he went outside when he wanted to. And we, and she, were not allowed to do as we wished.

The separation was etched in every detail of every day. If we wanted to go somewhere as a family, we had to take separate buses: my father and Mahad in the men's bus, Ma and Haweya and I in the women's. (PG 50)

Chapter 3: Playing Tag in Allah's Palace

That is how, by the time I turned ten, I had lived through three different political systems, all of them failures. The police state in Mogadishu rationed people into hunger and bombed them into obedience. Islamic law in Saudi Arabia treated half its citizens like animals, with no rights or recourse, disposing of women without regard. And the old Somali rule of the clan, which saved you when you needed refuge, so easily broke down into suspicion, conspiracy, and revenge. CHAPTER 4: Weeping Orphans and Widowed Wives. (PG 60)

It wouldn't have occurred to anyone in authority to prevent these children from being taken out of school to marry total strangers, even though most of these girls were reluctant and some were petrified. One girl was forced to marry her uncle's son, her cousin. A fifteen-year-old Yemeni classmate told us she had just been betrothed to a much older man; she wasn't happy about it, but she added, "At least it's not as bad as for my sister – she was twelve." (PG 78)

Your parents decide these things for you. If your father was kind – and rich – then maybe he would find a husband for you who was also kind and rich. If not, well, that was your destiny.

Love marriages were a stupid mistake and always ended badly, in poverty and divorce; we knew this. If you married outside the rules, you didn't have your clan's protection when your husband left you. Your father's relatives wouldn't intercede on your behalf or help you with money. You sank into a hideous destiny of impurity, godlessness, and disease. People like my grandmother pointed at you and spat at you on the street. It was the worse thing you could do to your family's honor: you damaged your parents, sisters, brothers, and cousins. (PG 79)

We had heard all about Hell. That was what Quran school was mostly about: Hell and all the mistakes that could put us there. The Quran lists Hell's torments in vivid detail: sores, boiling water, peeling skin, burning flesh, dissolving bowels, the everlasting fire that burns you forever, for as your flesh chars and your juices boil, you form a new skin. These details overpower you, ensuring that you will obey. (PG 81)

As women, we were immensely powerful, Sister Aziza explained. The way Allah had created us, our hair, our nails, our heels, our neck, and ankles – every little curve in our body was arousing. If a woman aroused a man who was not her husband, she was sinning doubly in God's eyes, by leading the man into temptation and evil thoughts to match her own. Only the robe worn by the wives of the Prophet could prevent us from arousing men and leading society into fitna, uncontrollable confusion and social chaos. (PG 83)

Sister Aziza told us about the Jews. She described them in such a way that I imagined them as physically monstrous: they had horns on their heads, and noses so large they stuck right out of their faces like great beaks. Devils and djinns literally flew out of their heads to mislead Muslims and spread evil. Everything that went wrong was the fault of the Jews. The Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, who had attacked the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was a Jew. The Americans, who were giving money to Saddam, were controlled by the Jews. The Jews controlled the world, and that was why we had to be pure: to resist this evil influence. Islam was under attack, and we should step forward and fight the Jews, for only if the Jews were destroyed would peace come for Muslims. (PG 85)

CHAPTER 5: Secret Rendezvous, Sex, and the Scent of Sukumawiki

CHAPTER 6: Doubt and Defiance

Even as a child, I could never comprehend the downright unfairness of the rules, especially for women. How could a just God – a God so just that almost every page of the Quran praises His fairness – desire that women be treated so unfairly? When the ma'alim told us that a women's testimony is worth half of a man's, I would think, Why? If God was merciful, why did He demand that His creatures be hanged in public? If He was so compassionate, why did unbelievers have to go to Hell?

A Muslims woman must not feel wild, or free, or any of the other emotions and longings I felt when I read those books. A Muslim girl does not make her own decisions or seek control. She is trained to be docile. If you are a Muslim girl, you disappear, until there is almost no you inside you. In Islam, becoming an individual is not a necessary development; many people, especially women, never develop a clear individual will. You submit: that is the literal meaning of the word islam: submission. The goal is to become quiet inside, so that you never raise your eyes, not even inside your mind. (PG 94)

If God were merciful, then why did Muslims have to shun non-Muslims – even attack them, to establish a state based on Allah's laws?

The Quran said "Men rule over women". In the eyes of the law and in every detail of daily life, we were clearly worth less than men. (PG 102)

One day when I was seventeen, Boqol Sawm turned to the verses on how women were supposed to behave with their husbands. We owed our husbands absolute obedience; he told the mothers and teenage girls who had gathered to listen to him. If we disobeyed them, they could beat us. We must be sexually available at any time outside our periods, "even on the saddle of a camel," as the hadith says. (PG 103)

I bought my own English version of the Quran and read it so I could understand it better. But I found that everything Boqol Sawm had said was in there. Women should obey their husbands. Women were worth half a man. Infidels should be killed. (PG 104)

Furthermore, she told me, I was not permitted for one second to imagine that perhaps the Quran's words could be adapted to a modern era. The Quran had been written by God, not by men. "The Quran is the word of Allah and it is forbidden to refute it," Sister Aziza told me.

You obey, and serve Allah – that is the test, If you submit to God's will on earth, you will attain bliss in the Hereafter. (PG 105)

The movement was founded in the 1920s in Egypt as an Islamic revivalist movement, then caught on and spread – slowly at first, but much faster in the 1970s, as waves of funding flooded in from the suddenly massively rich Saudis. By 1987 the Muslim brotherhood's ideas had reached the Somali housewives of Eastleigh in the gaunt and angry shape of Boqol Sawm.

Within months the first divorces were occurring, and secular Somali men were threatening Boqol Sawm for breaking up their families. (PG 105/106)

By 1987 the first Muslim Brotherhood mosque was built in Eastleigh, and Boqol Sawm came out of hiding to preach there every Friday, screaming at the top of his lungs through the loudspeakers behind the white minaret topped with a green crescent and a single star.

Boqol Sawm shouted that the men who rejected their wives' call to Islam would burn. The rich who spent their money on earthly things would burn. The Muslims who abandoned their fellow Muslims – the Palestinians – were not true Muslims, and they would burn, too. Islam was under threat and its enemies – the Jews and the Americans – would burn forever. Those Muslim families who sent their children to universities in the United States, Britain and other lands of the infidels would burn. Life on earth is temporary, Boqol Sawm yelled; it was meant by Allah to test people. The hypocrites who were too weak to resist the worldly temptations would burn. If you did not break off your friendship with non-Muslims, you would burn. (PG 106/107)

Truly Muslim women should cover their bodies even in front of a blind man, even in their own houses. They had no right to walk down the middle of the street. They should not move out of their father's house without permission. (PG 109/110)

Even when all the women had been covered completely from head to toe, another line of thought was opened. For this was not enough. High heels tapped and could trigger in men the image of a woman's legs; to avoid sin, women must wear flat shoes that make no noise. Next came perfume: using any kind of pleasant fragrance, even perfumed soap and shampoo, would distract the minds of men from Allah's worship and cause them to fantasize about sinning. The safest way to cause no harm to anyone seemed to be to avoid contact with any man at all times and just stay in the house. A man's sinful erotic thoughts were always the fault of the woman who incited them. (PG 110)

Sister Aziza used to respond that they were complaining only because they had read licentious, un-Islamic descriptions of sexual experiences in Western books. We Muslim women were not to copy the behavior of unbelievers. We shouldn't dress like them, or make love like them, or behave like them in any way. We should not read their books, for they would lead us off the straight, true path to Allah.

A woman couldn't break a marriage because it was awful of boring: that was utterly forbidden, and the way of Satan. "If your husband hurts you," Sister Aziza would tell these women, "you must tell him that, and ask him to do it differently. If you cooperate it will always be less painful. And if he's not hurting you, then count yourself among the lucky ones." (PG 113)

In February 1989, the BBC ran the news that the Ayatollah Khomeini had issued an order to kill a man called Salman Rushdie, who had written a book about the wives of the Prophet Muhammad titled "The Satanic Versus". There had been riots across the Muslim world about this evil book. The Ayatollah said Rushdie, who was born Muslim, was guilty of blasphemy and the crime of apostasy – seeking to renounce the faith – which is punishable by execution. He sentenced him to death and set a price on Rushdie's head. (PG 118)

CHAPTER 7: Disillusion and Deceit

Most of the family, including the women, explained my sudden change of heart as the result of female indecision. They said women were in the grip of invisible forces that played with their minds and made them switch from one extreme mood to another. That is why Allah had ordained that the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man, and also why women should not be allowed to govern or accept public offices, for leadership requires mindful contemplation and judgments reached after careful thought. Women lacked all these by nature. We were flighty and irrational, and it was much better for us if our fathers and other male guardians decided who we should spend the rest of our lives with.

Everyone was involved in everyone else's business. The complete lack of privacy, of individual space, and the social control was suffocating. (PG 131)

Religion gave me a sense of peace only from its assurance of a life after death. It was fairly easy to follow most of the rules: good behavior, politeness, avoiding gossip and pork and usury and alcohol. But I had found that I couldn't follow the deeper rules of Islam that control sexuality and the mind. I didn't want to follow them. I wanted to be someone, to stand on my own.

Islam is submission. You submit on earth in order to earn your place in Heaven. (PG 132)

Today, I know that we were risking all sorts of genetic abnormalities in our offspring, but we had absolutely no idea about such a thing. In Somalia, as in much of the Middle East and Africa, marriages between cousins are often seen as the safest unions possible: they keep the family wealth together, and any possible conflict will be quickly resolved by the couple's relatives. (PG 140)


Most unmarried Somali girls who got pregnant committed suicide. I knew of one girl in Mogadishu who poured a can of gasoline over herself in the living room, with everyone there, and burned herself alive. Of course, if she hadn't done this, her father and brothers would probably have killed her anyway. (PG 169)

The day of my wedding I did what I always did every day. I dressed normally and did my chores. I was in denial. I knew that over at Farah Goure's house there was a qali registering my union with Osman Moussa before my father and Mahad and a crowd of other men. Afterward there would be a big lunch with roasted sheep, for men only. I would not be present. Neither my presence nor my signature was required for the Islamic ceremony. (PG 176)

My father began calling me to his house in Buruburu for what amounted to a series of extra lectures in Islam and how to be a good wife. We spent several mornings taking up chapters of the Quran on the duties of a wife and formally discussing them. For example, her duty to ask permission to leave the house.

There is a Quranic injunction to women to be sexually available to their husbands at all times. My father didn't go into the details, but he read it: "Your wives are your tillage, go in unto your tillage in what manner so what ever you will." He said, "You must always be there for your husband, in bed and outside of it. Don't make your husband beg; don't refuse him; don't make him look elsewhere. This is also a kind of permission you give from the onset: you are always available. (PG 178)

PART II My Freedom

CHAPTER 10: Running Away

Muslims were always boasting about something or other, but our whole culture was sexually frustrated. (PG 195)

CHAPTER 13: Leiden

When I went to the awful places – the police stations, the prisons, the abortion clinics and penal courts, the unemployment offices and the shelters for battered women – I began to notice how many dark faces looked back at me. It was not something you could avoid noticing, coming straight in from creamy – blond Leiden. I began to wonder why so many immigrants – so many Muslims – were there. (PG 243)

One Somali woman was about my age, from a rural area. She couldn't read or write Somali or speak a word of Dutch. She had been married in Somalia, to a man who had come to visit, looking for a wife, and who then brought her straight to Holland. She almost never left the apartment on her own: she was frightened of the foreign streets. Her husband beat her, finally, the police brought her, horribly bruised and cut, to the women's shelter. This woman was not only homeless in Holland; she could not go back to her family in Somalia either. She told me it was Allah's will. "Allah gave me these circumstances and, If I am patient, Allah will remove this misery."

Women like this never pressed charges. The prospect of making their way alone seemed to them impossible. They were convinced that by accepting systematic, really merciless abuse, they were serving Allah and earning a place in Heaven. They always went back to their husband.

You must obey your husband if you are Muslim. If you refuse your husband and he rapes you, that is your fault. Allah says husbands should beat their wives if they misbehave; it's in the Quran. (PG 244)

But the result was that immigrants lived apart, studied apart, socialized apart. They went to separate schools – special Muslim schools or ordinary schools in the inner city, which other families fled.

At the Muslim schools there were no children from Dutch families. The little girls were veiled and often separated from the boys, either in the classroom or during prayer and sports. The schools taught geography and physics just like any school in Holland, but they avoided subjects that ran contrary to Islamic doctrine. Children weren't encouraged to ask questions, and their creativity was not stimulated. They were taught to keep their distance from unbelievers and to obey.

This compassion for immigrants and their struggles in a new country resulted in attitudes and policies that perpetuated cruelty. Thousands of Muslim women and children were being systematically abused, and there was no escaping this fact. Little children were being excised on kitchen tables – I knew this from Somalis for whom I translated. Girls who chose their own boyfriends and lovers were beaten half to death or even killed; many more were regularly slapped around. The suffering of all these women was unspeakable. And while the Dutch were generously contributing money to international aid organizations, they were also ignoring the silent suffering of Muslim women and children in their own backyard.

Holland's multiculturalism – its respect for Muslims' way of doing things – wasn't working. It was depriving many women and children of their rights. Holland was trying to be tolerant for the sake of consensus, but the consensus was empty. The immigrants' culture was being preserved at the expense of their women and children and to the detriment of the immigrants' integration into Holland. Many Muslims never learned Dutch and rejected Dutch values of tolerance and personal liberty. They married relatives from their home villages and stayed, inside Holland, in their tiny bubble of Morocco or Mogadishu. (PG 246)

Chapter 14: Leaving God

"The rule of clerics is totalitarian. It means people can't choose. Humanity is varied, and we should celebrate that instead of suppressing it." (PG 263)

For centuries we had been behaving as though all knowledge was in the Quran, refusing to question anything, refusing to progress. We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing up to the need to integrate it into our beliefs. And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior.

We Muslims had been taught to define life on earth as a passage, a test that precedes real life in the Hereafter. In that test, everyone should ideally live in a manner resembling, as closely as possible, the followers of the Prophet. Didn't this inhibit investment in improving daily life? Was innovation therefore forbidden to Muslims? Were human rights, progress, women's rights all foreign to Islam? (PG 271)

Muhammad attempted to legislate every aspect of life. By adhering to his rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, we Muslims suppressed the freedom to think for ourselves and act as we chose. We froze the moral outlook of billions of people into the mind – set of the Arab desert in the seventh century. We were not just servants of Allah, we were slaves.

I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. Is it one version of events, as perceived by the men who wrote it 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war.

Most Muslims never delve into theology, and we rarely read the Quran; we are taught it in Arabic, which most Muslims can't speak. As a result, most people think that Islam is about peace. It is from these people, honest and kind, that the fallacy has arisen that Islam is peaceful and tolerant.

It regulates every detail of life and subjugates free will. True Islam, as a rigid belief system and a moral framework, leads to cruelty. (PG 272)

Islam influences every aspect of believers' lives. Women are denied their social and economic rights in the name of Islam, and ignorant women bring up ignorant children. Sons brought up watching their mother being beaten will use violence. (PG 279)

Muslim schools reject the values of universal human rights. All humans are not equal in a Muslim school. Moreover, there can be no freedom of expression or conscience. These schools fail to develop creativity – art, drama, music – and they suppress the critical faculties that can lead children to question their beliefs. They neglect subjects that conflict with Islamic teachings, such as evolution and sexuality. They teach by rote, not question, and they instill subservience in girls. They also fail to socialize children to the wider community. (PG 280)

In Islam, you are Allah's slave: you submit, and thus, ideally, you are devoid of personal will. You are not a free individual. You behave well because you fear Hell; you have no personal ethic. (PG 281)

CHAPTER 15: Threats

Next I was asked, "But are you still a Muslim?" Now I felt truly on the spot. And once again I avoided a direct repudiation of Islam, answering instead, "I am secularized."

I did not feel strong enough to face what would happen if I said, out loud, that I no longer believed. For a Muslim, to be an apostate is the worst thing possible. Christians can cease to believe in God; that is a personal matter that affects only their eternal soul. But for a Muslim to cease believing in Allah is a lethal offence. Apostates merit death: on that, the Quran and the hadith are clear. For a Muslim woman to abjure her faith is the worst kind of disobedience to God, because it comes from the lowest, most impure element in society. It cries out for God's punishment. (PG 288)

Every society that is in the rigid grip of Islam oppresses women and also lags behind in development. Most of these societies are poor; many are full of conflict and war. Societies that respect the rights of women and their freedom are wealthy and peaceful. (PG 296)

CHAPTER 16: Politics

In the interview I talked about the Ten Commandments in the Quran, the version of the Ten Commandments passed on to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad. I described him as a cruel man who demanded absolute power and who stunted creativity by limiting the imagination to only what was permitted. I discussed aspects of his life. Conveniently, Allah helpfully indicated that Muhammad should marry the wife of his adopted son, Zayd. He also allowed the Prophet to marry the six –year –old daughter of his friend Abu Bakr, and to consummate that marriage when the girl, Aisha, was only nine. Aisha's description of the scene is truly pathetic; she was playing on her swing in the garden when her mother called her and placed her on the Prophet's fifty - four – year – old lap. I said "By our Western standards, Muhammad is a perverse man, and a tyrant." (PG 303)

If the Prophet Muhammad went to bed with a nine – year – old, then according to Dutch law he is a pedophile. If you look at how the Prophet Muhammad ruled, he was a lone ruler, an autocrat, and that is tyranny. (PG 305)

What matters is that atrocities against women and children are carried out in Europe. What matters is that governments and societies must stop hiding behind a hollow pretense of tolerance so that they can recognize and deal with the problem.

When you think something is holy and special and you're told it's not, if you're not ready for that information – and especially if you're from an honor background – you feel offended. These individuals I understood, but I was angered by huffing and puffing of the Muslim organizations funded by the government to look after the community. (PG 310)

My message was that the Quran is an act of man, not of god. We should be free to interpret it; we should be permitted to apply it to the modern era in a different way, instead of performing painful contortions to try to recapture the circumstances of a horrible distant past. (PG 314)

EPILOGUE: The Letter of the Law

For many women, because of the perception of lost honor, death comes at the hands of a father, brother, or husband.

Saudi Arabia is the source of Islam and its quintessence. It is the place where the Muslim religion is practiced in its purest form, and it is the origin of much of the fundamentalist vision that has, in my lifetime, spread far beyond its borders. In Saudi Arabia, every breath, every step we took, was infused with concepts of purity or sinning, and with fear. Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are still cut off, women still stoned and enslaved, just as the Prophet Muhammad decided centuries ago.

The king of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia, and among the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya and Somalia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves a feudal mind – set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self – deception, hypocrisy, and double standards. It relies on the technological advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind – set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam. (PG 347).

My central, motivating concern is that women in Islam are oppressed. That oppression of women causes Muslim women and Muslim men, too, to lag behind the West. It creates a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation. (PG 349)

Ayaan Hirshi Ali was born in Somalia, was raised Muslim, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa and Saudi Arabia. She fled to the Netherlands in 1992 in order to escape an arranged marriage. Named one of Time magazines most influential people of 2005 and has won numerous human rights awards.

She also wrote The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

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