Monday, June 25, 2007

Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I just started reading Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali is a former Muslim who grew up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and is now famous for her fierce criticism of Islam. While I’m sure I will disagree with many of her ultimate conclusions regarding religion and morality, the book is providing me with an excellent firsthand account of life in the Muslim world.

In Chapter Three, Ali and her family move from Somalia (largely Muslim, but not too strict) to Saudi Arabia (the heart of the Muslim world). The transition is quite interesting. Ali, her brother Mahad, and her sister Haweya enter a school with Saudi children. Ali recalls:

All the girls at madrassah [school for learning the Qur’an] were white; I thought of them as white, and myself, for the first time, as black. 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. (p. 42)

This racism against Ali and her family, however, was nothing compared to the Saudis’ hatred of Jews:

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. (p. 47)

Ali says that she and her family loved visiting the Grand Mosque, where everyone was kind to one another. Yet the situation was quite different outside the mosque:

[A]s 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. (p. 43)

At home, Ali began to notice the harsh treatment of Saudi women:

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 courtyards: “No! Please! By Allah!” (p. 47)

This mistreatment, and other horrors she witnessed in the course of her life, have fueled her passion for reform in the Muslim world.

I’m only on Chapter Five, but the book is great so far. I’m looking forward to reading about her encounter with the West, and her struggles with Islam.


Sunil said...

Dear David Wood,

I am curious to know how your debate with Ali Ataie went (on the subject of "Who was Muhammad: A Muslim & Christian Perspective."). Is an audio recording available already? Have you written any review of the debate? If so, can you let me know the link. Thanks.

David Wood said...


I think the debate went very well. The Muslims at UC Davis were great. Kregel Publications is going to publish the debate both as a book and as a DVD. Check back soon and I'll let you know where you can order it.

Sunil said...

David Wood,

Thanks for the update. I am looking if I can find your email-id on your site (to send you a mail about a question), but I could not find it. Can you share it or send your email-id to me at

momofmany said...

I've read both of her books. All I can say is "Wow". She is a very brave woman. I feel that God, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave her the power and boldness to do all that she had to do to escape, etc. She is an Athiest so I sent her my testimony and pray the Lord will open her heart to the truth of her existance and His love for her.

I'm thrilled there was a debate and it was public. Who can disregard her testimony of the evils of Islam...she lived it?? Does she still have to have body guards?

God bless you.