Chandrahas, over at The Middle Stage, has a great post on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel (including lots of links to a "crackling discussion of the questions raised by Hirsi Ali's book ... on the European website Signandsight here, with pieces by Pascal Bruckner, Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, Necla Kelek, Paul Cliteur and Ulrike Ackermann among others. Another piece, by Christopher Hitchens, is here").
I was vaguely aware of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but it was only reading Ian Buruma's excellent and measured Murder in Amsterdam this last weekend that I really began to understand what a controversial figure she is. Buruma's argument is a little light on the wider global and historic context of Amsterdam's recent difficulties, and whilst its even-handedness might be judicious, a strong opinion would occassionally be appreciated; regardless of this, it does a good job and I'd commend it. I've not read Ali's book Infidel (nor the follow up The Caged Virgin) but they are on their way to me ...
Infidel is subtitled: "The Story of My Enlightenment". And "enlightenment" is, here, not used innocently. It refers partially to The Enlightenment, of course. This is interesting. Regularly, Enlightenment values are held up as what we should be fighting for (against what exactly? and fighting for whom exactly when/if we do this?) So, I'm keen to read Daniel Hind's The Threat to Reason (Verso) which is due in May:
Today's media commentators and politicians constantly enlist the language and prestige of the historical Enlightenment to defend western science and rationality from its irrational enemies — Evangelicals, post-modernists, and Islamists, are on the march, they say.
Yet, in exploring how the Enlightenment continues to operate as a powerful guiding principle in Western politics, The Threat to Reason reveals how the truly pressing threats to free inquiry reside within the allegedly enlightened institutions of state and corporation. In their hands, the potential of Enlightenment ideas is implicated in the maintenance and furthering of neoliberal market values, while the permanent war envisaged by American state planners transforms the Enlightenment into a resource for establishing information dominance. By default science becomes what corporations want, and progress becomes what the US military can impose on the world.