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.

Readers Comments

  1. Infidel was one of the most inspiring books I may read in a lifetime. Well written, this book keeps you turning the pages while movtivated to find hope in this misguided woman's life. She is truly amazing for what she stepped up to do even though her entire life and everything she knew would change. She was forced to deal with a new way of living after expressing herself, which was not only brave and difficult, but I'm sure will haunt her forever. We need more women like this in the world. Someone who stands up for others and doesnt take life for granted. Ms. Ali is so eolquent and so beautiful that she deserves the utmost respect from women and men worldwide.

  2. keithette Laughton Monday 16 April 2007

    saw Ayaan on Bill Mayer show. Her presence impressed me so much I ordered "Infidel" from Amazon. I'm a 58 yr old retired teacher and I knew very little about Isam. I did have westernized Moslem students that I asked questions. Her book has moved me and motivated me in a way I haven't felt in a long time. I thank her for her intelligence and awareness and the ability to land on her feet. Someday I'd love to see a movie made about her maybe directed by Spike Lee or some enlighten director who could tell this story for those who don't read or don't have time. This is only for when the time is right. I want her to live a long long time. I was surprised at how young she is. She talked like a women much older and wiser... now I know why.
    Thank you Ayaan Hirsi Ali for this incredible story... your life.
    Keithette Laughton

  3. Patricia Andrews Tuesday 17 July 2007

    Can anyone help me out? What is her thesis?

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