Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi AliInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Alisticker-burst


byAyaan Hirsi Ali

Paperback | April 1, 2008

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One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, 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 ruled largely by despots. 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 women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from 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 evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.
Christopher Hitchens lives in Washington, D.C.
Title:InfidelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 1.1 inPublished:April 1, 2008Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743289692

ISBN - 13:9780743289696

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read Definitely a book that people all over should read!
Date published: 2017-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thrilling story A sometimes hard read as it makes you think and it took me a long time to read but I enjoyed it in the end
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read. Islam through the eyes of a survivor. If you have ever needed evidence to dissuade you from believing the lie that Islam is a religion of peace, read this.
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hmm... The book was good however I didn't care for how the author described people that looked just like her and how she described her family. I felt like she was purposely feeding into stereotypes. She seems bitter and it just felt like she wrote the book through her bitterness and not a place of healing and forgiveness. So I finished the book since I purchased it, however I lost my ability to empathize with the author while reading it. I would still recommend it though.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible Read this for a project. Heard so many reviews about how it was such a good book. However, I've never read such a book, that drags and continues on with the same story about how specific religions can't do this and that. Like honestly, it was such a drag, and i honestly think that the fact it made me fall asleep quite often was more enjoyable than reading the book LOL
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW!! I loved reading this book. This is a must read. Feminist movement at its best and understanding some of the culture all in one book. I could not put this book down.
Date published: 2017-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad and Yet Inspiring This book really shows the brutality and cruelty that can take place in the name of religion. Ayaan is a courageous person who is a role model for women. she did not let social custom and religion dictate her place in society. She wanted to be free. A inspiring book.
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully written and haunting. Ali is how feminism should present itself to the world.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from heartbreaking and enlightning This is a must read for so many people, for so many reasons. Shows the other side of the story. Timely
Date published: 2017-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening and educational! Ali’s journey covered continents, history and the issues that impact refugees as they seek asylum in other countries. This book is enlightening and a must-read!
Date published: 2016-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from infidel very topical, what an inspiration, sometimes emotionally difficult to read, what determination!
Date published: 2016-12-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good book, but it didn't live up to it's hype (at least for me) When reading Infidel, I realized something, this book is not the great work or expose in the vein of Alexander Sol\enestein or a Holocaust survivor. For one thing it is too long for the story it is trying to tell (over 350 pages!) and it often took effort for me to turn the pages. I had to put it down a few times. On the other hand it clears that the author is quite gifted and she does manage to tell an important story. It also provides some insight into what Somalia was like under communist rule (I liked the profile of the dictator which Hirsi nicknamed Big Mouth, Also her description of female genital mutilation and her information rundown of certain members of her family (my favourite was Aunt Kwadja) are also stellar. Ultimately this wasn't the great book I thought it would be but it is a good one and it gets a mild recommendation
Date published: 2016-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Loved LOVED this book Infidel is a powerful, inspirational and emotional book that everyone needs to read. I remember thinking about this book weeks after having finished reading it. Such an impactful read.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibely powerful! In the top most impactful books ever read! Illuminating, vastly educational and inspiring. Answers many important questions I've lived with for a long time. I will read all of this womens books.
Date published: 2015-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful story. I am interested in the diversity of reviews here from 1 star to 5 stars. When you look at the why, is seems to be that it is felt she is telling more than her story. In my opinion she isn't. Cultural diversity is wide and women's experiences within them are the same. BUT she is speaking the truth for many women trapped in a rigid and negative cultural situation will little options of escape. I was riveted by her honest portrayal of her life as it unfolded and shocked at the danger she faced once she began to share her experiences. As someone who has interviewed over 150 people in the last decade on their life journeys, I think every single person's journey has a right to be told. Each needs to be given a voice and a platform. Kudos to Ayaan Hirsi Ali for being brave enough to share hers and live with the consequences. And I find it sad that some feel threatened as she is honestly not trying to tell your story. Only her own.
Date published: 2015-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable. She has always been a personal hero, and her story is all the more powerful in her own words. Truly a remarkable woman.
Date published: 2014-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Infidel Amazing book...a must read!!!!!!!!!
Date published: 2013-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Infidel! What a lovely Book! What a candid and honest look at one's own faith. I am so forever grateful to Ayaan for writing this book and glad that I had the honour of reading it. Those who profess to the Muslim faith, they need to not condemn her, but take a long and hard look, and see the truth in this woman's words. Please do not kill the messenger, I believe she bears Allah's truth...the inconvenience truth that you so dearly want to ignore. In't that what God is all about? That he sends his messengers in the least possible way we expect? Ayaan, thank you! I am so proud of you as a daughter of my continent.
Date published: 2013-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful This is a true story about exceptional strength and courage, perseverance and determination. Ayaan, born in Somalia, into a male dominated Muslim culture that subjugates women and demands submission to Allah (the word Islam means “submission to God”) is driven to find answers in a faith that only raises more questions. Refusing to blindly follow teachings that increasingly make her uneasy; she furtively begins her dangerous journey towards equality and freedom to a place that exudes freedom: Holland. While her story evokes feelings of exuberance and hope it also elicits certain abjectness. For every Ayaan there are thousands of others who will never reach the point of enlightenment she achieved; many will never know it even exists, others still will try and destroy it through sheer ignorance. A powerful story and a great learning experience .
Date published: 2012-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An important and compelling work An astonishing and captivating book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes her life story in extremely clear language and a matter of fact tone. Ali’s book is a contrast between her rigid and religious upbringing in her North African and Middle Eastern homes, and her later emigration to Europe and the US. Unlike most biographies, though, it is Ali’s upbringing rather than her later accomplishments (which are considerable) that is most compelling - and likely to most of us in the West, startling. “People in the West … have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist,” writes Ali in the final pages of her book, and it is for this reason that the book is such a page-turner and so important. While we may have caught glimpses into life and culture in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia through the mirky mirrors of op-ed pieces or articles, Ali both provides a large, clear window and through the retelling of her story acts as our guide. The culture is so foreign, with just a few geographic names and historical events recognizable, that it has a ring of science fiction. (Words such as Osman, Darod, jilbab, ma’alim are common). The events are very human and very alarming, though, and it is Ali’s lack of anger, regret or moralizing that allows - compels - readers to read on. As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that Ali is an exceptional girl and woman, and it is very clear that her departure from her culture is also an exception. In her culture, her upbringing and life are the rule, and there is no choice for almost any female in a similar circumstance. Ali’s adult life in the West is a stark contrast, but through her fresh eyes she provides interesting insights that make us question our own belief systems and societal structure. She notes the parallels between the clan cultures of her youth and the cliques of her Dutch university, and later the relative morals her Dutch parliament colleagues as they wrestle with actions (specifically Ali’s expulsion from the country) necessary to maintain power. Earlier, Ali had noted the life and death trade-offs in refugee camps, and that morals were irrelevant when basic needs couldn’t be met. Many autobiographies are written to celebrate, frame or even justify successes or actions later in the author’s life. Ali’s is riveting and thought provoking from start to finish, and is recommended reading for all. An exceptional and important work.
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read This women's story is awe inspiring. Born in Somalia into a Muslim culture, she suffered untold indignities and yet writes in a fact based manner, still able to find compassion and sometimes love for those that were her oppressers. She escapes this culture and a forced marriage by claiming refugee status in Holland. From there you see this amazing women become more self-aware and self-cofident as she learns the language, goes on to recieve a masters in political science and eventually become a MP in the holland parliament. Her outspokeness regarding the debasement of women in the Muslim culture earns her death threats, and after a friend and colleague is assasinated for a short film they did together she is forced into hiding. I think this book is a must read.
Date published: 2012-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the read I quite liked this book. I had heard quite a few negative things about this book so wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it or not. Yes, she didn't exactly tell the truth about her name and reason for needing to be a refugee, but can you imagine being from a country that has a civil war going on and to be that different mind frame. I do find it sad that she grew up to have such strong religious beliefs and eventually did a 180 degree turn, turning away from religion. It makes me wonder how strong her belief was in Allah to begin with. I'd definitely read this again and recommend it.
Date published: 2011-06-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Blew the Socks of the Hubby I think my husband loved this more than me, he just can't stop talking about it. His blood really boiled when he read what girls go through. It's great to see how someone with such a childhood could become so important. Makes me realize that I had it pretty darn good and shouldn't complain. I'll admit the latter portion of the book lost a bit of my interest. Probably because I saw how, in my opinion, people were manipulating her to suit their agendas.... not hers. I would suggest this to people without question. Gets people talking and can start a lively debate.
Date published: 2010-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read, one of the most important books of our time. Infidel is at face value an autobiography of Ayaan Hirisi Ali's life, and an amazing life it has been. Born in Somalia, raised in 4 other nations in Africa and the middle east, managing to escape an arranged marriage to the Netherlands to go on to become a member of parliament. Ayaan is an inspiration to anyone. Aside from her amazing personal struggles are her political struggles. Ayaans ultimate rejection of Islam is one of the fundamental tenants of the book. She's seen it in its most fundamental, and she wore the Burka. After seeing what happens to Muslim women in not just the developing world, but in the Netherlands itself she goes on to bring to light the oppression building inside. Women are her struggle, and she risked her own life coming out to stand up against the barbaric practices of Muslim immigrants in her new home. This book i believe is one of the most important of our time. Its a story of hope, but its also a warning. While religious freedom remains paramount in the developed world, we must realize that the religion in the west is much less oppressive and violent then that in the middle east, and we must not allow those people to influence our laws in a negative way or to let them simply sit under the radar because "its their religion" or for fear of being called a racist. The law and society that men have died for will slowly be corroded by political correctness if we are not brave enough to speak out against it.
Date published: 2010-02-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Quite a journey Ayaan writes of her upbringing which is an eye opener for us foreigners. I prefered the first half of the book as it seemed written with emotion whereas the last part of the book is about the politics and her relations later in her life.
Date published: 2009-10-14

Read from the Book

Introduction One November morning in 2004, Theo van Gogh got up to go to work at his film production company in Amsterdam. He took out his old black bicycle and headed down a main road. Waiting in a doorway was a Moroccan man with a handgun and two butcher knives. As Theo cycled down the Linnaeusstraat, Muhammad Bouyeri approached. He pulled out his gun and shot Theo several times. Theo fell off his bike and lurched across the road, then collapsed. Bouyeri followed. Theo begged, "Can't we talk about this?" but Bouyeri shot him four more times. Then he took out one of his butcher knives and sawed into Theo's throat. With the other knife, he stabbed a five-page letter onto Theo's chest. The letter was addressed to me. Two months before, Theo and I had made a short film together. We called it Submission, Part 1. I intended one day to make Part 2. (Theo warned me that he would work on Part 2 only if I accepted some humor in it!) Part 1 was about defiance -- about Muslim women who shift from total submission to God to a dialogue with their deity. They pray, but instead of casting down their eyes, these women look up, at Allah, with the words of the Quran tattooed on their skin. They tell Him honestly that if submission to Him brings them so much misery, and He remains silent, they may stop submitting. There is the woman who is flogged for committing adultery; another who is given in marriage to a man she loathes; another who is beaten by her husband on a regular basis; and another who is shunned by her father when he learns that his brother raped her. Each abuse is justified by the perpetrators in the name of God, citing the Quran verses now written on the bodies of the women. These women stand for hundreds of thousands of Muslim women around the world. Theo and I knew it was a dangerous film to make. But Theo was a valiant man -- he was a warrior, however unlikely that might seem. He was also very Dutch, and no nation in the world is more deeply attached to freedom of expression than the Dutch. The suggestion that he remove his name from the film's credits for security reasons made Theo angry. He told me once, "If I can't put my name on my own film, in Holland, then Holland isn't Holland any more, and I am not me." People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no: I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice. This is the story of my life. It is a subjective record of my own personal memories, as close to accurate as I can make them; my relationship with the rest of my family has been so fractured that I cannot now refresh these recollections by asking them for help. It is the story of what I have experienced, what I've seen, and why I think the way I do. I've come to see that it is useful, and maybe even important, to tell this story. I want to make a few things clear, set a certain number of records straight, and also tell people about another kind of world and what it's really like. I was born in Somalia. I grew up in Somalia, in Saudi Arabia, in Ethiopia, and in Kenya. I came to Europe in 1992, when I was twenty-two, and became a member of Parliament in Holland. I made a movie with Theo, and now I live with bodyguards and armored cars. In April 2006 a Dutch court ordered that I leave my safe-home that I was renting from the State. The judge concluded that my neighbors had a right to argue that they felt unsafe because of my presence in the building. I had already decided to move to the United States before the debate surrounding my Dutch citizenship erupted. This book is dedicated to my family, and also to the millions and millions of Muslim women who have had to submit. Copyright © 2007 by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Table of Contents



Part I: My Childhood

Chapter 1: Bloodlines

Chapter 2: Under the Talal Tree

Chapter 3: Playing Tag in Allah's Palace

Chapter 4: Weeping Orphans and Widowed Wives

Chapter 5: Secret Rendezvous, Sex, and the Scent of Sukumawik

Chapter 6: Doubt and Defiance

Chapter 7: Disillusion and Deceit

Chapter 8: Refugees

Chapter 9: Abeh

Part II: My Freedom

Chapter 10: Running Away

Chapter 11: A Trial by the Elders

Chapter 12: Haweya

Chapter 13: Leiden

Chapter 14: Leaving God

Chapter 15: Threats

Chapter 16: Politics

Chapter 17: The Murder of Theo

Epilogue: The Letter of the Law


Bookclub Guide

Discussion Questions 1. Hirsi Ali tells us that this book is "the story of what I have experienced, what I have seen, and why I think the way I do" (page xii). Which experiences does she highlight as being integral to forming her current views on Islam? 2. "No eyes silently accused me of being a whore. No lecherous men called me to bed with them. No Brotherhood members threatened me with hellfire. I felt safe; I could follow my curiosity" (page 185). This passage refers to Hirsi Ali's initial impression of walking the streets in Germany. What other significant differences between the West and Islamic Africa did she observe during her first days in Europe? Upon arriving in Holland, what were her initial impressions of the Dutch people and the Dutch government? Did these change significantly as she lived there 3. How did Hirsi Ali's immigration experience and integration into Dutch society differ from those of other Somalians? 4. Discuss the differences that Hirsi Ali noticed between raising children in Muslim countries and raising children in the West. In particular, what did she notice about Johanna's parenting? How were Muslim parents different from Dutch parents in their instructions to their children on the playground? (see page 245). 5. In Hirsi Ali's words, "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" (page 94). How do the three generations of women in Hirsi Ali's family differ in their willingness to "submit" to this doctrine? 6. As seen through Hirsi Ali's eyes, what factors contributed to Haweya's death? How might members of her family describe events differently? 7. Although Hirsi Ali mostly refrains from criticizing her father, she publishes the personal letter he wrote her upon her divorce. Why do you think she included this letter? Were you surprised by any other intimate details of her life that she revealed in the book? 8. The events of September 11th caused Hirsi Ali to reread sections of the Quran and to evaluate the role of violence in Islam. Consequently, her interpretation of September 11th differs from those around her. What doe she conclude? Do you agree with her analysis? 9. On page 295, Hirsi Ali lists the three goals she wished to accomplish by joining Parliament. By the book's end has she accomplished all three? How did her views of the Dutch government change over time? 10. Examine Hirsi Ali's relationship with her brother. How did Mahad's and Abeh's reactions to her political work differ? 11. Throughout her political career, Hirsi Ali has made several bold statements challenging the Muslim world. In your opinion, were these declarations worth the risk? 12. Has this book changed the way you view Islam? According to Hirsi Ali, is Islam compatible with Western values and culture? Do you agree with her? Enhancing Your Book Club 1. Visit the website for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Washington D.C. think tank that Hirsi Ali joined upon leaving Holland. Take a look at the articles that Hirsi Ali has posted, and bring one to share. The website is located at 2. Go to to watch a version of Theo van Gogh and Hirsi Ali's film, Submission: Part One. 3. Research the Quran before your group meeting and choose a passage to examine together. 4. Take a look on the web for Hirsi Ali's most recent statements about freedom of speech, women's rights, or religion in schools. (For example, in April 2006 she publicly stated her support of the Danish cartoonists' rights to publish images of Muhammad.) Bring in a copy of any interviews you find and share with your group.

Editorial Reviews

"A charismatic figure...of arresting and hypnotizing beauty...[who writes] with quite astonishing humor and restraint."
-- Christopher Hitchens