Paperback | February 8, 2011

byAyaan Hirsi Ali

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A celebration of free speech and democracy and a rousing call to action from the widely acclaimed author of Infidel, this #1 national bestseller is now available in trade paperback from Vintage Canada.

In Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her story of her emotional journey to freedom to build a new life following her flight from a tribal world that limits women's every thought and action. After breaking with her family, she struggled to throw off restrictive superstitions and misconceptions--sometimes with very funny results--in order to assimilate into Western society. She has endured death threats and the horrendous murder of her collaborator and friend by an Islamic fanatic, but has not ceased to call on women and key institutions of the West to enact innovative remedies that could help Muslim immigrants everywhere overcome similar challenges--and resist the fatal allure of fundamentalism and terrorism.

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A celebration of free speech and democracy and a rousing call to action from the widely acclaimed author of Infidel, this #1 national bestseller is now available in trade paperback from Vintage Canada. In Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her story of her emotional journey to freedom to build a new life following her flight from a tribal wo...

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, author of The Caged Virgin and the bestselling Infidel, was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" in 2005, and Reader's Digest "European of the Year." She received Norway's Human Rights Service Bellwether of the Year Award, the Danish Freedom Prize, the Swedish Democracy Prize, and the Moral Courag...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.99 × 5.13 × 0.83 inPublished:February 8, 2011Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:030739851X

ISBN - 13:9780307398512

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Chapter 1My FatherWhen I walked into the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal London Hospital to see my father, I feared I might have come too late. He was sprawled across the hospital bed, his mouth eerily agape, and the machines that were attached to him were many and menacing. They beeped and ticked, and the lines that rapidly rose and fell on their monitors all seemed to be indicating a rapid countdown to his death."Abeh," I yelled at the top of my voice. "Abeh, it's me, Ayaan."I squeezed his hand and anxiously kissed his forehead, and my father's eyes flew open. He smiled, and the warmth of his gaze and his smile radiated through the whole room. I put my palms over his right hand and he squeezed them and tried to speak, to force out at least a word or two. But he could only wheeze and gasp for breath. He strained to sit up, but he couldn't lift his body.He was covered with white sheets, and it looked as if he were tied to the bed. Bald, he looked much smaller than I remembered. There was a terrible tube in his throat that was giving him oxygen through a ventilator; another led from his kidney to a dialysis machine, and yet another mess of tubes went into his wrist. I sat beside him and stroked his face and told him, "Abeh, Abeh, it's all right. Abeh, my poor Abeh, you're so sick."He couldn't answer. Trying to speak, he would fall back, his chest pumping, and the machine that gave him oxygen would hiss and gasp for more air. Then, after resting for a moment or two, he would try again. He indicated with his right hand that he wanted a pen to write with, but he could hardly hold it; his muscles were too weak and he made only scratches on the paper. He was struggling so hard to hold the pen that he began sliding off the bed.The ward was large, and nurses were bustling about changing sheets and giving medication. I noticed that the doctor had an accent and for a moment thought that he was from Mexico. When I asked where he came from he told me that he was from Spain. The ward was run almost entirely by immigrants. I could not tell the nurses from the doctors, and as I looked around I tried to guess the origins of the members of the medical team, technicians, and cleaners: the Indian Peninsula, blacks who I thought were from East or West Africa, people who looked North African, a few women with headscarves over their medical uniforms. If there were any Somali employees in the ward I did not see them, and fortunately they did not see me.One of the nurses unrolled a plastic smock, tied it around her waist, and asked me to step aside, but my father would not let go of me and I had to pry his fingers from around my hand. The nurse propped him up higher with pillows, staring at me oddly. One of the nurses told me that she had read an article about me in a magazine, so some of them knew who I was. I glanced away and noticed the chart on his bed; it listed my father as Hirsi Magan Abdirahman, although his name is Hirsi Magan Isse.A young doctor told me that my father had leukemia. He could have lived another year had he not caught an infection, which had become septic. Now, although he was out of the coma that he had fallen into a few days earlier, only the machines were keeping him alive. I asked again and again if my father was in pain, but the doctor said no, he was uncomfortable, but there was no pain.I asked the doctor if I could take a picture with my father. He refused. He said we needed to ask the permission of the patient, and the patient was not in any state to make that decision.In 1992, when I left him in Nairobi, my father was a strong, vital man. He could be fierce, even frightening - a lion, a leader of men. When I was growing up he was my lord, my hero, someone whose absence was mysterious, whose presence I longed for, whose approval meant everything and whose wrath I feared.Now so many disputes lay between us. I had offended him deeply in 1992 by running away from a Somali man he had chosen for me to marry. He had forgiven me for that; we had spoken together, stiffly, on the phone. A decade later I offended him again, when I declared myself an unbeliever and openly criticized Islam's treatment of women. Our last, and worst, conflict was after I made a film about the abuse and oppression of Muslim women, Submission, with Theo van Gogh in 2004. After that my father simply would not answer the phone; he would not talk to me. Sometime after Theo was killed, when I had to go into hiding and my phone was taken away from me, I stopped trying to call him. When people asked, I could say only that we were estranged.I learned he was sick in June 2008, only a few weeks before his death. I had received a message from Marco, my ex-boyfriend in Holland, saying that my cousin Magool in England was looking for me urgently. Magool is not close to my father's family, but she is resourceful. When my half sister, Sahra, realized how sick my father was, she asked Magool to try to track me down, and Magool called Marco, the only person she knew to whom I had been close when she and I had last spoken, five years earlier.I phoned my father at his apartment in a housing development in the East End of London. It was late in the evening where he was, a bright sunny afternoon on the East Coast of America where I was. I was shaking. When he came to the phone he sounded just like himself, strong and excited. At the sound of his voice I felt tears welling in my eyes and I said the only thing I wanted to convey, that I loved him, and I heard his smile, so powerful it seemed to come through the telephone."Of course you love me!" he burst out loudly. "And of course I love you! Haven't you seen how parents cuddle and connect with their children? Haven't you been out in nature where you see how animals pet and lick their young? Of course I love you. You are my child."I told my father how much I wanted to see him, but I explained that it might be difficult to arrange security for a visit to his apartment, which is a mostly immigrant area and overwhelmingly Muslim. To visit such a place without protection would be like a very small insect risking a flight through a roomful of huge spiders' webs; the little bug might get through unnoticed, but if it gets caught the consequences are clear. On the other hand, if I went there with police, that would be bound to cause ill feeling, as if I could not trust my own family."Security!" my father cried. "What do you need security for? Allah will protect you against anyone who wants to harm you! No one in our community will lay a finger on you. And besides, our family has never had a reputation for being cowardly! In fact the other day one of our most prominent clan members said that he wanted to debate with you. If you want, I can ask them to put together a delegation and take you to Jeddah, so you can debate him in Saudi Arabia! Why don't you arrange a press conference and say that you are no longer an unbeliever? Tell them that you have returned to Islam and from now on you're a businesswoman!"I laughed quietly at my father, and for a while I just enjoyed listening to him talk. Then I asked after his health. He said, "You must remember, Ayaan, that our health and our lives are in the hands of Allah. I am on my way to the hereafter. My dear child, what I want you to do is read just one chapter of the Quran. Laa-uqsim Bi-yawmiil-qiyaama."He recited - in Arabic, of course, though we were speaking Somali - a chapter called "The Resurrection": "I do call to witness the resurrection day; and I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit; Does man think that we cannot assemble his bones? Nay, we are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. But man wishes to do wrong in the time in front of him; he questions, when is the day of resurrection?"I told my father that I would not lie to him, and that I no longer believed in the example of the Prophet. He cut me off, and his tone became passionate, impatient, then retributive. He read me more verses of the Quran, translating them into Somali, and he listed many examples of people like me, who had left Islam but had come back to the faith. He talked about hordes of non-Muslims converting to Islam across the globe, and he told me about the one true god; he warned me not to risk my hereafter.As I listened to him I told myself that this magisterial lecture was from a father expressing his love in the only way he knew. I wanted to believe that the very fact that he was lecturing me meant that, in some deeper sense, he had begun to forgive me for the person I had become. Possibly, however, it was not that. Possibly he was only doing his duty. Living as a Western woman meant I had shed my honor; I wore Western clothes, which to him was no better than if I walked around wearing no clothes at all. Worst of all, I had abjured Islam and written a book with the brazen, triumphant title Infidel to proclaim my apostasy. But my father knew that his life was coming to an end, and he wanted to make sure that all his children, despite their errors, were safe on a path to heaven.I let him talk. I didn't make false promises to convert. If I had, that might have helped him leave in peace, but I couldn't do it, I couldn't lie to him about that. I managed to tell him gently that although I no longer agreed with Islam, I would read the Quran. I did not add that, every time I reread it, I became more critical of its messages.He broke into a series of supplications: "May Allah protect you, may He bring you back to the straight path, may He take you to Heaven in the hereafter, may Allah bless you and keep you healthy." And at the end of every supplication I responded with the required formula: "Amin," May it be so.After a little while I told my father I had a flight to catch. He didn't ask where to, or why; I could tell that the details of terrestrial matters had little bearing for him now. Then I hung up, with so many more things left unsaid between us, and I almost missed the plane that was taking me to a conference in Brazil on multiculturalism.At the end of June, after the conference in Brazil, I was scheduled to go to Australia for a colloquium on the Enlightenment. I planned to visit my father in London at the end of the summer. But in mid-August, on my way back from Australia, during a stopover in Los Angeles, I received another phone call from Marco. My father was in a coma.I called my cousin Magool again, and she gave me the cell phone number of my half sister, Sahra. The last time I'd seen my father's youngest child, in 1992, Sahra was eight or nine years old, a wiry, energetic little kid. I had met her when stopping off in Ethiopia en route from my home in Kenya to Germany. From there, on my father's orders, I was supposed to go on to Canada, to join a man I barely knew, who was a distant cousin and who had become my husband. In those days Sahra lived in Addis Ababa with her mother, who, like my own mother, was still married to my father in spite of his absence. I had played with this little half sister of mine all afternoon, struggling to remember my childhood Amharic, which was the only language Sahra spoke back then and which I too had spoken when I was her age and still lived with my father.Now, in the summer of 2008, Sahra was twenty-four. She was married and had her own four-month-old daughter. She lived with her mother, my father's third wife.I didn't tell Sahra that I planned to visit our father in the hospital. It's a hideous thing to write, but I didn't really know if I could trust her with that information. I assume the closest members of my family don't actually want to kill me, but the truth is that I have shamed and hurt them; they have to deal with the outrage that my public statements cause, and undoubtedly some members of my clan do want to kill me for that.Sahra volunteered the suggestion that if I did go to see Abeh, I should avoid visiting hours, when floods of Somalis would be going to the Royal London Hospital to seek a blessing from my father in order to improve their own chances of getting into heaven. For many, Abeh was a symbol of the battle against President Siad Barre's military regime, a man who had dedicated most of his adult life to overthrowing that regime. It would be the same in the East End of London as it was in Somalia: the many wives, the many children and grandchildren, the elders of the clan and the subclan and the brother subclans, scores and scores of relatives would come to my father to pay their respects. For many of those people I would not be welcome at my father's bedside because I was an unbeliever, an infidel, an avowed atheist, a filthy runaway, and worst of all, a traitor to the clan and to the faith. Some of them would certainly feel that I deserve to die, and to many more my presence would defile my father's deathbed and perhaps even cost him his place in the hereafter.I felt no such rejection from Sahra, however. She was sweet and hushed, a little conspiratorial, as if by talking with her on the phone I had enrolled her in something clandestine and dangerous.* * *I needed to fly to London right away. Because this was an urgent, unplanned, purely personal trip, arranging security was going to be complicated, unlike attending a conference, for which everything is officially coordinated with the police weeks ahead of time. I knew it wouldn't be wise just to go, accompanied by the gentlemen who usually protect me in America. In Britain these men would not know their way around and would not be allowed to carry weapons. If I were rash in my planning I might put others as well as myself in danger.I phoned a number of friends in Europe who I thought might be influential and asked them to try to help me arrange the protection I needed to make the trip. They spent many hours trying to help me, seemingly without success. One friend was told by a British official that as I was born in Somalia I should ask the Somali Embassy for help; they could approach the Foreign Office to seek security assistance for me. This absurd bureaucratic logic might have been comical in some circumstances, but not in the face of my need to get to London to see my dying father.When my plane took off for London I still had no idea whether I would have any security protection when it landed. But that no longer mattered; after days of waiting I feared only that I might be too late. I knew that, if my father were to die, I would not be allowed to see his body. He would be whisked away by male relatives to be washed and prepared and buried within twenty-four hours. Women are not allowed to be present at the graveside during a Muslim burial ceremony. It is believed that their presence is disruptive; they might become hysterical, perhaps even hurl themselves into the grave to be with the corpse. It would be unseemly to try to attend.My father had a contradictory attitude to women. He embraced some modern ideas on literacy, urged his first wife to attend university, and insisted that my sister Haweya and I go to school when my mother resisted the idea. He believed in women's strength and he repeatedly insisted that a woman's role was valuable and important. But as he aged he became more orthodox in his Islamic convictions that we must cover ourselves, marry, and submit to our husbands. Despite his often eccentric views, even my father would not have tolerated seeing a woman at a funeral.When I arrived at Heathrow Airport in London a large black car from the Dutch Embassy was there to greet me; another, smaller but even safer, held men from Scotland Yard. We drove straight to the hospital. Now, to my relief, my father lay alive before me. Poor Abeh. He was tied to a hospital bed, old, vulnerable, sick. He smiled deeply at me, and dozed, and then he would wake and gasp for air, trying again and again to speak, but nothing came out, only "Ash hah," gasping for breath. Then he would make kissing gestures to me with his lips and hold on to my hand as tightly as he could.I felt heavy with the burden of everything I had never said to my father and the sheer waste of all the years we had been apart. The only words I could find were trite messages of love, and I said them over and over again. It was too late for anything else.I hadn't gone to the hospital seeking absolution. I had ceased to believe in the idea that if I did the right thing, such as fulfill my duty to seek forgiveness from my parents and acquire their blessings, my sins would be washed away. Perhaps my presence did not even give him that much pleasure, since he could see that his daughter wore trousers and no headscarf. I went there just for the light in his eyes, for his acknowledgment of me, his love for me and mine for him - a mutual recognition that we had always been precious to each other.He was using up his last reserves of strength in the effort to tell me something. I will never know what that was. For my father, God was the creator and the sustainer, but God was also ferocious and wrathful. Deep down I understood that on his deathbed my father was terrified that I risked the rage of Allah because I had rejected his faith. Father always taught us that those not forgiven by God will lead a miserable life on earth and eternal fire in the hereafter. But although our beliefs are not reconciled - and never will be, for they are worlds apart - my father did, I think, forgive me. He ultimately allowed his feelings of fatherly love to transcend his adherence to the demands of his unforgiving God.* * *Visiting hours were approaching. Soon the streams of Somalis that Sahra had warned me about would begin arriving to see my father, and I couldn't bear the idea of any kind of confrontation. So, painfully, I said good-bye to Abeh.When the men from Scotland Yard escorted me out of the hospital I found myself standing on Whitechapel Road, the center of the largest Muslim population in Great Britain. A noisy, tarpaulin-covered street market was across the road, crowded with stalls selling lengths of saris, international phone cards, and spicy lamb sandwiches. On the pavement beside me, standing at the bus stop outside the hospital steps, was a collection of women wearing every variety of Muslim covering imaginable, from a pastel headscarf to the complete, thick black niqaab that covers you completely, with a veil of black cloth that blanks out your face, even your eyes. These were young, strong women, not doddering old ladies; some of them were pregnant, most of them had several small children, and they were out shopping for their families in the sunlight. Several wore a variation that was new to me: in addition to a long robe and headscarf they had an extra face veil fixed on with Velcro, with two thick black strips of cloth strapped so as to leave barely an inch or so uncovered, just skirting the eyelashes.The phone booths and the signs for the London Underground were British, but I would not have thought I was in England. I smelled the lunchboxes of my schoolmates at the Muslim Girls' Secondary School in Nairobi, a heady clash of spices and food, and perfumed hair oils. Here again was the noisy bustle of the street and the mixture of people - Somalis and, I guess, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis - crowded at the market.At the smells alone I felt a tug of longing for the innocence of youth. I don&'t know if in other cultures that sense of community is as strong, but for someone who has grown up within a clan, the feeling - the smell - of family is very powerful. Yet my longing was mixed with a dread of confrontation. What if somebody in this crowd recognized me, as people sometimes do, and decided to pick a fight? In the eyes of many of them, I am an infidel and a traitor, who goes about unpunished.My bodyguards and I got back in the car and drove down Whitechapel Road, slowly, in heavy traffic. Seated outside a halal fast-food shop was a small woman in a long black robe with a black embroidered beak of cloth tied over her nose and mouth, in the style of Algerian women. Two small children were crying in the buggy beside her, and she was trying to jiggle and comfort them while she lifted her cloth beak to try to eat her pastry modestly underneath it. Her older toddler was wearing a veil too. It was not a face veil, but it covered her hair and shoulders; it was white and lacy and elasticized so it fit snugly over her head. The child couldn't have been older than three.Two shop fronts farther down was a huge mosque, the biggest mosque in London, my escorts told me. A small crowd of men stood outside it, all wearing loose clothing, long beards, and white skullcaps. All these people had left their countries of origin only to band together here, unwilling or unable to let go, where they enforce their culture more strongly even than in Nairobi. Here was the mosque, like a symbolic magnetic north, the force that moved their women to cover themselves so ferociously, the better to separate themselves from the dreadful influence of the culture and values of the country where they have chosen to live.It was just a glimpse, and yet I felt an instant sense of panic and suffocation. I was right back in the heart of it all: inside the world of veils and blinkers, the world where women must hide their hair and their bodies, must cower to eat in public, and must follow a few steps behind their men on the street. A web of values - of honor and shame and religion - still entangled me together with all those women at the bus stop and almost every other woman along Whitechapel Road that morning. We were all very far from where we had been born, but only I had left behind that culture. They had brought their web of values with them, halfway across the world.I felt as though I was the only true nomad.From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

Part I
A Problem Fami ly
1. My Father
2. My Half Sister
3. My Mother
4. My Brother’s Story
5. My Brother’s Son
6. My Cousins
7. Letter to My Grandmother
Part II
Nomad Again
8. Nomad Again
9. America
10. Islam in America
Part III
Sex, Money, Violence
11. School and Sexuality
12. Money and Responsibility
13. Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind
Part IV
14. Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Project
15. Dishonor, Death, and Feminists
16. Seeking God but Finding Allah
Conclusion: The Miyé and the Magaalo
Epilogue: Letter to My Unborn Daughter
The AHA Foundation

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER“Here is the story of a young African woman, born into Islam, who was given every possible occasion to feel grievance, resentment and humiliation yet who has employed her own life as an example of internationalism, tolerance, multiculturalism and the redemption of others. Her humor and irony and fortitude constitute the finest counterpoint to the surly cult of death that presses itself against us. For me, the three most beautiful words in the emerging language of secular resistance to tyranny are Ayaan Hirsi Ali.” — Christopher Hitchens “There is more wisdom and compassion in this book than can be found in most university libraries — and surely more than has been published in the Muslim world since the time of the Prophet. I can think of no one who better exemplifies the hard-won gains of the Enlightenment or who can speak more effectively in their defense, than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Nomad is both a moving account of her personal journey out of bondage, and [a] trumpet blast to awaken Westerners at all points along the political spectrum: there is a war of ideas that must be waged and won in the Muslim world, and we misunderstand the true tenets of Islam at our peril. Hirsi Ali’s voice and example are simply indispensable. There is no one like her — and we need thousands like her.” — Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation “This moving account by a remarkably brave woman of her personal journey from the pre-modern mindset of nomadic Somali society to a modern Western one provides a searing indictment of the cult of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity’ which are disabling other Muslims in the West from making a similar transition, and making their youth turn to radical Islam and becoming ‘jihadis.’ More than many academic tomes this personal memoir provides a cogent account of how and why Islam poses the gravest threat to Western liberal societies.” — Deepak Lal, author of In Praise of Empires“A brilliant introduction to the dynamics of Muslim families in the West. . . . Hirsi Ali is a compelling writer who is neither strident nor shrill. Her life story is a triumph of the human spirit.”— Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail “Hirsi Ali is a gifted storyteller, and Nomad’s vignettes are precise and evocative and they often underscore strong socio-political arguments.” — Winnipeg Free Press “Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is still only in her later 30s, has already ensured her place in history and is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable people in the world.”— Theodore Dalrymple, The Globe and Mail “If Infidel was her wake-up call to the West, Nomad is her battle cry. . . . It would be a mistake to dismiss Hirsi Ali’s passionately argued ideas.”— Elle (US) “I am on Hirsi Ali’s side. . .  Nomad circles round and round the incidents, people and themes of her life. . . . She writes movingly about her [family]. . . . Her explicit and insistent belief — that Islamic societies enforce the closing of the Muslim mind to the detriment of living standards, personal development and peace — is her driving force.” — John Lloyd, Financial TimesFrom the Hardcover edition.