The Somali-born author and human rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an unequivocal figure. Admired by many secularists for her fearless denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism, she is loathed not just by Islamic fundamentalists but by many western liberals, who find her rejection of Islam almost as objectionable as her embrace of western liberalism.
Confronted by the tribal, patriarchal and religious confines of her upbringing in east Africa, where she suffered female genital mutilation, and the liberty of the Netherlands, where she sought asylum from an arranged marriage, she chose the cultural values of her adopted home over those she had inherited. Not only did she turn her back on her native religion, she became one of its most articulate and vehement critics.
Unquestionably, Hirsi Ali poses challenging questions about whether American liberals should be fighting harder for the rights of Muslim women in countries where they are oppressed, and she is fearless in using shock tactics to jump-start a conversation. Blasphemy is an essential part of any religious reform, she argues, and defends her right to speak bluntly. “I have taken an enormous risk by answering the call for self-reflection,” Hirsi Ali has said, in response to critics who find her tone abrasive. “I have been convinced more than ever that I must say it in my way only and have my criticism.” There is no denying that her words are brave. Whether they are persuasive is another matter. [Read the review here.]
Or read the New York Times review here.
And/or the review in The Humanist here.