I just finished reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested at all in learning more about Islam and the struggle of Muslim women.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up a Muslim, living in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya before she finally escaped to Europe in her early twenties. The first half of the book talks about what life was like living in Muslim countries – especially for women. Ali was a strong believer in Islam, even learning with the Muslim Brotherhood for a time before she began questioning why women were not treated equally if Allah was so just. She would often ask questions of her elders, but the answers never seemed, to Ali, to be based in reason.

Ali spent many years searching for answers before her father arranged her marriage to a Canadian man. Ali tried to get out of the marriage but her father wouldn’t allow it. At the time it was difficult to get a visa to Canada because of the civil war in Somalia so Ali was sent to Germany, where it was safe, to await her visa. While there she decided to run away to Holland, a country she knew to be sympathetic to refugees. There she began truly to believe that women should be treated equally, and saw that it was possible. This began her struggle to bring to light the brutality of Islam on Muslim women. In the book she talks of her own excision (female genital mutilation, or circumcision). She also describes many other women and the struggles they faced as their countries broke down into civil wars.

Ali is one of the first women to have spoken out about these issues and her life has been legitimately threatened for it. A close friend of hers was murdered in broad daylight by an Islamic fundamentalist because he made a short film with Ali that depicted the plight of Muslim women. When the police arrived they found a letter stabbed into the director’s chest. It was addressed to Ali, saying she would be next.

Seriously, this book will help you to understand so much more about Islam, something I fear we are all a little ignorant of, myself included. Also, if you want to check out the short film, Submission, you can find it here. It’s 10 minutes long though so be prepared. Ali explains the symbolism of the film in her book, but I think it would still be interesting without knowing exactly what she was trying to accomplish by creating it.