I just finished reading the memoirs of Dutch feminist activist and politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I found it honest, refreshing, and very bold. This is not a review of the book, and my thoughts appear in no particular order. This is just a compilation of how I felt when I was reading this book.
I find that Hirsi Ali is completely honest about her feelings about Islam, even at great risk to her life. She has been accused by many of being neocon in the garb of feminism, but some of her questions strike a very deep chord in my heart, as a reader, as a feminist, and as a woman. Her repeated questioning of the logic behind obviously unfair practices such as segregation, veiling, and the demand for complete obedience of wife to husband stay relevant in contemporary, non-Islamic cultures as well. If God (whatever name you choose to give him) is indeed merciful and compassionate, why would he demand that women submit at the cost of their self-respect, their individualism and sometimes even their life? We have no answers.
Hirsi Ali’s account of her genital cutting when she was six is cold, detached and dispassionate. She almost sounds like she is narrating something that happened to someone else. And that makes it even more chilling. The idea of FGM is so repulsive, so depressing and so utterly cruel that you can’t help but develop respect for a woman who has made it through it all and is now fighting for women’s rights. Her turning away from Islam, and questioning the very existence of God is entirely understandable, even if you don’t agree with her. Maybe, just maybe, I would have been atheist too, had I been so brutally cut in the name of religion, and made to marry a stranger without even my presence being required to solemnise my wedding.
Finally, her struggles, against men, against the religion which demands nothing but submission, against forced marriage, against female genital mutilation and for women’s rights make us respect her immensely for the work she has done so far. As for the book, it is definitely worth reading for the many insights it provides on the wide variations in the practice of Islam, on the increasing influence of the orthodox Brotherhood and the political climate in the Somalian peninsula. Read it! You won’t regret.