“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” — Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I just finished “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  A good friend mailed this book to me with a sticky note stuck to the jacket which said “intense read!”  It was.  Ali ran away from Somalia to the Netherlands to escape Islam and its culture.  She later became a member of the Netherland’s parliament in order to help Islamic women who had immigrated to the Netherlands.   Her life both in Somalia and in the Netherlands has been tumultuous.  The one premise of the book is that, until Muslim countries give full rights to women, they will never be leaders among nations.

In looking back at my reading history, it was Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy that began my haphazard study of Islam and women.  The treatment of women in these books was a main theme throughout. Before reading Mahfouz’s book, I had no idea what Muslim family life was like nor that of Muslim women.

Between the writings of the Cairo Trilogy and “Infidel,” other books have pushed and pulled me to learn more about these women’s lives.  Having come from our society, much of what I read was unbelievable and horrific.  There was “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Åsne Seierstad – nonfiction – in which women were used and ignored.  (Interesting that this writer is Norwegian after the terrible anti-Islamic shootings recently occurred in that country.)  In Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” Afghani women end up in arranged marriages from my worst nightmares.   The Iranian writer Azar Nafisi writes about her life as an English professor in “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and shows us young women fighting, each in her own way, to elevate the female position in the very repressive Iranian society.

So back to “Infidel.”  Ali is initially positive about the Netherland’s open treatment of Muslim immigrants, but she sees these immigrants segregate themselves within the larger society and continue their restrictive behavior towards their women.  She begins speaking around the country and is branded as a right winger when she espouses more regulation to help the women escape such practices as arranged marriages for child brides, female circumcision, and wife beating.

  • In open societies like the Netherlands and the US we want everyone to live as they wish, but how far can that go?
  • Have the books that I mention above given us the true picture of women in Islam?
  • What have you read along these lines?
  • What are your thoughts?

~ Reluctant Blogger

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