Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Just read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel. It's her autobiography. Very interesting, I highly recommend it.

Random facts from the book and thoughts about it:

- Ayaan's father, who promised her to a Canadian-Somali guy he just met, and who forced her to marry him, was in fact an unusually enlightened guy for his time and place: he forbade to circumcise his children (not that their grandma listened) and insisted that his daughters stay in school.

- Some of Saudi Arabia's customs are so medieval that even the Somalis arriving there think "eew, medieval".

- She does have a sex life in spite of being circumcised, or at least did (bodyguards outside the bedroom are probably bad for sex life), but then she did not have the most radical form of circumcision. Her description of the event itself, and of her first intercourse, are quite gruesome.

- She started getting death threats even before she became a politician, for speaking out on the position of women in Islam.

- She clearly has quite a bit of experimental spirit in her. One of the most hilarious moments in the book is when she is living in a refugee camp in Holland with some Ethiopian women as roommates. They urge her to stop using her headscarf, and she tells them that the men will go crazy and the buses will crash and there will be total disorder everywhere. They point out that there is a fair lot of women going around Holland without headscarves, and the buses not only don't crash, but even run on time. Ayaan decides to try it, goes out without the headscarf on (but takes it with her just in case), and notices that the world does not plunge into chaos, and men - even Muslim men - don't seem to react in any way. Later the same women take her to a swimming pool (in a swimsuit! with men around!) and nobody drowns, either.

- The concept of "real refugee" has a rather strong random element to it (I always knew that, but this book was a really good reminder). Ayaan Hirsi Ali lied quite a lot on her asylum application to get into Holland. I never had to lie, and had pretty much the most genuine refugee papers ever, and yet I was not even nearly in half as deep a shit as she was. Simply, for a variety of mostly-political reasons, various goverments cared for my people a lot more than for hers. Not that I find it particularly unfair - after all my people have been a lot less trouble to the receiving countries than hers - but I certainly won't be the one to throw stones at her for lying.

- I can see why she doesn't want to do politics anymore. She is very blunt and plain-spoken, and subtlety is not one of her virtues. You can almost hear her roll her eyes when somebody says something politically correct.

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