Past Meetup

February Book Club Meeting: "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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HFSD is continuing the book club with a recent bestseller that is a damning attack on Islam and in particular, how Islam oppresses women. Yes, we will meet on March 1st, but we'll consider this our February meeting since February is a short month.

One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, author Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her secular beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter and atheist. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.

About Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (born 13 November 1969) is a Somali-born American (formerly Dutch) feminist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist) and atheist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheist) activist, writer and politician who is known for her views critical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Islam) of female genital mutilation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation) and Islam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam). She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Gogh_(film_director))'s movie Submission (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submission_(2004_film)), after which she and the director both received death threats, and the director was assassinated. The daughter of the Somali politician and opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsi_Magan_Isse), she is a founder of the women's rights organization The AHA Foundation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AHA_Foundation).

When she was eight, Hirsi Ali's family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia), then Ethiopia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopia), and eventually settled in Kenya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya). She sought and obtained political asylum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_asylum) in the Netherlands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands) in 1992, under circumstances that later became the center of a political controversy. In 2003, she was elected a member of the House of Representatives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Representatives_of_the_Netherlands) (the lower house (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_house) of the Dutch parliament (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_parliament)), representing the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Party_for_Freedom_and_Democracy) (VVD). A political crisis surrounding the potential stripping of her Dutch citizenship led to her resignation from the parliament, and led indirectly to the fall of the second Balkenende cabinet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands_cabinet_Balkenende-2) in 2006.

In 2005, Hirsi Ali was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_100). She has also received several awards, including a free speech award from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten), the Swedish Liberal Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_People%27s_Party_(Sweden))'s Democracy Prize, and the Moral Courage Award for commitment to conflict resolution, ethics, and world citizenship. In 2006, she published a memoir. The English translation (2007) is titled Infidel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidel_(book)).

As of 2013 Hirsi Ali is a fellow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellow) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_School_of_Government), a member of the The Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center, and lives in the United States. She is married to British historian and public commentator Niall Ferguson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niall_Ferguson) and became a naturalized citizen of the United States on April 25, 2013.