There is a pretty wicked windstorm brewing outside, so it’s really been the perfect day to stay inside and catch up on some reading. I finished Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Nomad today and thought that I should post about it while it’s still fresh in my head and so that I don’t forget to post about it at all.
Earlier this week I mentioned that I wasn’t ready to discuss my impressions of the book since I had only read about 40 pages. I’m still not completely sure what I thought about the book to be honest but I believe that Hirsi Ali’s aim was to begin a dialogue and she’s certainly done that.
I was expecting Nomad to be more like her first book, Infidel. I thought that there would be more personal stories about her journey to the States after she left the Netherlands a few years ago, more discussion of some of the reasons she left the country that had become her home after she fled from her family and their religion.
Instead, the book was more a collection of stories of her family and essays about the evils of Islamic indoctrination. The stories were used to illustrate the plight of Muslim women and how their religion is oppressing them, generation after generation, even in the West.
I found that I was uncomfortable at times as she called me out, as an educated, free Western woman, for not recognizing the difficulties and inherent dangers experienced by Muslim women even in my community. As a Canadian, I’ve always been taught that the cultures and religions of those coming to Canada to seek a new world, enrich us as a nation, allowing us to live in a glorious multicultural mosaic even as I can see that this attitude has ensured cultural and linguistic ghettoes.
This one quote really summed it up for me:
In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn’t translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance and abuse.
Hirsi Ali is blunt about her feelings towards Islam and she has horrifying experiences and stories of her own as well as those of the women she has encountered in her life and work as a translator in the Netherlands, to back up her critique. A lot of critics of Islam don’t have these experiences to draw from and their arguments end up sounding xenophobic and racist. While her staunch criticism and unapologetic writings made me uncomfortable, I found that a lot of what she was saying, a lot of the stories she was telling, were familiar to me.
I’m still not completely sure how I felt about this book, but I’m glad that I read it. If nothing else, her experiences remind me how truly precious my professional and personal freedoms are. And I guarantee that this book and her message stay with me for a long while.
If you want to find out more about Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her work to help protect and defend the rights of all women, I suggest that you visit her foundation’s website here.