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One November morning in 2004, Theo van Gogh got up to go to work at his film production company in Amsterdam. He took out his old black bicycle and headed down a main road. Waiting in a doorway was a Moroccan man with a handgun and two butcher knives.

As Theo cycled down the Linnaeusstraat, Muhammad Bouyeri approached. He pulled out his gun and shot Theo several times. Theo fell off his bike and lurched across the road, then collapsed. Bouyeri followed. Theo begged, "Can't we talk about this?" but Bouyeri shot him four more times. Then he took out one of his butcher knives and sawed into Theo's throat. With the other knife, he stabbed a five-page letter onto Theo's chest.

The letter was addressed to me.

Two months before, Theo and I had made a short film together. We called it Submission, Part 1. I intended one day to make Part 2. (Theo warned me that he would work on Part 2 only if I accepted some humor in it!) Part 1 was about defiance — about Muslim women who shift from total submission to God to a dialogue with their deity. They pray, but instead of casting down their eyes, these women look up, at Allah, with the words of the Quran tattooed on their skin. They tell Him honestly that if submission to Him brings them so much misery, and He remains silent, they may stop submitting.

There is the woman who is flogged for committing adultery; another who is given in marriage to a man she loathes; another who is beaten by her husband on a regular basis; and another who is shunned by her father when he learns that his brother raped her. Each abuse is justified by the perpetrators in the name of God, citing the Quran verses now written on the bodies of the women. These women stand for hundreds of thousands of Muslim women around the world.

Theo and I knew it was a dangerous film to make. But Theo was a valiant man — he was a warrior, however unlikely that might seem. He was also very Dutch, and no nation in the world is more deeply attached to freedom of expression than the Dutch. The suggestion that he remove his name from the film's credits for security reasons made Theo angry. He told me once, "If I can't put my name on my own film, in Holland, then Holland isn't Holland any more, and I am not me."

People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no: I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.

This is the story of my life. It is a subjective record of my own personal memories, as close to accurate as I can make them; my relationship with the rest of my family has been so fractured that I cannot now refresh these recollections by asking them for help. It is the story of what I have experienced, what I've seen, and why I think the way I do. I've come to see that it is useful, and maybe even important, to tell this story. I want to make a few things clear, set a certain number of records straight, and also tell people about another kind of world and what it's really like.

I was born in Somalia. I grew up in Somalia, in Saudi Arabia, in Ethiopia, and in Kenya. I came to Europe in 1992, when I was twenty-two, and became a member of Parliament in Holland. I made a movie with Theo, and now I live with bodyguards and armored cars. In April 2006 a Dutch court ordered that I leave my safe-home that I was renting from the State. The judge concluded that my neighbors had a right to argue that they felt unsafe because of my presence in the building. I had already decided to move to the United States before the debate surrounding my Dutch citizenship erupted.

This book is dedicated to my family, and also to the millions and millions of Muslim women who have had to submit.

Copyright © 2007 by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Alice Charkes, January 7, 2013 (view all comments by Alice Charkes)
I was fascinated to learn about this author's upbringing and the meaning of living as a devout Moslem. It was horrifying to see how lowly women are esteemed in that religion, and just as shocking to read about the author's passage to moral, religious, political, and intellectual freedom from childhood to adulthood. A must read!
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Christin, August 13, 2012 (view all comments by Christin)
Wow! Ayaan is an amazing lady! Her courage and determination is incredible. Reading her life story makes me so grateful to have been born when and where I was. It would be nice to think that I could have done the same as her, faced with the challenges she was, but in all honesty I think I would have crumbled. She has a lot of important things to say about very complex issues facing society today.

Highly recommended!
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Judy Thorgeirsson, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Judy Thorgeirsson)
I really enjoyed this book because it told of a young woman's struggle in the Islamic culture and her steadfastness to pursue her own ideas. It is a true story and shows how one woman survived and overcame the male dominated society of Islam.
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Product Details

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan
Free Press
Foreword by:
Hitchens, Christopher
Hitchens, Christopher
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
General Biography
Personal Memoirs
Biography - General
niall ferguson; ayaan hirsi ali submission; ayaan hirsi ali biography; ayaan hirsi ali memoir; ayaan hirsi ali quotes; muslim; muslim dutch parliament; theo van gogh; christopher hitchens; caged virgin; american enterprise institute; anders breivik; ayaan
niall ferguson; ayaan hirsi ali submission; ayaan hirsi ali biography; ayaan hirsi ali memoir; ayaan hirsi ali quotes; muslim; muslim dutch parliament; theo van gogh; christopher hitchens; caged virgin; american enterprise institute; anders breivik; ayaan
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.44 x 5.5 in 12.285 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Political
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Africa » Somalia
History and Social Science » Feminist Studies » World Feminism
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » International Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Africa

Infidel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 384 pages Free Press - English 9780743289696 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Ali's memoir Infidel reveals an extraordinary woman who survived a harrowing early life, fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage, and was elected to that country's Parliament before death threats landed her under 24-hour guard. Not every reader will agree with her political and religious positions, but her intelligence, resilience, and courage are inspiring. I was deeply moved by her response, near the end of the book, to questions of what it is like to live with death threats. She recites her many brushes with death, from the moment of her birth onward, and concludes, "Even with bodyguards and death threats I feel privileged to be alive and free." It is to her credit that she dedicated herself to bringing that freedom to other oppressed women.

"Synopsis" by , Ayaan Hirsi Ali captured the world's attention with Infidel, her coming-of-age memoir, which spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of today's most admired and controversial political figures. She burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened she would be next; and she made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and forced to resign from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished--and sometimes reviled--political superstar and champion of free speech--the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female circumcision, brutal beatings, an adolescence as a devout believer, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four countries under dictatorships. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam, earning her the enmity of reactionary Islamists and craven politicians.

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