Synopses & Reviews
Muslims who explore sources of morality other than Islam are threatened with death, and Muslim women who escape the virgins' cage are branded whores. So asserts Ayaan Hirsi Ali's profound meditation on Islam and the role of women, the rights of the individual, the roots of fanaticism, and Western policies toward Islamic countries and immigrant communities. Hard-hitting, outspoken, and controversial, The Caged Virgin
is a call to arms for the emancipation of women from a brutal religious and cultural oppression and from an outdated cult of virginity. It is a defiant call for clear thinking and for an Islamic Enlightenment. But it is also the courageous story of how Hirsi Ali herself fought back against everyone who tried to force her to submit to a traditional Muslim woman's life and how she became a voice of reform.
Born in Somalia and raised Muslim, but outraged by her religion's hostility toward women, Hirsi Ali escaped an arranged marriage to a distant relative and fled to the Netherlands. There, she learned Dutch, worked as an interpreter in abortion clinics and shelters for battered women, earned a college degree, and started a career in politics as a Dutch parliamentarian. In November 2004, the violent murder on an Amsterdam street of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, with whom Hirsi Ali had written a film about women and Islam called Submission, changed her life. Threatened by the same group that slew van Gogh, Hirsi Ali now has round-the-clock protection, but has not allowed these circumstances to compromise her fierce criticism of the treatment of Muslim women, of Islamic governments' attempts to silence any questioning of their traditions, and of Western governments' blind tolerance of practices such as genital mutilation and forced marriages of female minors occurring in their countries.
Hirsi Ali relates her experiences as a Muslim woman so that oppressed Muslim women can take heart and seek their own liberation. Drawing on her love of reason and the Enlightenment philosophers on whose principles democracy was founded, she presents her firsthand knowledge of the Islamic worldview and advises Westerners how best to address the great divide that currently exists between the West and Islamic nations and between Muslim immigrants and their adopted countries.
An international bestseller with updated information for American readers and two new essays added for this edition The Caged Virgin is a compelling, courageous, eye-opening work.
"At certain moments in cultural history, a particular book or pamphlet...catches fire by taking a spark already burning in people's hearts and minds and setting it ablaze on the printed page. The Caged Virgin is such a book. We live in such a moment." Philadelphia Inquirer
"If her voice has some effect on leading the Western left back to its tradition of standing against racism, sexism and fascism, then Muslims will not be the only people she has emancipated." Newsday
"Contemporary and controversial, Ali castigates extremists who emphasize virginity to the point of violence and the failure of some muslims to self-criticize." Library Journal
“Amirpur’s masterful work on Islamic reform is an excellent exposition of the ideas and intellectual legacy of notable Muslim scholars who have made the Qur’an central to their understanding of Islam and the need for reform. The richness of the diverse concepts and ideas contained in this volume is worthy of exploration for those interested in the study of Islam and the importance of the Qur’an in modern Islamic thought. Amirpur offers a thoughtful and erudite examination of the nexus between modernity, the Western philosophical tradition, and Islam, particularly the Qur’an, within the ideological framework of some of Islam’s most creative modern scholars. Accessible to both scholars and non-specialists, New Thinking in Islam
is recommended reading for anyone concerned with understanding the context and legacy of critical contemporary Muslim thought and the Muslim intellectual engagement with modernity and reform.”
“A well-crafted and deeply engaging book that captures the nuances and sophistication of recent reformist Islamic thought. Amirpur offers an insightful and accessible account of the lives and contributions of key intellectuals, focusing on their novel approaches to the Qur’an. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the contemporary Muslim world.”
A world-renowned activist and feminist pulls no punches in her efforts to reform Islam in this international bestseller, available for the first time in English.
In Re-thinking Islam, Katajun Amirpur argues that the impression we have of Islam as a backward-looking faith resistant to the ideas of Enlightenment thinking is false. Amirpur introduces us to the Farsi term nouandishi-ye eslami (New Islamic Thinking) and to influential reformers who are committed to democracy and human rights. The free-thinking Egyptian Quran scholar Abu Zaid, the academic Abdolkarim Soroush, a former member of Khomeinis Cultural Revolution Committee, and the American feminist Amina Wadud, who was the first woman to lead the faithful in Friday Prayer, all refute the idea that there is one true, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Instead they call for greater freedom and equality of the sexes. By examining the ideas of these thinkers, Amirpur shows breadth and diversity of Islam as a multi-dimensional faith.
In Rethinking Islam, Katajun Amirpur argues that the West’s impression of Islam as a backward-looking faith, resistant to post-Enlightenment thinking, is misleading and—due to its effects on political discourse—damaging. Introducing readers to key thinkers and activists—such as Abu Zaid, a free-thinking Egyptian Qur’an scholar; Abdolkarim Soroush, an academic and former member of Khomeini’s Cultural Revolution Committee; and Amina Wadud, an American feminist who was the first woman to lead the faithful in Friday Prayer—Amirpur reveals a powerful yet lesser-known tradition of inquiry and dissent within Islam, one that is committed to democracy and human rights. By examining these and many other similar figures’ ideas, she reveals the many ways they reject fundamentalist assertions and instead call for a diversity of opinion, greater freedom, and equality of the sexes.
About the Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, was raised Muslim, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa and Saudi Arabia. In 1992, Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands as a refugee. She earned her college degree in political science and worked for the Dutch Labor party. She denounced Islam after the September 11 terrorist attacks and now serves as a Dutch parliamentarian, fighting for the rights of Muslim women in Europe, the enlightenment of Islam, and security in the West.
Table of Contents
Preface: Breaking Through the Islamic Curtain
1 Stand Up for Your Rights!: Women in Islam
2 Why Can't We Take a Critical Look at Ourselves?
3 The Virgins' Cage
4 Let Us Have a Voltaire
5 What Went Wrong?: A Modern Clash of Cultures
6 A Brief Personal History of My Emancipation
7 Being a Politician Is Not My Ideal
8 Bin Laden's Nightmare: Interview with Irshad Manji
9 Freedom Requires Constant Vigilance
10 Four Women's Lives
11 How to Deal with Domestic Violence More Effectively
12 Genital Mutilation Must Not Be Tolerated
13 Ten Tips for Muslim Women Who Want to Leave
14 Submission: Part I
15 The Need for Self-Reflection Within Islam
16 Portrait of a Heroine as a Young Woman
17 A Call for Clear Thinking