Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Name Is Iran

Nope, not my name! It's another book I've read for my ISU. This time around, I was not organized as I was with Infidel. Although I didn't do a page-by-page log for that novel, but after reading it through once, I was still able to retain information and locate the quotes that I had wanted with quite ease. Ardalan's was a bit hard, as the flow was not as coherent as Hirsi Ali's. In terms of writing style, I was more comfortable with Hirsi Ali's. Hirsi was also more fiery when it came to her arguments, and her experiences were told in a matter-of-fact morbid recollections and sometimes an angry tone. Ardalan's was more affectionate and romanticized, and although she went through an internal turmoil, it had less of the articulated severity in comparison with Hirsi Ali. It was quite docile and almost akin to Nafisi's Reading Lolita. (I started reading a few chapters and I just couldn't bear with the flowery language).

Basically, the book is an autobiography of Iran Davar Ardalan. 1/3 of it was about her mom and her grandmother. In Infidel, although there was a brief family history description, but the bulk of her book was about her life experiences, which was why I found that she optimized her writings to elaborate more on the internal conflicts and criticism. Iran is more centered on appreciation of heritage and Islam is treated more like a cultural heritage than a choice religion. The book does not really talk about Islam in its essence, but rather as a culture. It does not really explore the rights of women in Islam. Another problem I have is the fact that the Islam described here is not contemporary Islam, but Sufism and Shiites, which I don't think reflect the majority of muslims in the world. I don't know. I stand corrected.

However, Iran was lucky that she didn't fully blame it on the religion, but rather the conduct of it, but she didn't really go into the details. She just got tired of it and fled for the US for a new life. In the middle of the book, she did show promise when writing about her internal conflict when she made the decision to leave Iran, but after that, hmm... She did mention influential figures in Iran's Muslim Feminist movements like Nafisi, Ebadi and all. I would say Iran is not entirely all bad, it would still do for a Feminist-related thesis, but to compare it with Infidel, Iran definitely has a mellower voice. Not strong enough to be pitted against Hirsi Ali. It does not really "clash".

The two did went through failed marriages and a phase of becoming devout muslims, but later found frustration and retreated to the West. The difference between Hirsi Ali and Iran was basically the way they were brought up. Iran was brought up a secular muslim and exposed to the Western culture, whereas Hirsi Ali was only exposed to Western culture as an adult. When Ardalan described her family life, I was reminded of the Muslim American woman who won an American beauty pageant contest a while ago, I forgot her name. She was raised in a family practicing both Islam and Christianity, similar to Iran.

I can't actually make a complete log like I did with Infidel because I don't have a whole day to compile the excerpts and put it in my blog and I didn't retain the information in my head to relocate those excerpts. But so far, this is what I thought of the book.

I now have Amina Wadud's Inside The Gender Jihad and Reading Lolita In Tehran to read, which I don't know when will I find the time to do so, and I have to do my homework on Iran revolution, Sufism, Shiite muslims, Muslim Brotherhood, Somalia revolution, just to get an idea of the background of the time settings for both Infidel and Iran.

Okay, so still. Not a confirmed decision yet.

Back to work.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Ayaan's Infidel feels so personal

I wrote this a while back also:

As always, religion has ALWAYS been an issue with me. Well, not because I am denying the notion of the human need to have a religion, but it's about the way I think or I see things is...unconventional.

I know I don't have a "religious" family, they never bug me to pray and what not, but they're not freethinkers either, I think.

I am very much aware that I lack religious knowledge (despite the fact that I almost always get A's on my Agama) and religion is only implemented loosely. Don't take it the wrong way, they do teach me morals, like what's right and wrong to the extent that I am almost overprotected. And I assure you, I don't go around rubbing boys' arses, mind you.

But due to bad experiences with supposedly "religious" people, I become hard-hearted and ironically prejudiced to this group of people. I can't help it. Sometimes, you just can't get along with certain people. As acquaintances, colleges, yeah, maybe you'd swallow your ego, but as a friend, a bosom buddy, a life partner? oh no...

I don't wear a tudung during primary school, and no, I don't pray, and I don't go to Sekolah Agama (it's a school where you go to during after school sessions to learn about fekah, and stuff like that) and I speak in English all the time because I'm so influenced by the American cartoons and I read storybooks and my parents insist that I speak and write in proper English. To these people, I'm weird. I've been weird for like, forever, I don't know whether it's my upbringing, or my destiny, or my environment (this seems least likely) or am I inherently weird.

And just because I don't wear a tudung, I don't pray, I don't go to Sekolah Agama, all those Ustaz and Ustazah see me as a problematic kid. The fact that I speak English is also another reason why they think I am so "distant" from God because they equate English to Christians and infidels. I get teased at, yes, by my fellow friends too because they all go to Sekolah Agama. (I think I'm jinxed because I always end up in a 100% Malay batch. Thank God, I'm in Taylor's now). And yeah, most of them including the Ustaz and Ustazah are not that proficient in English. These people also keep freaking me out with "oh, you're going to go to hell if you don't wear tudung."

In Standard Two, I started writing stories featuring foreign characters. I have never used a local name in my stories in primary school, which further led these people to believe that I idolize Western figures, and their religion. How close-minded these people are. I was treated like I was a traitor to my own race and an infidel. I admit, sometimes I hated being a Malay, I thought that they were the lamest race around. Whoa! Hold your horses, don't shoot me for lack of nationalism yet. I had always dreamed to go overseas since my parents were overseas graduates as well. I planned to go to the US and never return, because I thought that Malaysia sucked pretty bad. Hey, I was in Primary School!

Then, I went to Faris Petra, which is like an ultra-Malay community. I started questioning about God, about why was I born a Muslim, what if I were born with some other religion. Like, I didn't want to be a Muslim only because I was born a Muslim, I want to be a Muslim because I CHOOSE to be a Muslim. Some people took it the wrong way and thought that I was planning to convert to another religion or something. The fact that those people spread rumors that my mom was a convert and she divorced my dad to revert to her previous religion did little to help my reputation. I actually got sent for counselling. I was treated like a potential murtad or something. Yes, I had a few discipline cases since Form 1 that I didn't pray and stuff like that. I get called to the warden's room to write statements and confession letters and stuff like that.

So, the question of God and why was I a Muslim just died there and then, I try my best to follow the religious teachings there, but I was still being my rebellious self as usual. I did the wajib ones, but the sunat ones I didn't do. However, I did find myself enjoying reading the Quran. I khatam-ed it on my own, but only once, and that was in Form 1. Reading the Quran gave me solace. I don't understand a thing what I was reading, but somehow, the sound of the recitations and how those hurufs just roll of my tongue, it felt good, it made me feel closer to God than prayer ever did. I had it in me then, that I wanted to be "good".

I never actually stuck wearing tudung until I was in Form 4, maybe the end of Form 3. The tudung still came off when I play golf. But out of all my siblings, I actually stuck with the tudung, because I have always been bogeyman-ed (is there such a term?) that not wearing tudung will send you to hell. In Form Two I had this crisis which left me confused and challenged my morals. That was when I found out that societal morals may not necessarily align to the morals you're brought up with.

Early in the year, I told a friend about my religious predicament, not praying and all that. I was touched because HE CRIED. He said he didn't want me to go to hell. I've never even given a damn about myself and here is someone who cried about my potential afterlife. It got me thinking, but I didn't think about it much back then.

By the end of Form 2, I had the rebellious urge. It wasn't just some normal rebellious urge, I actually had the courage and craziness to be more vocal. Basically nothing much happened in terms of Religious crisis happened. But, in Form 4, Cikgu Mad had asked "Are you proud of being a Malay, if so, why?"

It got me thinking again. Obviously, when I first came to Faris, I had tried my best to resist Kelantanization, but to no avail, it stuck on, even now, and Kelantanese have proven to have the strongest nationalism spirit. hahaha. I did identify myself as a Malay, a Kelantanese Malay, yes, although my I/C stated my birthplace is in KL.

My perception of these religiously-upright people "softened" slightly as I see all these KISAS kids and SMAP Labu kids in English debate and they were REALLY good, which slammed my perception of "warak" people think English is evil and therefore incapable of English speech.

I entered a few essay competitions and read up about how the Malays have been progressing and I delved into political reading and I partly understand the nature of human beings,of politics, of character flaws, specifically in Malays and such. It made me hate certain qualities of being a Malay, but I came to terms with it, because my idol, Dr. M. was a Malay, and he has proven me wrong, unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the rest of my fellow Malays.

It just seems saddening to associate words such as subservient, close-mindedness, lemmings, laziness with my own race. It's typical stereotyping, but why do people stereotype in the first place? Because there is evidence that points that way. Okay, I think I've strayed from the actual topic of Religion, I got caught up in the chronology and how my thought process developed over the years.

In Form 4 and Form 5, I mostly complied to the religious teachings to stay out of trouble, but I still got myself into trouble, a different kind of trouble, but I will not elaborate.

---crap! I've spent hours on doing this post! I kept getting distracted by Facebook-----

Oh yeah, and due to my lack of "warak-ness", I am completely useless as authority in the masjid, i.e. to shut the kids up. I used to do all sorts of stuff as well in the masjid, but towards the end, I actually found peace in masjids, and I actually miss it now because I concentrate on my prayer better when I'm at the masjid.

Exit High School. Enter Taylor's College.

I think a lot about religion. About what's wrong what's right. What was taught. How I was brought up and how my environment was. My morals, my standings, the society.

I meet all sorts of people. During my school days, they seem to have drilled in my head that not covering your hair is wrong and girls who don't cover up are bad, go parties, has zero religious knowledge and sleep around. Then, it surprised me and returned me to my senses to NOT be judgmental of people. These girls are not all bad, not as what these people usually say.

I'm not being delusional here. People think that these chicks ditch the tudung because they don't want to. Actually they do want to put it on, but you know how when you have a crush on a guy but you just hold yourself back from saying "hi" to him? Okay, maybe thats not a good analogy, but there has to be a reason why they are holding back. Maybe it's the way they were brought up? Or the way they were approached when told to cover up? The thing is, there are many variables which you can't control, it's not one-dimensional, it's not as simple as she's not doing it because she doesn't want to. It's not as easy as that. You have to take into consideration of not only the environment, not only the upbringing, but you must also know that human beings have different thought processes.

I know I tend to generalize, but it's actually not as easy as that.

Then, there came the aurat debate, whether or not one should cover one's head. I was exposed to the different views of how religion can be interpreted. It opened my eyes to how myopic my interpretation of religion was in my school days, that I have obeyed for five whole years despite my upbringing. Not to say that all of it was bad, no, but I have assimilated it with my new findings and I filter it, taking in what I think feels right to my moral and fundamental understanding of my religion.

I was brought up in school that all these alim people's words were law, and those who go against it are like infidels, refusing to comply to religious obligations. And as I grew up, I lost my innocence, as explained in the previous post, not all values match up. Even those that appear to be "good" may not be good, and people are oblivious to this, because we are all so hell bent on following rules blindly without thinking whether it was right or wrong. I met many muslims with different standings on their religion and I finally get the chance to mix around with non-Malays.

So, anyway, to conclude (I have been spending two days on this post alone=.="), my stand on religion:

1. My first source is the Quran when it comes to interpreting commandments, then comes the sunnah. I demand the sunnahs are strong sunnahs.
2. I believe in rationalizing religious obligations based on the purpose of the obligation in the first place instead of merely "oh, because the Quran says so." In this way, I understand the reason why I'm doing all those religious obligations, instead of just blindly following it.
3. I see religion from its fundamentals instead of from one ulama's interpretation of it.
4. I believe that my religion is not restricting and flexible. Meaning, I can accept any interpretation of the religion as long as it does not stray from what is stated in the Quran or sunnah.
5. I definitely don't want to be one of those Muslim extremists.
6. I believe that God encourages us to question, even religion, so that we further explore religion in depth in order to reach a deeper understanding of the religion. So, that is why I love debates on religious issues.
7. I am interested in comparative religion and interfaith dialogues. I see it no harm to study other religions.
8. I approach a religious issue logically and from the perspective of the current situation we live in and compare it with what the Quran says, whether it is applicable or not.

oh, and regarding a few issues, these are my stand:

1. I'd prefer a girl who does not cover her head but dress decently instead of a girl who wears a head cover but I can trace out her shape.
2. I don't believe in conspiracy theories to fuel hate towards other people or other nations. Violence is never an answer (although I can be quite violent sometimes, but that's just my anger taking over).
3. "Tudung Rahib" or so they call it are okay as long as it covers what is needed to be covered.
4. Tudung labuh tu tak perlu if you already cover what is needed to be covered. If you nak pakai, ikut suka hati, but don't force me to wear it.
5. I don't believe in race or religion superiority.

I guess that's about it, I suppose, I'll just add on if I remember anymore. Facebook has disrupted my train of thoughts once again!

I wrote this a while back

When did I start wearing my hijab?

Okay, I was pressured to wear it when I was in Primary School by the Ustazahs. And since I didn't go to Sekolah Agama like everybody else did, they had every reason to believe that there was something wrong with me. I remember coming back home telling my mum that if I don't wear my tudung I'll burn in hell.

My mom was totally against it, she'd said that I was too young and that it'd be hot, and it's not right for the ustazahs to force me to wear tudung. In Standard 5, they had this class nasyid performance thing. By Standard 5, most of my friends have all adopted the headcover. I didn't want to participate at first, I was the only one who didn't want to participate at that time, but after much coaxing from my class ustazah, so, okay, fine, I joined. One day when we were practicing, there's this ustaz who pointed out that I wasn't wearing one quite harshly. Well, I was a kid, I kinda cried. I didn't remember whether I still participated or not after that.

In Standard 6, we had Yassin readings in the morning before class, so I wore tudung la, then I took it off when it felt hot. Even before that during my Quran recitation lessons, I donned the headcover, only for the sake of that, then I took it off.

I have to admit, I was kind of ashamed of how my hair looked in Standard 4, it was quite damaged, and people were teasing me about it and I had wanted to cover my head because of that. I wasn't aware that my niat was wrong because I only saw it as a piece of clothing.

So, in Form 1, the head cover was made compulsory to all female muslim students. And I have to admitla, I don't pray. Even since Primary School. I only prayed when they told me to. Like, it was in the school schedule for Asar prayers, so, I only prayed those prayers that was scheduled in school hours.

Then, I went to Faris Petra. I got into big trouble because I didn't pray. So, I should say that 90% prayers were fulfilled in Faris, although some of it was not quite on time, and I was quite late, but when I came home, I stopped praying again. I tried praying at home, but there was always something that prevented me to be istiqamah. My head cover was still on and off. When I came home or played golf, it came off. Even at the dormitory corridors, although it was facing the road and the masjid, I wouldn't cover my head.

It was in Form 4, I think I stuck with my head cover, only because I got used to it, and it was like a rule, and I knew how to wear it. Honestly, I didn't even know how to wear it when I was in Form 1. Heck, I didn't even bother to iron it. That just goes to show how unbothered I was with wearing it properly.

In Form 1, I went to this kelas aliran agama for six months at a regular day school before going to Faris.
I had to learn Arab, kemahiran Al-Quran, hafal all those surahs (too bad I don't remember them now :( ), and my head cover had to be labuh. So, it was in Form 1. In Form 2, the girls taught me how to wear it properly, and the trend was making it short. So, I kinda chopped my head cover to make it short. In Faris, there is no limit to the length of head cover, well, the rules aren't in black and white anyway at that time.

So, it grew short because the girls wear it short, and I just ended up wearing the head cover anyway because "I was used to it", and I "felt naked" without it.

I hated wearing the head cover because well, I was brought up without it, and I was used to be brought up among people who covered up, but are not necessarily good. I thought that I didn't want to end up being people like that. But even when I didn't wear the head scarf, I didn't wear baby-T's, I mostly wore blouses and slacks.

But over the years of wearing it, I just thought, "okay, it's just clothing. It's not that hard after all." But I still wear it for the wrong reasons, I never thought that it actually symbolizes something, that it's more than just clothing.

And it brought me to question. I can so easily say that I am a muslim, yet, why don't I answer my God's call? Why do I still do all those wrongs, even though I know it is wrong? Why do I feel contented by it?

It's not that I don't try, I just keep falling back on myself. I experience frustration, then I just let it be. Why?

Then, there's this debate about aurat. I know that, I have been taught that you have to cover your hair. I know some people don't believe in that, their arguments were convincing, yet, I could not use their arguments against the hadis about Rasulullah telling Asma' to cover everything except her face and hands. I was in a dilemma. I knew that niqaab was more of a cultural thing than a commandment, but the hair..that's confusing..

That was the outer hijab. what about the inner hijab? I know checking out guys is not appropriate, so is swearing, but then again it's human nature. How can my religion deny an individual of his desires? There has to be a reason why right? I feel really bad about some of those things I think about, some of the things I do, but I wasn't sure whether it was wrong or right.

I decided to take a moderate stand on religion as a compromise between my "liberal" upbringing and principles, and the religious teachings.

Another thing that plunged me into this mess is the question of human rights, I believed in human rights, and I didn't want my religion to be seen as a form of oppression. I sometimes see my religion from an outsider's point of view, I know what sort of attacks and concerns and misconceptions they have on Islam, and I wanted to clear those, not only for the sake of my religion, but also for the sake of my faith, I wanted to truly believe that there is a reasoning for everything, and that it's not extreme.

So, I didn't want to be those "religious" people for those people, and because I had a fear of becoming self-righteous like them. I almost did. Well, wearing the head scarf made me judgmental. I know, I'm so pathetic right? Blaming my judgment on a piece of cloth.

I know all those reasons are so..pathetic, I could easily crush each one, yet, why am I still stopping myself because of those reasons? Why am I holding myself back.

Then, when I drew back from this hijab question. I looked at the bigger picture. The bigger problem was, I realized.

I didn't love God enough.

Have you ever thought about it? The reason why I keep falling back on myself, unable to be istiqamah, and not doing those things properly, not with the correct niat, it was all because I couldn't love God enough.

It's easy to say, oh, of course I love God. And it seems so easy to be angered when someone disses your religion, but when you think about it, where do you place your love of God among your love of clothes, or your love of music and all that? I can metaphorically "measure" my love of other things, but my love of God?

The fact that I never thought of him much when making my decisions, or do things, just goes to show that my love for him is not enough. There's this hadis or ayat that says that if you put love of other things before your love of God, it's as if you are making those other things your god.

I'm not saying that you should solely love God, but how do you love God more than anything else?

I have the answer to that. I think I do. The lack of love to God which stopped me from doing those obligations can be "remedied" by doing those obligations in the first place.

So, why am I still holding back?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Stuff To Think About

Reformation of Islam?

Last I've heard of it was during sejarah lessons about Islah movements by Syeikh (?) Muhammad Abduh and the lot of it.

After Infidel, there poses a question of whether or not there is a need to reform Islam.

Is it the reformation of Islam, or the reformation of Muslims?

In due course of this reformation, there is a debate regarding the reinterpretation of the Quran.

I've been watching some of these videos and I find them quite enlightening. I do wish there are more discussions such as these in my own classroom. The questions were also thought-provoking. I just wished that the questions or subject matter of religious discussions in classrooms were less politics oriented, which you may or may not have deep knowledge of what is going on. Why not take it to a more personal level on how you yourself evaluate your own interpretation of your religion?

Truth be told, I had wanted to become a devout Muslim, and once, my means of achieving that is following every single rule that is set for proper behaviour. After a while, it got tiring, because I had to scrutinize every single small details in my actions, which I think is not worth scrutinizing at all. Why should I burden myself with worries about whether or not my voice or the colorful clothing I wear causes arousal in men when I already know that in the Quran, it says that one aspect of modesty is covering my chest and lowering my gaze. It does not even say anything about colorful clothing. Whether or not you want to wear colorful clothing, that is up to you to decide. Why must you fuss over a small thing like that? Besides, every men have different opinions on what is arousing to them, and there is no way you can standardize a single dress code for Muslim women. As long as the way she dresses adheres to the verse in the Quran, then, it is fine. So, I took my decision to break free from the opinions of those people on how Muslim women should dress. I will do what I feel is right as long as it does not go against the Quran.

Another issue that helped me make that decision was the issue of relations between opposite sex. Sometimes, when you think too much about it, you start worrying, "was it wrong of me to start a chat on Facebook with my male friend?", "was it wrong to be courteous to the opposite sex?", "do innocent jokes with a guy friend lead to sex?". I feel restricted, as if everything led to sin. So, I decided as long as I take care of myself not to get involved in such things, I will be fine. There is nothing wrong in being friends with guys.

I've always thought "true" Islam was narrow, as what these people have always been harping on. That the ultimate state of Islam was this and you have to work hard to get there, but now, I've realized, it isn't.

These videos have a refreshing take on Islam, and if you do have the time to spare, please view all parts of it. Right to the end.

Girls, don't you just want to be like these women?

So, from what I gather, these are the issues that are being discussed in these videos.

1. Is there a need for the reinterpretation of Islam?
2. Who should do the reinterpreting? People who are qualified to do so, or the each and everyone of Muslims themselves?
3. Should ijtihad be permitted?

I'd like to note interesting points from Tariq Ramadan. He mentioned the importance of extracting principles, and that there is one Islam, but several interpretations of Islam, and some of these interpretations of Islam is acceptable.

So, Islam is not as narrow a religion as some people would perceive it is. Both Irshad Manji and Tariq Ramadan are in favour of ijtihad, of critical thinking, because in the Quran itself, there is room for that. As Irshad pointed out, there are three times more verses in the Quran that calls for the ummah to think than there are verses that tell the Muslims what is wrong and what is right. However, Dahlia Mogahed says that interpretations of irresponsible individuals was what caused these radical Islamic movements, because religion is used as a tool, an accessory for a political movement.

Islam is shumul, it is timeless, yes. But if we actually look at the principles behind those rulings, indeed it is. But if you look at the ruling itself, then, of course people say that it was culturally-based and stuck in the era of 7th century deserts. That is why Tariq Ramadan suggested the extracting of principles and applying a new model that is suited for this era that is adherent to the principles instead of merely copying the old model per se.

For example, hudud laws of the severing of hands or of stoning or public flogging. Why is it not carried out in all countries with Muslims in it? That is where masolih al-mursalah is taken into consideration. Islam is not rigid. It gives space for the ummah to carry out the rulings but with consideration of the situation they are in.

Let's look at the example of fasting in the Ramadan. There is no reason why you should not fast, unless if you're ill, old, etc. etc. There is still a flexibility to consider the "hukum" of whether or not it is wajib for a certain group of individuals. This shows that Islam is a very humane religion.

Another thing Tariq Ramadan pointed out is the fact that some Muslims consider asking questions as being defiant. I agree to this, so does Dalia and Irshad. Because we have always been taught that only a certain group of individuals with certain credentials were the only ones who have a right to say things about religion, and the rest were to obey them and blindly submit without further question. That is why when fatwas were issued, some Muslims confuse it with the actual obligations in Islam. They should be aware that fatwas are only legal opinions of these figures. You have a right whether to follow it or not.

As a conclusion, I do think we can interpret the Quran, because you can't exactly take the Quran literally, the rulings have to be matched to context, and Islam is flexible enough for this purpose, as long as you don't go against the tenets already clearly specified in the Quran. For example, you try to reinterpret the Quran so that you don't have to pray five times a day, now, that is impossible and it is deviant. But in terms of other aspects of life and "grey areas" in the Quran's explanations like governance and stuff like that, there is room for Muslims to use ijtihad or critical thinking to decide for themselves. The fact that the Quran allows this ijtihad already shows that it is timeless. The principles are timeless, but the ijtihad will ensure that the Quran can be adapted to suit the changing of times and different situations.

All in all, it has been a very good mind-stimulating activity so far this holiday.


This is, I suppose, a pre-examination of the novel I will be doing for my English ISU. A sort of reader-response critical approach, or a collection of quotes from the book, if you may call it so.

I've just finished reading it, and somehow, I don't believe in destinies (you know all those chosen one fairytale yaddyadda), although I do believe in fate, the selection of this novel felt "destined". I had given my shortlisted books to my lecturer and he had chosen this for me, and looking at the various questions I've had and my most recent posts both on my Facebook and Blog, somewhat relates to the questions Ayaan herself had in Infidel.

My first impression of the book was, yep, it was hard. Because the setting was in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Netherlands, which I have never read books with settings such as these. Britain and America made up my staple reading materials, and recently, I've just added a few titles from Indian writers to my list.

Feminism, was a relatively easy theme to take on for an ISU, my first choice had been something about existentialism, or a novel by V.S. Naipul, which my lecturer himself had said was challenging to analyse. I do enjoy taking up challenges once in a while. Even so, Feminism from an Islamic perspective also posed a different kind of challenge for me, because. It was personal.

And I was afraid that it'd get preachy.

It was very much personal. I went through an internal struggle of faith too. The morals I grew up with and the morals I was taught in school and the morals I acquired through experience may not always match up, and there will always be incidences that drives you to question your own stance, it just depends on how well the attacks were argued or how solid their evidences was. This sometimes forces you to reevaluate yourself. It can be both a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you react to it. You might come out of it stronger in your own convictions, or your whole stand could easily disintegrate with that single question.

The title of the book itself, 'Infidel', felt very personal to me. I've had childhood experiences of people calling me an Infidel for questioning faith. Had they not known that I was still young at that time, and there were things that I can't yet comprehend at that age? What was wrong with asking questions and wanting to become a Muslim because I WANTED TO and not just because I was born one? I had sometimes wondered what if I were born with some other religion, would I have chosen to become a Muslim? I understood that the Muallafs were better practicing Muslims because they CHOSE to be Muslims, they knew what was like not to be one, compared to those who were already born a Muslim. Of course, I was shunned for asking such a question.

There are two parts in the book itself, the first part was her childhood experiences, being raised as a Muslim, in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. The opening chapter was about family ties. Each of the chapters were cleverly arranged and titled, so there was a clear timeline and plot, and you sort of remembered what significant event happened in the chapter. Emphasizing on family ties in the beginning chapter shows how important and central was the family to her life, because it was a part of Ayaan's journey to finding her identity. In the end, she severed ties with the whole clan, despite having emphasized the importance of learning her lineage from the very beginning of the novel. The Somalis lived in a system of clans, and it was considered as an identification card wherever you go, if you seek help, you are most likely to find a person of the same clan.

She described the prominent female figures, her mother and grandmother as strong women. Women who could care for themselves. Family pride was everything to them, and they were all about being strong. "If you were weak, people would speak ill of you. If your thorn fences were not strong enough, your animals would be raided by lions, foxes, hyenas, your husband would marry another, your daughters' virginity stolen and your sons seen as worthless." (8). Her grandmother taught her survival skills. To be raped was disgraceful.

Ayaan's mother set out on her own as an independent woman to move away from their home in Mogadishu to live in Aden, pursuing her dreams, which was unheard of, at that time. She married the man her family had matched her with, but soon after defied the family and divorced (which was spiteful in their tradition), marrying the man of her choice, a politician, Ayaan's father. This was unheard of in their culture, because girls would be married off to men that the clan had chosen.

" ..as a woman you are better off in life earning your own money. You couldn't prevent your husband from leaving you or taking another wife, but you could save some of your dignity if you don't have to beg him for financial support."

The ideal wife is described as such, in their culture:

"..is like a pious slave. She honors her husband's family and feeds them without question or complaint. She never whines and makes demands of any kind. She is strong in service, but her head is bowed. If her husband is cruel,if he rapes her, she lowers her gaze and hides her tears. ...a well-trained work animal." (12)

In the second chapter, it was her early recollections of her Muslim upbringing. As little children, they had yet to understand the concept of praying, and it came across as something odd to them. I disliked the way her grandmother had shouted at her, calling her a "bastard child" (20) and saying that "Let almighty Allah take you away! May you never even smell paradise." (20) because the children disturbed her prayer. What little innocent playing the children did as an imitation of the mourning rituals the adult did was followed by a curse, "May you burn in hell." (21).

The second thing that I find disconcerting was the excision of the clitoris in girls. The Somali definition of virginity was being sewn up, only a small hole was left for urine to flow out of. To them, this would curb their sexual desires and prevented them from premarital sex. It sounds obviously more painful than circumcision. Of course, this was a Somali practise. Ayaan's mother was against it, but when she was out, the grandmother had them excised. Girls who weren't excised at that age were called "impure".

This act of excision caused the girls great pain when they had sex with their husbands for the first time. It was either they were forced open, or they had to be cut open. The marriages described in Somali culture were horrendous. The union was never out of love or mutual attraction, but it was always the family who decided who you get married off to, because they decided that girls were incapable of making their own decisions. Once you were betrothed to one, there is no way to refuse the marriage. To refuse was to disgrace the whole family. Most of them did not even finish school. After marrying, they would stop school altogether to be dutiful wives to the husband they don't even know or love. These women never enjoyed sex, they only felt pain. And not only were they denied the choice of choosing their husbands, they were also denied opportunities for a better life through education. They were to fully submit to their husbands' wills like a slave. Otherwise, they will be beaten, with the justification that "the woman cannot refuse her husband, because it was stated in the Quran." The wives never retaliate because they "deserved such beatings" and this was "Allah's test to them on their faith."

Ayaan started reading Western novels and harlequins in her teens, and imagined romance being intoxicating escapades, but after finding out from her friends who were married off, she was shocked of the truth. There was no romance that she sought in those forced marriages. Of course, she was very straightforward about sex, the way I could have been with certain groups of people.

She even married a man, Mahmud in secret, merely for the sake of having sex, " He absolutely exuded the impression that his loins were burning for mine, " (138) with the approval of Khadija (I forgot who she was). She figured out that it was just the same as those experiences related to her by the other forcefully married women. Ayaan was glad that Osman Mahmud went away to Russia. Later on, the marriage was nullified because it was not with approval of her father and was done in secret.

Before Osman Mahmud, she had kissed Kennedy, a non-Muslim, as well as a devout, but hypocritical chap named Abshir. Later on in her life, she eventually slept with Marco, her Dutch boyfriend. It was only with Marco did she experience satisfying sex.

"I thought about how much I would like to marry Yusuf (Kennedy) when I grew up. I tried to put it in a context where this feeling would not be sinful." (82)

"Reading novels that aroused me was indulging in one thing a Muslim woman must never feel: Sexual desire outside of marriage.

A Muslim woman must not feel wild, or free, or any of the other emotions and longings I felt when I read those books. A Muslim girl does not make her own decisions or seek control. She is trained to be docile...In Islam, becoming an individual is not a necessary development; many people, especially women, never develop a clear individual will. You submit: that is the literal meaning of islam: submission. The goal is to become quiet inside, " (94)

"We Muslim women were not to copy the behavior of unbelievers. We shouldn't dress like them or make love like them, or behave like them in any way. We should not read their books as it would lead us off the straight path, the path to Allah." (113)

Ayaan mentions in the foreword by Christopher Hitchens that "without sexual freedom, there is no self." Extremists would easily conclude that Ayaan's deviance from "the Straight Path" was due to her giving in to her desires and her lack of praying. To me, well, it might be, but there are bigger issues as to why she left Islam.

Ayaan grew up with harsh words and frequent beatings. She'd be tied up and laid on the floor while her mother would beat her for answering back. And I really hate the people's habit of praying to Allah for bad stuff and demise out of emotional turmoil.

When they were in Saudi Arabia, they grew up with:

"Everything in Saudi Arabia was about sin. You weren't naughty, you were sinful...if our white head scarves shook loose, that was haram too, even if there were no boys around." (42)

Saudi was in practice of hudud. Women were flogged, hands were severed in public.

There was also a beginning of difference in the way her father and her mother on how to raise their kids. "Ma taught us to tell the truth because otherwise we would be punished and go to Hell. Our father taught us to be honest because truth is good in itself." (45)

The Arabs portrayed in Infidel was extremely racist and prejudiced. Ayaan and her sister were called "Abid" (slaves) as they were dark skinned. "In Saudi Arabia, everything was the fault of the Jews. .. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. ..our teachers lamented at length all the evil things the Jews had done and planned to do agaisnt Muslims..Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew (Neither had these Saudis)." (47)

Oh and Ayaan's Ma despised the idea of living in an "unbeliever" country. She turned up her nose at Ethiopians and Kenyans because they were "unbelievers". After chasing Ayaan's father out after a fight, Ayaan's mother became depressed and let her emotions out on beating her children. The independent woman who left Mogadishu to marry the man of her choice was no more. She didn't seek out work like she did before she met Ayaan's father because she was already conformed to the Saudi women's way of life. Hell-bent on becoming a devout Muslim and stayed at home to fulfill duties as a good wife. She felt that Ayaan's father was inadequate as a Muslim as he didn't provide for the family and left them for Politics in Somalia.

And bigotry is a BIG thing among some Muslims:  " Any kind of Arab girl considered herself superior to everyone else: she was born closer to the Prophet Muhammad." (68).

Ayaan also got her head cracked after being smashed to the wall by the ma'alim that came to teach her Quran, but she rebelled against being forced to have lessons with him.

Ayaan later met Sister Aziza. It was a good change of approach from the usual shoutings of "if you don't do this and that, you will go to hell." but as it progresses, this character also appealed less to me.

Sister Aziza wanted the girls to cover up from head to toe in a jilbab, like all those typical Saudi women. She was also an anti-semitic.

When Ayaan donned the robe as Sister Aziza prescribed, she express feelings like, "It sent out a message of superiority: I was the one true Muslim. All those other girls with their little white head scarves were children, hypocrites. I was a star of God." (85)

Truth be told, I could relate to how she felt at that time. Most of my school life, it was preached that the girls with long tudungs or girls in tudungs were like angels and those without it were like devils. The girls in tudung were good and their tudung protects themselves men's leers and were obedient to Allah's commands. The ones in long tudungs were good, demure, docile, devout, lowered their gaze, spoke politely and are somewhat closer to God, whereas those who don't wear the tudung were of lower standard in God's eyes. They are wild, they go partying and clubbing and they let boys freely touch them, and they don't pray. I have to admit, I was forced into wearing the tudung and I stuck on wearing it because I was used to it, and sometimes, I did turn up my nose at girls who don't wear it. They were in violation of Allah's commands, and one day when I actually donned a long tudung, like those ustazahs, I did feel the way Ayaan did. A sense of superiority, riak, but afterwards I figured out, WHO WAS THE BIGGER HYPOCRITE? I felt disgusted with myself to have felt that way. Even Ayaan who donned the robe at that time, she still kissed Abshir, the imam after prayers. She felt like a hypocrite then too.

Sister Aziza also taught them it was their duty to convert non-Muslims to become Muslims. Ayaan's Christian friends responded by saying, "How would you feel if I tried to make you a Christian?" (86) The justification of asking them to convert was that Islam was the true religion and if they didn't convert, they would burn in Hell. What a way to ask people to convert eh? It sounds something like, "Convert now, or I'll blow your brains out."

In the chapter, Doubt and Defiance, the questions start arising, "..a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's. why? If God was merciful, why did He demand that his creatures be hanged in public? If  He was compassionate, why did unbelievers have to go to Hell? If Allah was almighty and powerful, why didn't He just make believers out of the unbelievers and have them all go to paradise?" (94).

"All the other girls were content to accept the rules of our religion at face value, but I felt compelled to try to understand them. I needed my belief system to be logical and consistent. Essentially, I needed to be convinced that Islam was true." (102) You and I are on the same page on this one.

"If God were merciful, then why did Muslims have to shun non-muslims- even attack them, to establish a state based on Allah's laws?" (102)

"Clearly, in real life, Muslim women were not "different but equal, " as Sister Aziza maintained. The Quran said "Men rule over women." In the eye of law and in every detail of daily life, we were clearly worth less than men." (102)

There was also another preacher named Boqol Sawm. To him, "teaching the Quran meant shouting it, loud, in a mishmash of Arabic and Somali, and then yelling out the rules: what was forbidden, what was permitted. He didn't translate the text properly, or explain its underlying intention." (103)

Ayaan defied Boqol Sawm and questioned him that his teachings didn't show that women and men were equal. She bought herself an English translation of the Quran, and found out that "Women should obey her husbands. Women were worth half than men. Infidels should be killed." (103) I'm going to have to do my own searching after this.

Sister Aziza said that husbands may punish women if there caused major provocations to other men because "of the ovewrwhelming sexual power of women." (103). Ayaan asked what if the men provokes the women? Sister Aziza replied that is not possible in an Islamic society.

Then, there was a rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which, at first, seemed like the answer to Ayaan's questions. Yes, I do agree with their ideas of going back to the fundamentals, but what turned me off was their conviction that Islam was endangered by "an evil worldwide crusade", that sought out to eradicate Islam, and Islam needed to be defended in jihad. Boqol Sawm continued preaching that any association with non-muslims will send you to hell, etc. etc. etc. Jews and Christians were friends, but Muslims must not be friends with them.

"As much as I wanted to become a devout Muslim, I always found it uncomfortable to oppose the West...We were taught, as Muslims, we should oppose the West." (109)

Then, there were many schools of thought of how women should be covered. Her eyes, her lips, and all these justifications were all based on because it was caused arousal in men.  "For every limitation, the Prophet was quoted." (110) Here's a personal question. If women were deemed so evil that we distract men from fulfilling their obligations, why were we created in the first place? Might as well all women go underground because at the very sight of a woman, never mind about the amount of skin she shows already causes men to have lustful thoughts. "A man's erotic thoughts were always the fault of the woman who incited them".

"What about the men? ... Don't women have a desire for male bodies? Couldn't they be tempted by the sight of men's skin?" (110)

And somehow, the Muslims approved of the violence in the name of God. When Ayatollah issued a fatwa to have Salman Rushdie killed, the Muslims burned his book and the Israeli flag. Sister Aziza joined in, cheering. Even during the attacks of 9/11, some perceived it as a heroic move. I don't know about anywhere else, but I can see it here in Malaysia. Stupid, ignorant Malays cheering on violence in the name of God. Bullshit. This goes for all those fanatics that are in awe of Hitler killing the "evil Jews" and supporting Muslim suicide bombers who caused deaths of hundreds of innocent people. I am not against protecting your own religion, but if it is at the cost of innocent lives, I find that is against Islamic principles as a "peaceful" religion. Who are we to easily call a war?

Another fanatic character was Ijaabo. Who preached for a young woman who had a baby out of wedlock, Fawzia, to repent for her sins. "I snapped and told her to shut up-she was utterly irritating. I said Allah wouldn't test us on whether we condemned somebody who became pregnant outside marriage; He would test us on our hospitality and charity." (168) I pitied Fawzia. Just because people knew she was "impure", men grabbed at her and stared lasciviously. "Fawzia was known as a harlot, and she had no clan protector. She was prey... She was conditioned to believe that she deserved it." (168)

In the next chapter, Ayaan went off to the borders to rescue Somali refugees. She met a woman who has a dying baby in her arms. The woman refused to name the baby because she was prepared for the baby to die and didn't want to get attached to it. I was horrified at the hopelessness.

Ayaan also met a woman who was raped by the soldiers. The other refugees didn't want to be seen with this woman because she was "impure", and would assume that you were impure as well to be seen with such a woman.

"If you are a Somali woman alone, you are like a piece of sheep fatin the sun. Ants and insects crawl all over you and you cannot move or hide; you will be eaten and melted until nothing is left but a thin smear of grease. And she also warned that if this happened, it would be our fault." (158)

"Everyone in that camp called themselves Muslims and yet nobody helped these women in the name of Allah. Everyone was praying-even the woman in the hut had been praying-but no one showed compassion." (158).

This is just stupid. This is why I hate Muslim men in my Malay community. Lets say most of them covet a demure, docile, devout woman to be his wife, but as a transit, just because the other girls were not demure, docile, devout material, they take advantage of them. Yes, they don't dare think horrible thoughts of a religious, well-covered girl, but once a girl is deemed as "impure", they take advantage of that girl, satisfying their caged sexual needs, and it's as if the girl is no longer a human being. In the novel's case, it's bad enough she was raped, but it's as if not only is she impure to be considered marriage material, but she also no longer deserved to be treated as a human being. She was just a piece of meat that people condemned and Muslim men to take advantage of.

In the second half of the book, Ayaan was forced into marriage by her father to Osman Moussa. This was an interesting conversation about Islam with her father:

"Some things are clearly permitted and others are clearly forbidden, but in grey areas, my father said, the Prophet was liberal: he would never make anything obligatory if it harmed you. "There is no coercion in Islam, " my father said. "No human being has the right to punish another for not observing his religious duties. Only Allah can do that."

It was like Quran school, but more intelligent. We even talked about martyrdom. My father said that committing suicide for Holy War was acceptable only in the time of the Prophet- and then only because the unbelievers had attacked the Prophet first. Today there could not be a Holy War, he said, because only the Prophet Muhammad could call for a Holy War.

This was my father's Islam: a mostly non-violent religion that was his own interpretation of the Prophet's words. It relied on one's own sense of right and wrong, at least to some degree. It was more intelligent than the Islam I had learned from the ma'alim, it was also far more humane. Still, this version of Islam also left me with unanswered questions and a sense of injustice: Why was it that only women needed to ask permission from her husband to leave the house and not the other way around?

My father's Islam was also clearly an interpretation of what the Prophet said. As such, it was not legitimate. You may not interpret the will of Allah and the words of the Quran: it says so, right there in the book. There is a read-only lock. It is forbidden to pick and choose: you may only obey. The Prophet said, "I have left you with clear guidance; no one deviates from me, except that shall be destroyed." A fundamentalist would tell my father, "The sentence 'Only the Prophet can call a Holy War' is not in the Quran. You're putting it there. That is blasphemy." (179)

I disagree with Ayaan on this. Aren't the fanatics practising the Islam of their interpretation as well? They chose to take the literal meaning of the text, which was why their Islam appeared rigid and Ayaan's father's interpretation seemed more humane, and ironically, Ayaan herself seemed to choose the fanatic's interpretation of Islam as the "correct" Islam. How can she blame Islam, if she herself has a very narrow interpretation of Islam?

Due to this, she experienced a culture shock when she was in Germany as a transit to her journey to Canada to be with her then husband Osman Moussa. She was shocked that the community was orderly, efficient and civilized. The very community that she was taught was evil and did not practice Islamic values were bound to be in discord, yet it was the opposite. Her conviction that her religion was not true further strengthened from this point onwards.

Her father was angry that she was running away and divorcing Osman Moussa, the man that he himself had picked for her. It was the greatest dishonor committed to the clan. In his last letter, he prayed for Allah to punish her for her deception. At this point, Ayaan felt damned.

In my opinion, from a religious point of view, she HAS a right to refuse marriage to a man that is not compatible (sekufu) with her, despite the fact that the match was chosen by her father.

There was also this air of self-righteousness to Muslims. Ayaan's friend, Yasmin was appalled by the thought that her Christian friends were not "pure" because they weren't excised. Ayaan said that she will have to get used to living with those people. Yasmin replied, "and that is why the Quran tells us never to make the unbelievers our friends."

Ayaan also observed the attitudes between the Muslim refugees and the nonbeliever community of Holland. The blame would always be put on the nations that colonised them or on racism, and it was irritating to her that these people were complaining about a nation who has given so much for them. Better treatment in fact compared to their lives back in their original countries.The Somalis think they knew better than the non-believers. Such arrogance and bigotry! I can see that even here in this country. Even in Holland itself, the minor Muslim community still excised young girls on kitchen tables and practiced honor killings.

The second half was the most hard to get through. It talked about her experiences living in Holland. How she struggled to get qualifications and find jobs, and her realization of the reality outside her childhood hometowns. This further led her to stray from Islam, because it is set in her mind that Islam's laws were oppressive and cruel. Women were more free outside of Islam. And non-muslims were not necessarily as bad or as cruel as she was taught they were.

Women who were abused by their husbands never pressed charges because they see it as Allah's will, and if they kept quiet and remain patient, Allah will take away their misery.

All these sequence of events, eventually led to Ayaan fighting for the rights of Muslim women and soughting the "enlightenment" of Islam. She was against the government funding the Quran schools, because it will lead to more repressive behaviour. Ayaan now no longer believes that answers could be found in the Quran, as she took up political science and started studying psychology and such. Explanations from those disciplines made more sense to her than the Quran did to her.

Her sister, Haweya was defiant when they were growing up, but after having an abortion, she came to live with Ayaan, and soon after, she went mad. Ayaan had not only to cope with work and studies, but she had to care for her sister as well. Haweya was eventually taken back to her mother and died. Ayaan was devastated by the death. She decided that she didn't want anything more to do with her old life.

Ayaan then became Dutch under naturalization and started to get involved in politics as a left-wing junior researcher for immigration and integration. She discovered the freedom of speech refreshing and freely expressed her opinions, despite having people who disagreed with her.

After the 9/11 attacks, she got herself thinking, "Was this really Islam? Did Islam permit, even call for, this kind of slaughter? Did I, as a muslim approve of the attack? And if I didn't, where did I stand in Islam?" (269)

This was the climax of the whole book, the chapter Leaving God. Important questions were being asked here.

"Did the 9/11 attacks stem from true belief in true Islam? And if so, what did I think about Islam?" (271)

"For centuries we had been behaving as though all knowledge was in the Quran, refusing to question anything, refusing to progress. We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing up to the need of integrate it into our beliefs. And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behaviour.

We Muslims had been taught to define life on earth as a passage, a test that preceeds life in the hereafter. In that test, everyone should ideally live in a manner resembling, as closely as possible, the followers of the Prophet. Didn't this inhibit investment in improving daily life? Was innovation therefore forbidden to Muslims or human rights, progress, women's rights all foreign to Islam?

By declaring our Prophet infallible and not permitting ourselves to question him, we Muslims have set up a static tyranny. The Prophet Muhammad attempted to legislate every aspect of life by adhering to his rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, we Muslims suppress the freedom to think for ourselves and to act as we chose. We froze the moral outlook of billions of people into the mindset of the Arab desert in the 7th century. We were not just servants to Allah, we were slaves.

The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again. I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document, it is a historical record written by humans. It is one version of events as perceived by the men who wrote it 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women and harsh in war." (272)

Ayaan discovered that she no longer believed in God and viciously criticized Islam in her articles after that. Islam was apparently a sensitive issue, and people wanted to shut her up. She sought to abolish Article 23 in the constitution that calls for government funding and setting up of Quran schools.

She appeared on TV shows and debates and talked about Islam. She was under threat by angry Muslims and from her own clans. She had to be guarded, and later went to the US until it was safe again to be in Holland. When she returned, she contested as a right-wing candidate in the elections.

Ayaan wanted to achieve three things in her career:

1. Holland waking up to the oppression of Muslim women and bringing the oppressors to justice. She'd wanted the Dutch government to have statistics on honor killings and number of women who were flogged for fornication, etc.etc.
2. Spark a debate among Muslims to reform Islam so that you are able to criticize and question instead of blind submission.
3. Muslim women to realize the magnitude of their suffering.

She was allegedly criticizing the Prophet for his practices of marrying 'Aisyah at a very young age in an interview. She said, "Muhammad is a perverse man and a tyrant." (303).

From then on, she was on a maximum level of threat, she had to be protected, but that didn't stop her to collaborate with Theo van Gogh to make a short movie "Submission". It was a move to free the Muslim women from their mental cage.

This is a very personal attack to Allah Himself. In my conviction, this is wrong. Islam does not teach Muslims domestic violence, or incest. She is, in reality, blaming religion not for the religious teachings, but for the followers' misconduct of religion. 

Yes, I despise the way some Muslims carry themselves, but this is just too much for me. This has crossed the line.

Theo van Gogh was murdered because of this short movie.

Suddenly, it just dawned on me how much of a big thing this is for me. I can't explain how I am so profoundly affected by this. At the beginning of the novel, Ayaan could have been my ally in the search for the truth, I admired her bravery in expressing opinions and questions in her rejection to blind submission, but by the end of it, she and I are now at two different poles.

I am not against submission to God, I am against blind submission to Him. I want to submit from my own will.

Ayaan had to be moved around and subjected under house arrest because her safety was at risk. She was then moved to the US, and decided to remain there to continue her fight for justice.

She comments in the Epilogue, "The kind of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia, and among the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya and Somalia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves a feudal mindset based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypocrisy, and double-standards. It relies on the technological advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mindset makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam." (347)

"People accuse me of having interiorized a feeling of racial inferiority so that I attack my own culture out of self-hatred, because I want to be white. This is a tiresome argument. Tell me is freedom then, only for white people? Is it self-love to adhere to my ancestors' traditions and mutilate my daughters? To agree to be humiliated and powerless to watch passively as my countrymen abuse women and slaughter each other in pointless disputes? When I came to a new culture where I saw for the first time that human relations could be different, would it have been self-love to see that as a foreign cult which Muslims were forbidden to practice?

Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on Earth is valued in the here and now and individuals enjoy rights and freedom that are recognized and protected by the state. To accept subordination and abuse because Allah willed it- that for me, would be self-hatred." (348)

I speculated that her views on Islam were such due to her traumatic experiences as a child, but she reiterates,  "My excision in no way damaged my mental capacities; and I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim." (348)

"My central motivating concern is that women in Islam are oppressed. That oppression of women causes Muslim women and Muslim men, to lag behind the West. It creates a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation. It would be better for everyone - for Muslims above all - if this situation could change.

When people say that all the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so." (349)

"When I approached Theo to help me make Submission, I had three messages to get across: First, men and even women may look up and speak to Allah: it is possible for believers to have a dialogue with God and look closely at Him. Second, the rigid interpretation of the Quran in Islam today causes intolerable misery for women. Through globalisation, more and more people who hold these ideas have traveled to Europe with the women they owned and brutalized and it is no longer possible for Europeans and other Westerners to pretend that severe violations of human rights occur only far away. The third message, is the film's final praise: I may no longer submit. It is possible to free oneself- to adapt one's faith to examine it critically and to think about the degree to which that faith is itself at the root of oppression. 

I am told that Submission is too agressive a film. It's criticism of Islam is apparently too painful for Muslims to bear. Tell me, how much more painful is it to be these women, trapped in that cage?" (350)

Suddenly, this isn't just another ISU project. This is a lot more than that. This. is. very. personal.

Firstly, I believe that a rigid translation of the Quran by some Muslim does cause some Muslim communities to suffer from strict implementation of so-called Islamic practices. And yes, some Muslims have a very narrow interpretation of Islam and the Quran, but that does not mean that Islam itself calls for a rigid interpretation of the Quran itself!

I should agree with Ayaan's father's perspective in Islam.

I felt it sad that she had to blame everything on the religion itself instead of the followers of the religion. The religion is not flawed. As it sourced from revelations from God, but the followers are, because they are human beings. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is judging God and blaming God for all the oppression that was occuring.

Let's see how this ISU goes...

I have to find a second book to compare with this one.


The italics are quotes from the book, and basically, they are important issues that I have to address from this book.