Nomad is Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s third book, the second that is autobiographical.
This book retells some of her family and remarkable personal history. But Ali focuses most of the text on immigrating to America, Islam in America, her description of Islamic religious teaching and cultural perspectives on sex, money, and violence, and finally her recommendations for preserving and developing free societies.
Ali is an excellent and engaging writer. Her vocabulary is impressive and her social and political analysis more so. In American political culture she’d be called a conservative for many of her views, yet she is liberal in her attitudes toward sexuality and religion. She embraces and propounds Enlightenment thought and yearns for a world where women especially would be liberated from male, religious, and cultural masters. Most of all, she wants people to be free to think, to learn, to decide, and to do as they independently wish to do in the pursuit of happiness.
Ali is an atheist, having rejected Islam during the last two decades of her geographical, spiritual, and intellectual journey. Yet she does not trash Christianity as some atheists do. Rather, she says “The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance.”
Ali considers the Muslim veil in all its gradations simply a form of mental slavery. She says, “The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons.” Islam, Ali says, takes girls and “grooms them for docility.” They live in an “apartheid of sex” that is legally and culturally enshrined. Even in the West, Alia says, Muslim women are “conditioned to live in a prison within a society that is free.”
Ali is also strongly critical of Islamist schools and what she labels an authoritarian and rote approach to learning. She contends students are brainwashed with no exposure to any ideas conflicting with Islam and students are cut-off from society, and that schools perpetuate misogyny under an arbitrary god of fear. She argues this approach to education ruins girls, if they attend school at all, by making them subservient, compliant, and unable to think for themselves. She believes this education ruins boys by developing in them an arrogant sense of entitlement and lack of curiosity dampening their creativity and ability to be as productive as they could be in a free economy.
Ali is understandably extremely critical of practices like female genital mutilation or “brutal excision,” which pre-dates Islam but is embraced by many within Islamist culture. Ali says this egregious offense to girls is happening daily in the West—as is honor killing, albeit less frequently, and child-brides in arranged marriages, quite frequently. These offenses, along with other debasements of femininity, are why she says, “I believe that the subjection of women within Islam is the biggest obstacle to the integration and progress of Muslim communities in the West.” She goes further in answering her critics, arguing that to claim oppression of women has nothing to do with Islam and only a traditional custom is intellectual dishonesty.
As in her bestselling autobiography, Infidel, Ali argues strongly against the cultural relativism behind “multiculturalism.” She believes multiculturalist attitudes undermine assimilation, progress, and wellbeing among immigrants whose cultures are protected by Western governments as untouchable even when they perpetuate the subjugation—or “gendercide”—of women. She calls this the “racism of low expectations,” noting that “Every important freedom that Western individuals possess rests on freedom of expression.”
Ali also believes the Christian Church has bought into multiculturalism and its morally relativistic outlook. She believes Europe, especially, is “sleepwalking into political, cultural, and ideological disaster” because the Church is neglecting immigrant neighborhoods. At the same time, she says it is naïve to think inter-faith dialogue will bring Muslims into the fold of Western Civilization. She thinks governmental or ecclesiastical multiculturalism aimed at “respect” becomes just a “euphemism for appeasement.”
What’s most interesting is to hear Ali, an atheist, encourage Christians to be more evangelistic in reaching out to Muslims. She acknowledges that the Christian God of the Bible is a loving, forgiving God of redemption and hope, something even she says Muslims need. She urges Christians, as well as Western governments, not to bow to the politics of intimidation.
There are other experts emerging who speak to the “clash of civilizations,” but few if any bring to the discussion the personal experience, visceral depth of understanding, and gifted intellect as does Ali. Agree or disagree with her arguments, but do Ali and the principle of freedom of thought the respect they deserve by doing due diligence on her views. Ali is influential because her experience, talent, and critical thinking have earned her influence. I highly recommend this book.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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