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Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal…

Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of… (edition 2010)

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Title:Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations
Authors:Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Info:Free Press (2010), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Currently reading

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Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Knowing I was taking a course on Islam, a dying friend gave two books by Hirsi Ali to me. So my expectations were high. After all, my friend was an intelligent person, not someone to cave in to religious fear-mongering or knee-jerk distrust of anything non-Christian. So I was surprised to find a remarkably unfair and simplistic book looking at the situation of Islam in the global realm.

One thing cannot be denied: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an amazing woman. She grew up in a rigidly conservative Muslim family in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, always on the move because her dad was a political target. Her family was incredibly dysfunctional, and all her siblings in one way or another were left unable to function in the adult world. When her dad sent her from Kenya to Canada for an arranged marriage to a distant relatively, Hirsi Ali escaped, finding political asylum in Holland. There she found a culture where (as she puts it) questions were encouraged over dogmas, women were valued as more than just baby incubators, and positive change and innovation took place over oppressive and rigid tradition. She became a member of Parliament until moving to America, where she is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. All this before hitting 40 – wow.

So understandably, much of Hirsi Ali’s career is devoted to exposing radical Islam on a global scale. She wants her audience to feel that global Islam is a dangerous threat, that the line separating violent Islamists from civilian Muslims is dangerously thin.

This is where I must part with her. She always speaks of Muslims in the singular: “all Muslims” are conditioned to be violent, “Muslim women” are oppressed, etc. There is no problem that tribalism, extreme sexism, violence, and a lack of free speech are a part of the Islamic world. But she fails to qualify her statements. I have known half a dozen Muslim women, whose families come from three different Islamic countries, and only one of those six had the kind of upbringing Ali had. So already we can see that not every Muslim in the world is brought up in a family that fails to educate her, value her, etc.

Oh, and as for violence – I wonder what Hirsi Ali would make of John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed’s book What a Billion Muslims Really Think, in which they find that Muslims worldwide are not as radical as people like Hirsi Ali like to think. I’m also reminded of Reza Aslan’s point about “Muslim Rage,” that it has more to do with political agendas and regimes than being Muslim. Hirsi Ali does not argue from statistics. For example, she cites a few cases of honor killing (a young Muslim woman murdered by a family member to protect family honor from her sexual transgressions) in the U.S., then argues that honor killing must be a major problem among American Muslims. This reminded me of Richard Dawkins’ arguments that religion is intrinsically evil: find a few infuriating cases, get the reader angry, then jump to a broad conclusion. Basically, arguing from anecdotes.

Her statements about the veil were equally ridiculous. She says that the headscarf and veil “represent the mental and physical restrictions that so many Muslim women have to suffer.” Yes, in some (perhaps many) Muslim cultures, women are under immense social pressure to wear the veil, and may be legally or physically punished if they show their hair in public. But What a Billion Muslims Really Think shows that most Muslim women worldwide prefer some form of hair covering. My friends tell me that they feel more secure, more valued for their personality and intellect because men are not staring at their beauty. There’s just more ambiguity than Hirsi Ali wants to see.

So, no I would not recommend reading this book for a good portrait of global Islam. Hirsi Ali is far too much of an ideologue with all the attendant lack of self-criticism. Though she made some good points, she would have been more effective had she tempered them with some ambiguity. ( )
2 vote JDHomrighausen | Apr 2, 2014 |
It was interesting. The story of how she got from Somalia to America was fascinating. I was troubled by her not even bothering to acknowledge (only in the most dismissive terms) that her life was a privileged one. The leap that she expects other Muslim women to make, the one she made, is simply not possible.

The "tough love" approach to other Muslim women was something I found incredibly offensive. I doubt if it would have any effect in real life beyond losing a friend who desperately needed some friends at a difficult time in their life. ( )
  KarenM61 | Nov 28, 2013 |
Nomad exists as one of the best books I have ever read.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali presented herself as an incredible, multi-faceted, dynamic human being, and her book did not waste a single word in its effort to directly and thoughtfully convey her Somali clan culture, Muslim history, and personal growth that paved the way to an atheistic position.

She clearly defined how the Muslim religion manifested itself in numerous familial generations and those around her. This belief system was stagnant, fanatical, illogical, sexist, and radical; this perspective did not change in the hearts and minds of her loved ones as they moved to different countries and modernity infringed upon the clan. Hirsi Ali did a phenomenal job of demarcating when the Muslim "Call to Prayer" migrated from a poetic one to a song that sounded like a call to arms.

This woman had every right to be angry and bitter; yet, if anything, she demonstrated an endless capacity for compassion toward just about everyone. She clearly understood the clash of cultures dynamic and thoroughly explained why it was important to motivate people to enjoy their heritage but thoroughly integrate into their new country(ies).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's goal seemed to serve as a wake-up call to the book's readers; the alarm was loud in its stance, and it could not be ignored. Excellent, educational read! ( )
  LibStre | Oct 28, 2013 |
I'm struggling with this book, trying to reconcile it to my world view -- and trying to decide if I want to. I can see why this book is so controversial and upsetting to the Muslim community -- the author is an atheist who, while not critical of all Muslims, is certainly critical of Islam itself. She argues that Islam and its current worldview is a threat to world peace. She has an amazing life story, and she definitely explains how her experiences have shaped her views. I found many of her arguments convincing, but I also wonder if I should, or I'm letting my prejudices and fears overwhelm me. I've always been offended by evangelical proselytizing, yet Hirsi Ali argues Christians need to proselytize to prevent the spread of Muslim fundamentalism. But I was definitely convinced by her concern for Muslim girls and women who are victimized by their patriarchal, honor-based culture. ( )
  JillKB | Apr 4, 2013 |
This memoir is probably the most intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and sane book I have read in a long time. Listening to her read it (the unabridged audio version) in her own voice made it come alive with an authenticity that would have been impossible by reading a hard copy, I think. It really made an impression on me.

And did I mention brave? For a woman who is only 42 years old to have lived through, and done, what she has, and to be able to rise above it all and come out the other end, intact, strong and to use her experiences to try to do good and help others, is nothing short of remarkable.

I don't have very positive feelings or opinions about any religion that uses its dogma to repress women or any minority group, or brainwash children. And I absolutely detest violence for any reason, but most especially when it is *condoned* as acceptable (or *honourable*, a misnomer if ever there was one). But the more I read, in general about humanity, from all time periods, in all regions of the globe, the more I realize just how fortunate I am to live right now, and right here, where democracy is at least the law of the land (if not always working 100% properly). What I know for sure is that I could never be as brave as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. How many other potentially strong, vibrant, intelligent and determined women are lost to such repression? Ali has created an organization to try to reach out to such women and give them the chances she had - and took - to make something of their lives in a most positive way. To live as independent and autonomous humans, something we who are born in *the west* think of as our natural basic human rights. We would do well to remember that this is a priviledge, and for so many, not a right at all.

The world needs more people like Ali to stand up and speak out. Unfortunately, the men of her religion (Islam) will most certainly make sure that never happens. I just hope with all my heart that she is not cut down for speaking the truth. Most heroes like her, often are.

http://theahafoundation.org/ ( )
1 vote jessibud2 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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As a work of impassioned zealotry, Nomad is an excellent read. It is a book that never hesitates to stand up for the Enlightenment and to proclaim that “West is Best.” As a manifesto for individual freedom it is powerfully subversive, appealing to wives, daughters, and sisters to abandon the tyranny of custom, to throw off the patriarchal yoke. But it offers no plausible avenues for religious reform within Islam.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0732289777, Paperback)

'This woman is a major hero of our times' RICHARD DAWKINS 'For me the three most beautiful words in the emerging language of secular resistance to tyranny are Ayaan Hirsi Ali' - Christopher Hitchens Ayaan Hirsi Ali caused a worldwide sensation with her gutsy memoir INFIDEL. Now in NOMAD she tells of coming to America to build a new life an ocean away from the death threats made against her by European Islamists the strife she witnessed and the inner conflict she suffered. It is the story of her physical and emotional journey to freedom - her transition from a tribal mindset that restricts women's every thought and action to life as a free and equal citizen in an open society. Through stories of the challenges she has faced she shows the difficulty of reconciling the contradictions of Islam with Western values. Hirsi Ali recounts the many turns her life took after breaking with her family and how she struggled to throw off restrictive superstitions and misconceptions that initially hobbled her ability to assimilate into Western society. She writes movingly of her reconciliation on his deathbed with her devout father who had disowned her when she renounced Islam after 9/11 as well as with her mother and cousins in Somalia and in Europe. Nomad is a portrait of a family torn apart by the clash of civilizations but it is also a touching uplifting and often funny account of one woman's discovery of today's America. This is Hirsi Ali's intellectual coming of age a memoir that conveys her philosophy as well as her experiences and delivers an urgent message and mission - to inform the West of the extent of the threat from radical Islam both from outside and from within our open societies. She calls on key institutions of the West - including universities the feminist movement and the Christian churches - to enact specific innovative remedies that would help other Muslim immigrants to overcome the challenges she experienced and to resist the fatal allure of fundamentalism and terrorism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Hirsi Ali tells of coming to America to build a new life, an ocean away from the death threats made to her by European Islamists, the strife she witnessed, and the inner conflict she suffered. She calls on key institutions of the West--including universities, the feminist movement, and the Christian churches--to enact specific, innovative remedies that would help other Muslim immigrants to overcome the challenges she has experienced and to resist the fatal allure of fundamentalism and terrorism.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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