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June Book Club Preview

May 1, 2010

On June 1st, we’ll begin discussing Infidel, a memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Hirsi Ali is one of the most well-known Islamic dissidents of the 20th century.

Born in Somalia, Hirsi Ali grew up in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan before fleeing to Holland as a refugee in the early 90’s.  She provides a blow by blow of her personal, spiritual and professional metamorphosis.

A Somali refugee-cum-global freedom fighter, Hirsi Ali says we must evolve to survive.  And evolving means sometimes casting off the antiquated shell of what we’ve known.  The individual – alone, free, thinking and questioning – should prevail.  Once a self-described Islamic fundamentalist, Hirsi Ali is now an atheist and outspoken critic of Islam, especially in its oppression of women. Her personal choices in striving for personal freedom had huge implications — her presence in Holland caused tidal waves of unrest and danger, eventually leading to the cold murder of Ali’s friend and film maker Theo Van Gogh.

But is her feminism accidental?  A mere outgrowth of her own personal drive to survive, as an individual woman, within a cultural system where she is raped, beaten, mutilated, and manipulated in various ways?  Can an individual fight against a system for his/her own benefit without broadening his/her fight on behalf of the “all”?

There are a number of other prolific Muslim feminist and human rights activist who have worked for a broader freedom than Hirsi Ali — who has seemed more like an accidental icon than a deliberate one.  For instance, Shrin Ebadi — an Iranian human rights lawyer who worked for the rights and liberation of women from within Iran during the Islamic Revolution, rather than from outside like Hirsi Ali.

Is she effective?  Is she right?  Does it matter?

Please join us on June 1 for a discussion of Hirsi Ali as a feminist and human rights activist.

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