Reading Hirsi-Ali's accounts of her own mutilation were eerily frightening. I believe her as an author and her victim account of the horrid experience. It is the concept that is so unbelievable. Hence, my two pronged answer. Approximately three years ago a Muslim radical, after shooting the filmmaker Theo van Gogh dead on a street in Amsterdam attached a letter to the deceased van Gogh's chest with a knife. The letter was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi-Ali. It demanded a holy war and moreover, demanded her death. This was Hirsi-Ali's illustrious introduction to Americans. Thus again I state that I believe every word that she states. But to this student, the horror is unbelievable.
The meandering, violence-filled path which guided Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the meat of this story. This book is the diary of her journey. This journey indeed seems unbelievable. Infidel which is defined as literally, "one without faith" is also one who doubts or rejects central tenets of a religion, especially those regarding its deities. More generally, an infidel is one who doubts or rejects a particular doctrine, system, or principle. The title of this book is aptly named. Interestingly, though, Hirsi Ali describes the journey of one from religion into reason. Hirsi Ali's geographical journey ranged from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and included a desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.
Even Hirsi Ali's childhood is unbelievable, but true. Her father was jailed during most of her childhood due to his refusal to support the country's (Somalia) Soviet-backed dictator. Her interpretation of her Islamic religion as a child is one that is somewhat like a fairy story. It included genies and loose interpretation. As noted above though, she did suffer through genitalia mutilation. This experience is shared with the reader in horrid but graphic detail. As the result of clan charity, she and the rest of her family moved to Saudi Arabia. There she was introduced to a far more stringent interpretation of Islam which was the beginning of her awakening or perhaps the first plantings of the seeds of infidelity. She found herself repelled by the strict interpretation of Islam and the oppression of female subservience.
She did however, find herself spiritually seduced by an Islamic evangelist and went through a deeply religious phase. It is easy to see how she or anyone would have been attracted to fundamentalism. Despite the constrictions there is a feeling of safety and predictability that is always welcomed in troubled and disintegrating societies.
That notwithstanding, she did have questions which led to doubts. As she learned and became forced to succumb to the role of women, and their need to submit to men she realized that she had to flee. I admire the courage she had when she bolted to the Netherlands instead of going to meet her arranged husband in Canada. I admire her cunning in convincing the Dutch government that she was seeking political asylum. Finally, I admire the wisdom and grace with which she presents this unbelievable book.