This isn’t so much a book review as a few thoughts sparked off by Aayan Hirsi Ali’s “The Caged Virgin.” The book is a collection of essays, but Hirsi Ali sums up some of her positions in the preface to the book.
In regard to Islam she says:
(first) “… a Muslims relationship with God is one of fear.” (p.x)
(second) “… Islam only knows one moral source: the Prophet Muhammad.” (p.xi)
(third) “…Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers uncles , grandfathers or guardians. The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen…. A man’s reputation and honor depend entirely on the respectable, obedient behaviour of the female members of his family.” (p.xi)
In the opening essay, “Why Can’t We Take a Critical Look at Ourselves?” she says “…we Muslims have religion inculcated in us from birth, and this is one of the very reasons for our falling behind the West in technology finance and health.” (p.7).
Hirsi Ali repeatedly points out the unequal, and sometimes appalling treatment of women in Muslim countries: girls who have been raped getting flogged in addition (p.72), and an alleged 5,000 “honour killings” of girls every year in Muslim countries. (p.12.)
She returns at various points to the claim that Muslim society has fallen behind the west. I do not recall the page, but at some point she makes the claim that the big advances of the last 100 years have come from the west. She does not explicitly name them, but she might be thinking of things like air travel, immunisation, television, organ transplants, the internet, or many other technological advances. (One might add that some of the blights on modern society like fast food, and the processed manufactured gunk that a lot of us eat also came from the west.)
She refers to a United Nations report (Arab Human Development Report, 2002) (P.45 of her book) in which twenty two Muslim countries are examined and which comes to the conclusion that “the (Arab) region … is plagued by three key deficits that can be considered defining features: a lack of freedom; disempowerment of women; and a lack of capabilities or knowledge.”
Thinking about this set me searching for Muslim responses to Hirsi Ali on the internet. It was hard to find them at first, because the search engines initially throw up Hirsi Ali herself, including many videos of her interviews.
One site I came across was
maintained by a Pakistani woman. This site is not specifically related to Hirsi Ali, but it contains examples of honour killings by Christians and murder by Christians in Ghana who burned a woman to death for being a witch. The site also quotes the old testament verses about raped women becoming the wives of their rapists. The Old Testament contains some very violent passages.
but you need to scroll down through 6-8 entries.
Another site that does specifically discuss Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” is
It’s hard to summarise his views, but he states that “The drama, deceit, and sensationalism kept me hooked, I guess.” He makes a legitimate point, I think when he points out that Ali never refers to Christian fundamentalists in the US: “I am not sure where and when she educated herself about Judaism and Christianity, but she seems to have completely overlooked each of these religion’s fundamentalist strains.”
I also found a site that discusses Christian witch hunts in Africa and Papua New Guinea and Hindu witch killings in India:
Is the real problem religous belief itself? More thoughts on this to come.