Read Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Online


Is Islam A Religion of Peace?In what is sure to be her most controversial book to date, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a powerful case that a religious Reformation is the only way to end the terrorism, sectarian warfare, and repression of women and minorities that each year claim thousands of lives throughout the Muslim world. With bracing candor, the brilliant, charismatic, and unIs Islam A Religion of Peace?In what is sure to be her most controversial book to date, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a powerful case that a religious Reformation is the only way to end the terrorism, sectarian warfare, and repression of women and minorities that each year claim thousands of lives throughout the Muslim world. With bracing candor, the brilliant, charismatic, and uncompromising author of the bestselling Infidel and Nomad argues that it is foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts of Islamic extremists can be divorced from the religious doctrine that inspires them. Instead we must confront the fact that they are driven by a political ideology embedded in Islam itself.Today, Hirsi Ali argues, the world's 1.6 billion Muslims can be divided into a minority of extremists, a majority of observant but peaceable Muslims, and a few dissidents who risk their lives by questioning their own religion. But there is only one Islam, and as Hirsi Ali shows, there is no denying that some of its key teachings—not least the duty to wage holy war—inspire violence not just in the Muslim world but in the West as well.For centuries it has seemed that Islam is immune to historical change. But Hirsi Ali is surprisingly optimistic. She has come to believe that a Muslim "Reformation"—a revision of Islamic doctrine aimed at reconciling the religion with modernity—is at hand, and may even already have begun.Partly in response to the barbaric atrocities of Islamic State and Boko Haram, Muslims around the world have at last begun to speak out for religious reform. Meanwhile, events in the West, such as the shocking Charlie Hebdo massacre, have forced Western liberals to recognize that political Islam poses a mortal threat to free speech. Yet neither Muslim reformers nor Western liberals have so far been able to articulate a coherent program for a Muslim Reformation.This is where Heretic comes in. Boldly challenging centuries of theological orthodoxy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali proposes five key amendments to Islamic doctrine that Muslims must make if they are to bring their religion out of the seventh century and into the twenty-first. She also calls upon the Western world to end its appeasement of radical Islamists—and to drop the bogus argument that those who stand up to them are guilty of "Islamophobia." It is the Muslim reformers who need our backing, she argues, not the opponents of free speech.Interweaving her own experiences, historical analogies, and powerful examples from contemporary Muslim societies and cultures, Heretic is not so much a call to arms as a passionate plea for peaceful change and a new era of global tolerance. As jihadists kill thousands, from Nigeria to Syria to Pakistan, this book offers an answer to what is fast becoming the world's number one problem....

Title : Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
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ISBN : 9780062333957
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Number of Pages : 288 Pages
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Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now Reviews

  • Ty
    2019-01-04 11:23

    With a love of both journalism and academia, I have very strong respect for the institution of the dissemination of information to the public. As such, I take works that seek to contribute to public discourse fairly seriously. The more serious the topic and the more encompassing the point being posited, the more demanding I tend to be regarding the robustness of the argument being put forth. Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts forth very serious negative accusations regarding the faith of over a billion people (which she claims is inherently violent and supportive of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram) and also presents herself as an authority in her field of discourse, so needless to say that my expectations for the robustness her related thesis was high. Ayaan’s resulting book was highly disappointing. Her entire work relies heavily on sweeping generalizations, anecdotal evidence, and downright factual inaccuracies. She starts off her book by stating that she isn’t going to differentiate between different schools of Islamic thought, a poor place to start for any analysis given the sheer diversity that exists within the faith. Accordingly, she makes absolutely no distinction between say, the political Shiism of Iran or the Wahhabi style conservatism of Saudi Arabia, or the more liberal Hanafi school of thought in Turkey. She insists that the real Islam is Pakistan where blasphemy against Muhammad can land you in jail or see you executed, but she says nothing of Albania which is both majority Muslim and more open in terms of free speech and religion. She insists that Islam is Saudi Arabia where churches are banned and Christians persecuted, but says nothing about Senegal, which is not only more open religiously speaking, but even elected a Christian as its first post-independence Prime Minister while simultaneously existing as a predominately Muslim country. She insists that Islam is Iran where stoning is an acceptable punishment and homosexuals are hanged, but ignores Turkey where such practices are not illegal. She insists that it is Brunei where the Sultan is reinstituting Islamic Sharia Law making homosexuality punishable by death, but ignores Brunei’s neighbor, and the most populous Muslim country in the world: Indonesia where homosexuality is legal and in fact becoming more visible over time, not less. She states: “I will not sub-divide Islam” It is a pretty damning statement for the legitimacy of her own analysis, because the simple fact is that Islam is sub-divided and does not exist as a monolith and never has, even during the time of Muhammad there was great debate among the community of the faithful. Her entire premise rests on the accuracy of this strikingly flawed notion of a singular Islamic entity. This becomes very problematic since she wants to rely heavily on hadith for her analysis of islam without any recognition of the vast levels of debate and disagreement over them within the Islamic world, to say nothing of base divides such as those of Shia Islam, and sunni Islam, or even of the more mystical knowledge bases of Sufis. She wants to use the Sahih Bukhari as a paintbrush for Islam? Well it’s inconsequential then that Shias don’t view it as authoritative, to say nothing of the discussions over the legitimacy and strength of the chains of authority for individual hadiths within these collections which she doesn’t even mention (thus treating each individual hadith as being equally robust when this has never been the case within Islamic religious legal study).She states that money is important in conflict, but that religious doctrines are more important, yet offers no statistical evidence of this and no modeling to even show that doctrine in and of itself is even a significant causal variable at all let alone more important than money which, unlike religion, has actually been shown within conflict studies to statistically matter.She states that Islam has “resisted change for 1400 years” which is somewhat completely dismissive of Islamic history because it has changed quite a bit over the past 1400 years; otherwise there would be no need for the rise of Salafis in the first place, their calls to a return to the base of Islam would be meaningless if Islam never truly evolved outside of that “base.”Other minor, but glaring factual inaccuracies were also prevalent:1.) She states that Al-Ghazali was second only to the Prophet in his importance in Islam and that it is him who has inspired jihadi groups such as Boko Haram, and ISIS when in reality, common consensus within Islamist ideological examination points instead to roots in Ibn Taymiyyah and his writings on the justification of regime change as it related to the Mongols. She not only fails to mention him, she apparently doesn’t even know that this ideological base for Jihadists was actually historically greatly dismissive of Al-Ghazali in his writings claiming that Ghazali had no understanding of Islamic hadith and shouldn’t even be considered a scholar of Islam. So her suggestion that Jihadists revere him and his writings makes little sense and is either a major oversight on her part stemming from an unfamiliarity of basic general Islamist discourse, or is representative of blatant intellectual dishonesty for the sake of trying to more strongly link mainstream Muslims to Jihadis.2.) She apparently couldn’t tell the difference between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement which she claims were the ones who engaged in the 1983 Beirut bombings of the US Marine center when in reality it was the Islamic Jihad Movement that was instead Lebanese, received support from the Iranian government, and would go on to become known to the world as Hezbollah. If one were new to the field one could easily be forgiven for mixing the two groups up, but for someone claiming authority on the subject there is no excuse for such basic oversight. Linked to this, she claims that Palestinians have been the most prolific users of suicide bombs (without providing any supporting statistics) which is also numerically and historically not true (See the Tamil Tigers, or now the Taliban, and the Haqqani Network to say nothing of the spreading violence in Iraq).I gave her the benefit of the doubt for a while, but towards the end of her book it was clear that she was being blatantly intellectually dishonest simply for the sake of selling more books. She repeatedly accuses Muslims of failing to engage in critical thought and then proceeds to show a complete lack of such thoughtfulness in her own writing. Deeply disappointing and the complete opposite of informed discourse. There is simply nothing redeeming within her book.

  • Debbie
    2018-12-25 11:29

    Best to start with "Infidel" as Ali's backstory is incredible, and solidifies her quest for reformation. The subject of Islam is one I thought I knew at least a little about. Now I feel I have the whole picture. I can't say enough good things about this book, and highly recommend! Full review to follow.

  • Mikey B.
    2018-12-27 12:30

    This is another striking book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali that pulls no punches on the connection between terrorism and Islam. The book is logical and the author’s points are well thought out.She divides the Islamic people into three distinct categories:1) The Medina Muslims – These are the fundamentalists who want sharia, jihad... They believe in a strict interpretation of the Quran. This is the group that produces terrorists. She estimates that there may be 48 million of these. Most, I would assume are in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq... For the sake of this review I will call them fundamentalists.2) The Mecca Muslims – and these are a majority. They are loyal to Islam, but not violent. As Ayaan stipulates, their beliefs lie in a very uneven divide between modernity and the fundamentalists. Her book is aimed at them with the purpose of reforming Islam – to become more liberal.3) The Muslim dissidents – this is a very small minority of Muslims (and ex-Muslims) who want to reform Islam.Page 28 (my book)Multiculturalism should not mean that we tolerate another culture’s intolerance. If we do in fact support diversity, women’s rights, and gay rights, then we cannot in good conscience give Islam a free pass on the grounds of multicultural sensitivity.Page 56Seventeen Muslim majority nations declare Islam the state religion and require the head of state to be a practicing Muslim.She recommends five features of Islam that need crucial reformation:1) Mohammad and the Quran need to be taken off the pedestal. In Islam both are seen as beyond question and criticism – even though both came from 700 AD. This must change, just as any society and culture has altered itself during the last 1400 years.2) The love of death or the afterlife. Martyrdom is seen as a passageway to a more pleasant existence. Heaven, and the way to get there, in Islam, is described in much more concrete and beatific terms than other religions where heaven is more abstract. Islam needs to emphasize life on earth – not an exaltation of the afterlife.3) Sharia needs an overhaul. It is a refer-back to a medieval world of repression of women, forced marriage. Religion is law where sin – such as adultery, sex before marriage, “revealing” clothing... will be severely punished in excruciating ways (lashing, stoning, cutting of hands). This takes place in Saudi Arabia and Iran today.Page 143No group is more harmed by Sharia than Muslim women – requirements of guardianship by men, the right of men to beat their wives, the right of men to practise polygamy, the restriction of women’s legal rights in divorce cases, in estate law, in cases of rape, in court testimony, and in consent to marriage.4) Distinct categories of right and wrong referring to control in the home – like honor killings.5) Jihad is embedded in Islam and is a main draw for fundamentalist-terrorist recruits. It is a contradiction to say that Islam is a religion of peace and have jihad as an allurement. Jihad must be changed to a strictly peaceful spiritual quest or abandoned altogether.Page 201The purveyors of jihad know their recruits “are craving – identity, respect, empowerment. They push all the right buttons – make them feel special. And once you’re in the door, it’s like family. They look after each other.”Page 212In the Islamic world, too many rights are circumscribed, and not only woman’s rights. Homosexuality is not tolerated. Other religions are not tolerated. Above all, free speech on the subject of Islam is not tolerated.These proposals are necessary for Islam to adapt to the new world. What I liked about this book is that it refers to reform within Islam and by Muslims – and to stop this ceaseless war of the West with drones, terrorist attacks, troops on the ground...Much like the West did during the Cold War, we must support Muslim dissidents – the spokes-people who want to liberalize Islam – as opposed to using the Islamophobia card of any who dare to question Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali brings up the interesting contradiction that many in the West supported the end of the oppression of apartheid in South Africa – so by the same measure we should support a reformation within Islam.Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests this is already happening – Malala, a young girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she dared to pursue her education, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Surely this is a step in the right direction.This is response of a Pakistani- Canadian Muslim to the confrontation on the Bill Maher show with Ben Affleck (see 214 (she wrote to Ben Affleck)“Why are Muslims being “preserved” in some time capsule of centuries gone by? ... Why is it okay for women of the rest of the world to fight for freedom and equality while we are told to cover our shameful bodies?... who stands in my corner, and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened.”

  • Carol Apple
    2019-01-10 09:06

    Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now is the first book I have read by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I did a little background research and I believe this brave woman is an important voice in world affairs. The tone of the book is calm and factual, yet urgent and unflinching in the face of unpleasant truth. I would recommend it to anyone over the age of 13 who lives on Planet Earth in the 21st century.Heretic is an appeal for a sane realistic response to the rising tide of violent jihad that is currently destroying the lives of millions living under the domination of what the media calls “Radical Islam” and casting an ominous cloud that reaches every part of the globe. Human rights violations are growing dramatically in many Islamic majority countries and westerners are no longer surprised, though we still may be shocked, by near daily brutal acts such as stonings and beheadings.In this remarkable book Hirsi Ali presents her case for an Islamic reformation. Her main point is that the root cause of Islamic terrorism is neither poverty or lack of education, but is, in fact, Islamic doctrine itself. Until the western world recognizes the truth and begins at least supporting those like herself who are brave enough to dissent and call for reformation, the violence will continue. Using Martin Luther’s launching of the Protestant Reformation as a working model, she nails five theses to a virtual door, each thesis challenging an aspect of Islamic doctrine that, she says, is unsustainable in the modern world.Rather than constant war while pretending the problem is something other than what it is, Hirsi Ali proposes that those of us who don’t like the idea of universal sharia law support a massive social and cultural campaign in support of doctrinal reformation. ISIS and several other major jihadist organizations are using social media with great success to recruit thousands of young people from all over the world. Why can’t those of us who want to promote peace, tolerance, and freedom use social media and publications use social media even more effectively? It’s not like we don’t have the resources. Sure there would be violence, but there is going to be violence anyway. And a social media campaign is better than all out holy war, right? A few years ago, says Hirsi Ali, she wouldn’t have thought such a strategy could work, but due to some recent developments such as the increase in courageous Islamic dissidents, popular protests for civil rights throughout the Islamic world, and the fallout from the Charlie Hebdu massacre in 2014, she now believes there is chance the tide could turn.Rather than using the usual media terms “moderate” and “radical” to describe divisions between Muslims, Hirsi Ali employs a different, and she says more accurate, identification method. She divides Muslims into three major groups: Medina Muslims, Mecca Muslims, and dissidents. In order to explain her reasoning she goes into a bit of the history concerning the origins of Islam. In his younger years, while he lived in Mecca, Mohammed wrote the more peaceful verses of Qur’an. Later, after settling in Medina, Mohammed became a powerful warlord type person and the verses he wrote during this period are the more violent ones. The Medina period is where the concept of jihad originated along with the verses that dictate sharia law and harsh discipline. The majority of practicing Muslims are peaceful Mecca Muslims but most of the terrorism originates with the Medina Muslims. Long ago theologians, noticing contradictions within the Qur’an, created the doctrine of “abrogation” which says that when verses are contradictory later verses negate the earlier verses. Hirsi Ali’s categories make it clear that jihadists are not simply misguided souls who have fallen under the influence of those who would “hi-jack” the “religion of peace”; rather they are believers who are fully supported by a long established Islamic doctrine.Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia where she began her Islamic education by reciting verses from Qur’an at an outdoor school that met in the shade of a lone tree. From the very beginning she was told repeatedly by teachers and her devout mother that she must behave in certain ways and not do certain things or she would go to hell. She was frequently admonished for her persistent habit of asking questions. When she was eight years old the family began moving around, first to Saudi Arabia, then to Ethiopia, and finally settled in Nairobi, Kenya. At the age of 16, under the influence of a teacher named Sister Aziza and a wandering self-appointed Imam named Boqol Sawm, Hirsi Ali embraced the Medina brand of Islam. She donned the head-to-toe traditional hajib, and joined the Muslim Brotherhood. When, in 1988, the Muslim Brotherhood announced a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for publishing The Satanic Verses she did not even question the opinion that he deserved death for his blasphemy.But under the hajib Hirsi Ali continued to observe and ponder, and eventually, to doubt. A few years later, to avoid a forced marriage to a Muslim man living in Canada, she fled to Holland and sought asylum. Outside of her closed community she observed the shocking difference in western culture and attitudes. She enrolled in college and studied political thought from all cultures. After about 10 years of trying to rectify her belief system with what she understood to be true, she left the faith, thus becoming an apostate, a crime punishable by death in many places. She began teaching and writing, became a member of the Dutch Parliament in 2003, and in 2004 collaborated with filmmaker Theo Van Gogh on a short film called Submission, about Islamic treatment of women. Soon after the film’s airing on Dutch public television Van Gogh was assassinated on an Amsterdam street. Hirsi Ali herself has of course lived with death threats for years as a result of her speaking, writing, and teaching.I was especially struck by Hirsi Ali’s detailed descriptions of the horrendous treatment of women is many Islamic communities and how Islamic doctrine supports it. From time to time I hear or read about one of those women who live with a controlling husband or boyfriend: one of those obsessive guys who is constantly suspicious that she has been unfaithful, questions her every move, and does not want her to have a life independent of him. I once ghost-wrote the true story of a woman who had lived through one of these miserable relationships and years later, was still dealing with the aftermath. Short of life in a gulag, I could hardly imagine a worse fate.Well just imagine living in a culture where the whole community was full of angry obsessive controlling men who think it is their religious duty to control not only their own wives and daughters but all women. With passion and purpose they patrol the streets of your town wielding sticks or swords, hell bent on punishing any woman they catch who is not behaving with adequate subservience or is dressed in any way outside a set of narrow acceptable parameters. Imagine that this spirit-breaking culture of oppression is fully supported by the government and all higher authorities. That is the situation millions of women and girls wake up to every day. That Ayaan Hirsi Ali was able to escape that life and live to tell about it makes me want to read and applaud every word she has written. She surely speaks for many who cannot speak.Toward the beginning of the book Hirsi Ali tells about receiving a letter from Brandeis University saying the university wanted to award her an honorary degree. Then in April 2014, just before she was scheduled to accept the degree, she was notified that Brandeis had revoked the offer. Apparently Brandeis had caved due to pressure from several united groups on campus. A petition protesting the honorary degree was circulated through and it received thousands of signatures. The student newspaper and Council on American-Islamic Relations ganged up and sent a letter to the university president calling Ayaan Hirsi Ali a “notorious Islamophobe.” Apparently Hirsi Ali's message that the violence against women has a connection to .Islamic doctrine is offensive and is not in keeping with the values of Brandies University. I so admire this woman's truth telling, courage, perseverance, and optimism, but this incident indicated to me what her ideas of reform are up against, not only from hostile Medina Muslims but also from western liberals.

  • L.A. Starks
    2019-01-03 14:34

    A review of Heretic is unavoidably political. Readers who think Ali should not be allowed to speak or write will not approve of this review. If so, stop reading here.Ayaan Hirsi Ali is courageous. She is a global thought leader, on par with Martin Luther, whom she cites, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King. She advocates nothing less than the reformation (but note--peaceful reformation--not violent overthrow) of Islam in a thorough-going process of support for reformers, similar to the West's winning of the Cold War. She outlines aspects of Islam incompatible with modernity including the concept of jihad, or holy war; the claims of sharia to govern all of life; and Islam's emphasis on the after-life instead of the here-and-now. Moreover, she explains the difficulty of change due to the charges of apostasy and consequent sentence of death on those who discuss, question, or doubt the inerrancy of the Qur'an or the infallibility of Muhammad.Those that have read this far likely know that for speaking and writing about the need for change, Ayaan Hirsi Ali faces death threats from those who prefer violence to reason. Yet she forges ahead, communicating with breathtaking clarity and logic.

  • Negin
    2019-01-12 08:09

    Wow! Talk about thought-provoking. I have to be honest. This book got me more than a little worried. It actually scared me. Most of it was stuff that I was already aware of, but given the urgency of the situation in the world today, it definitely got me concerned to say the least. This book should be mandatory reading. It does not tear down Islam. It’s actually a call for reformation. Her argument is incredibly insightful and supported by detailed evidence. Ayaan’s two previous books were mainly autobiographical. This one is stronger. People are not going to like what I say next, but I'll say it anyway. Personally, I don’t believe that anyone is truly qualified to say much about Islam today unless they have read her books. There were many quotes that I loved. I'll share just one of them here:“You who call yourselves liberals must understand that it is your way of life that is under threat. Withdraw my right to speak freely, and you jeopardize your own in the future. Ally yourselves with the Islamists at your peril. Tolerate their intolerance at your peril.” ― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now

  • Natassia
    2018-12-24 15:18

    I thought this was excellent. Using a distinctly different tone to her earlier works and public appearances, Ali makes a point of being balanced and level, supporting her arguments with thorough research and evidence. 'Heretic' is articulate, rational and refreshing to read. Her aim is not to insult or disprove Islam; it is a call to ensure Islam's peaceful survival (through 5 distinct amendments to Islamic thought/theology).Many are bound to take issue with what it says and be offended. Honestly, though, if you consider the text alone this would be far from warranted: the book is politely phrased, she is clear in her agenda, and she does not raise irrelevant points, nor does she make claims that she can't back up. Are there criticisms to be made? For sure. And so of course reading counterpoints is a logical next step. A piece in Foreign Affairs pointed out some flaws in Ali's argument eloquently. But as such, this book deserves a place in debate rather than to be dismissed, as many (even on the left) are keen to do when it comes to Ali. On this note, I think that her message to Western liberals is also very important, and instead of paraphrasing it here I would suggest that any non-Muslims who keenly discuss Islam, Islamophobia, terrorism and politics also read this.

  • Arensb
    2019-01-14 08:25

    In The End of Faith, Sam Harris looked at the 9/11 terrorists who said they wanted to achieve paradise by killing themselves in the name of Islam, and advanced the crazy idea that maybe we should seriously consider the idea that maybe they actually believed what they said, and killed themselves to get to paradise, with the 72 virgins and all the rest.In Heretic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali does something very similar. We in the west, and especially we liberal thinkers, human-rights advocates, and we who abhor racism and bigotry and try to get along with everyone, tend to think that yes, we're all basically the same: we want a comfortable life for ourselves and our children, we want a new iPhone or a better job. And while we practice different faiths and traditions, it's all basically the same thing with different names.Hirsi Ali argues that no, there are significant differences between Islam as it is practiced in places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and religion (especially Christianity) as it is practiced worldwide, especially in first-world countries. For instance, Muslims tend to place much more importance on the afterlife than on this life; due to the way Islam developed, as both a religion and an empire, there is no inherent separation of mosque and state, no analogy to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's". And in Islam, the time when the Prophet lived was a golden age to which all should aspire to return; this means that morality is effectively stuck in the 7th century.The first part of the book is a presentation of aspects of Islam, and of the culture of Muslim countries, that westerners might not be familiar with. This includes an overview of several varieties of Islam, as practiced in different countries: her native Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya.Hirsi Ali's central thesis is that Islam is due for a reformation, similar to Martin Luther's Reformation, that helped curb the abuses of the Catholic church, and shook up Christendom and allowed it to advance into the future. She spends several chapters listing aspects of Islam that need reform, such as fatalism and concentration on the afterlife; jihad; the practice of reprimanding people who stray from the straight and narrow; and others.She uses poignant examples to make her points, many of which will already be familiar to western readers: the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Boko Haram's abduction of schoolgirls, and so on. But of course, a collection of anecdotes doesn't prove anything, so she buttresses her arguments with statistics and analyses.Many of Hirsi Ali's detractors dismiss her as a mere Islamophobe, and this is easy to do, since she makes a lot of the same claims that Islamophobic right-wingers make, e.g., that there's something inherently wrong with Islam. But she's not: instead, she is presenting an uncomfortable truth.Her arguments are, as far as I can tell, sound, and backed up by facts. Crucially, she never advocates for a military solution: rather, she calls for support for Muslim dissidents and voices of opposition, like Malala Yousafzai; as well as vigilance: as much as liberal westerners try to get along with other people and cultures, we need to be careful not to tolerate intolerance, either.Ultimately, this is an optimistic book, since it argues that Islam can be reformed and taken back from the extremists; in fact, that this may already have begun.

  • Rodger
    2019-01-07 08:11

    I think this is the most important non-fiction book I've read in a long time, and it's especially relevant considering recent religion-inspired violence. I am a liberal but Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a convincing argument about how liberalism and political correctness have made us reluctant to engage directly in an increasingly necesssary war of ideas. Much food for thought.

  • Dm Filou
    2018-12-25 09:28

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali. What is the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing that name? Controversy? Criticism? Harsh criticism? If so, good.Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the bravest and most courageous critics of Islam (and other system of beliefs!) out there. Her criticism is constructive and fair. "Heretic" proves that point perfectly. Ali explains what Islam needs so violence, war and terror will stop within(!) the Muslim community. And she delivers full-blown arguments like cherishing life BEFORE and not AFTER death. She gives amazing examples from all over the world what laws based on religion do to society. She doesn't stop pointing out the mistakes made by religious leaders. Her biggest challenge though is to convince Muslims to go through the painful process of self-criticism. But with people like Ayaan, who don't bash but advise, it seems possible.

  • ♥ Ibrahim ♥
    2019-01-10 08:34

    I love it when she hits the nail on the head from page 2 in the introduction by saying that it is absolutely foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that violent acts of radical Islamists can be divorced from Islam, and that this ideology of terror is definitely embedded in Islam itself, in the Quran as well as the life and teachings of Mohammed contained in the hadith. Finally somebody can can say that without being accused of xenophobia or shut up for some reason or another! In America as well as Europe, people are so timid to speak truth as they become afraid of the accusation of bigotry. In the past, I would be brought before a church council and screamed at, "Heretic, heretic!", but today, in our post-modern Western culture, I would be brought before a council of academic people who would reprimand me for speaking my mind, "Islamophobe! Stop your hate speech! Stop Islamophobia and talk like the rest of us!"Like Ayaan, I am also shocked, even disheartened to discover that in America as well as the European culture critical thinking is applied to all belief systems, but not to Islam out of political correctness (p.47). In America, it is okay to bash Christianity and put it down right and left; it is called freedom of speech and freedom to think critically. But the minute you do the same thing to Islam you are out, fired, you are dead meat, sir!On p. 51 Ayaan comes to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to expect a mass exodus from Islam. A paragraph below that she offer an alternative: that Muslims engage in a critical appraisal of the core creed of Islam. But, Ayaan, I am sure you well know, as well as I do know, that nobody engages his or her own religion in a critical appraisal. Even Evangelical seminaries in America forbid and discourage that. People see their religion as something to be taken for what it is, they accept it in simplicity, but never subject it to questioning as if it was an item in a science lab. Critical appraisl belongs in secular universities for students doing undergraduate and postgraduate work. But are you expecting my mother and yours to engage in a critical appraisal of religion? That is evidently far-fetched, Ayaan, and that is where we should be realistic once again.

  • Krista
    2018-12-23 13:10

    I am a huge admirer of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, having been fascinated by her memoirs Infidel and Nomad. With Heretic, Hirsi Ali is less autobiographical, but for the first time, she is optimistic about the future of Islam and its adherents' relationship with the rest of the world.I believe a Muslim Reformation is coming. In fact, it may already be here. I think it is plausible that the Internet will be for the Islamic world in the twenty-first century what the printing press was for Christendom in the sixteenth.In Infidel, Hirsi Ali divides Muslims into three broad groups, not based on doctrinal differences (like those between Sunnis and Shiites) but on philosophical approaches: Medina Muslimsare the fundamentalist radicals who follow Muhammad's warrior philosophy that was first seen at Medina, and comprise about 3% of Islam (or 48 million people worldwide); Mecca Muslims are “loyal to the core creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence” (and make up the clear majority of Muslims, following Muhammad's first peaceful revelations at Mecca); and Modifying Muslims are those dissidents within Islam (or former Muslims, such as Hirsi Ali herself) who want to prompt a Reformation.I have identified five precepts central to the faith that have made it resistant to historical change and adaptation. Only when these five things are recognized as inherently harmful and when they are repudiated and nullified will a true Muslim Reformation have been achieved. The five things to be reformed are: 1. Muhammad’s semi-divine and infallible status along with the literalist reading of the Qur’an, particularly those parts that were revealed in Medina;2. The investment in life after death instead of life before death; 3. Sharia, the body of legislation derived from the Qur’an, the hadith, and the rest of Islamic jurisprudence; 4. The practice of empowering individuals to enforce Islamic law by commanding right and forbidding wrong;5. The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war. Hirsi Ali goes into detail with these five precepts – giving historical background and demonstrating how each area is feeding the radicalisation/loss of rights that we are seeing today – and it makes for a very interesting read. I especially appreciated the notions that 1) Muslims have daily cultural reinforcements that confirm the afterlife is more pressing than the here and now (such as responding “Inshallah” or “God willing” if someone says, “See you tomorrow”), and that 2) Along with the imperative of jihad, this focus on death is what makes it so easy for a person with a certain mindset to be willing to strap on the dynamite vest, and why that person's family would be happy about it; often celebrating a suicide bomber son's death as a wedding (knowing full well that upon death he would rise to the highest level of heaven and meet his black-eyes beauties). It's that mindset that I've always found impossible to imagine fighting against – how do you stop people who want to die? Muslims around the world cannot go on claiming that “true Islam” has somehow been “hijacked” by a group of extremists. Instead they must acknowledge that inducements to violence lie at the root of their most sacred texts, and take responsibility for actively redefining their faith.In addition to this notion of Muslim responsibility – an appeal to the so-called Mecca Muslims to become more vocal when their radical co-religionists perpetrate outrageous acts of violence – Hirsi Ali also wants those in the West to become more vocal. In particular, she wants the “tolerant liberal multiculturalists” to become more intolerant of senseless violence; for people like Ben Affleck and President Obama to stop conflating criticism of Muslim terrorists with Islamophobia. Crimes against human reason and against human conscience committed in the name of Islam and shariah are already forcing a reexamination of Islamic scripture, doctrine, and law. This process cannot be stopped , no matter how much violence is used against would-be reformers. Ultimately, I believe it is human reason and human conscience that will prevail.It is the duty of the Western world to provide assistance and, where necessary, security to those dissidents and reformers who are carrying out this formidable task.And again, what I liked best about Infidel was that it is optimistic that change is possible, and coming from Hirsi Ali, it made me feel optimistic as well.

  • Maddie
    2019-01-13 13:12

    Very interesting and highly relevant in light of recent events. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Islam and its connection to terrorism.

  • Cameron Mitchell
    2019-01-17 15:23

    My feelings towards this book changed several times as I was reading it, and I've waited several days to write a review, so as to let my thoughts on the book solidify. After a lot of reflection, I stand by my initial reaction. The few intelligent discussion points this book brings up were ultimately consumed and overshadowed by angry tirades and blatantly illogical arguments. I couldn't escape the feeling that this book was written with the specific intention of stirring the pot, making people angry, and creating a bestseller. It quite unsettles me that this book was front and center the last few times I walked into the bookstore, and that there are so many reviews here on Goodreads commending the author for being "courageous" and "inspiring".I consider myself fairly well informed when it comes to politics, religion, and current events. However, there are millions of people out there a lot smarter than me who could argue my thoughts a lot better, and I wouldn't call myself qualified enough to argue the specifics in regards to Islam. However, in regards to the book, Hirsi Ali contradicts herself quite a bit within its pages. She talks of a difference between Christianity and Islam as being the former's progression away from a literal interpretation of their holy book, while Islam, she states, continues to do the opposite. How, then, can she single out specific lines and verses within the Quran when she has just said the only difference between doctrines is the method of interpretation?This sort of cherry picking facts is present throughout the book. She picks specific verses she wishes to criticize and ignores others. This is hardly unusual, given the argumentative nature of the book. What frustrated me, however, was the overbearing tone in which the book was written. Hirsi Ali condescends to the dissenting reader, appealing only to a very specific demographic (a fact she herself acknowledges). She calls out Western Liberals for branding any critic of the religion as an "Islamaphobe", which is, in some cases, a fair statement. Critical thinking should not be shut down, simply because we don't wish to offend people, and the media and government often go overboard with political correctness. The problem lies in the fact that, so often, ignorant and racist individuals shout with the loudest voices, overpowering those able to make rational and informed arguments. Hirsi Ali seems like a reasonably intelligent woman, and I would not be so critical if the tone and method of her argument did not, ultimately, provide fuel to the fires of ignorant and hatred. She claims to seek rational and reasonable discourse, yet the angry tirades she continually goes on will only serve to invigorate uninformed individuals who think they know what they are talking about.Hirsi Ali states at the beginning of the book that she won't subdivide Islam. This pretty much defeats her argument from the start. When speaking about a religion that is some fourteen hundred years old, arguably the world's single most diverse faith, how can you not subdivide? It is ignorant and uninformed to make such sweeping generalizations. When discussing the problems in Islamic doctrine, one simply CANNOT compare western Muslim communities in the oppressive Saudi regime, or radicalized groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram. Again, this is an example of Hirsi Ali contradicting herself, as she specifically draws attention to the fact that Islam is decentralized, with many different sects and groups, unlike an organization such as the Catholic church.I think that Hirsi Ali believes such sweeping generalizations justified because of her personal experiences. I have not read her autobiographies (though I think I will in the future), but her tale is undoubtedly sad and, yes, many young Muslim girls are not afforded the opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, this leads to her book being incredibly tinted by her own anger, to the detriment of her rational arguments. She simply cannot seem to separate her own experiences from her argument, and thus she does not come across as the informed individual she purports to be.Hirsi Ali claims this book is attempting to insight discussion within the Muslim community itself. I don't really see how she can reasonably hope to accomplish this goal. In terms of addressing western liberals, she hits her target audience. But given that she herself states that change can only come from within the community, how can crafting a western bestseller achieve this change? Everything about the book's surface appearance, from the title and author photo to it's inflammatory tone, seeks to make it a bestseller (I'm sure she's making a nice profit off of her crusade for change). Yet I can hardly see it being widely read in the middle east, where she argues change is needed, and where most of her anecdotal evidence comes from. Pissing off western lefties (such as myself) is a noble goal, but it's hardly going to get people in Pakistan and Iraq having serious discussions.As I've said, she does have some good points. Talks about the problems with literal interpretation of the Quran, the prevalence of Sharia law in the middle east, the appeal of radical groups and the use of the religion as a political tool. These are all very serious issues, and I found myself agreeing with some of what she had to say on the subjects. If she had focused on these arguments rather than contradictory ones, as well as scaled back her personal rhetoric and been a bit more subtle with her cherry picking, the book might have been a success.Directly comparing herself to Johnathan Swift in "A Modest Proposal" was, for me, the final nail in her coffin, as her writing continually falls short of Swift's informed intellect and wit. Hubris betrays her, as her self confidence is ultimately empty. I think this is the root of most of my problems with the book. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not as smart, nor revolutionary, as she thinks. Moreover, she is a disillusioned woman with a few good points, overshadowed by a condescending and, at times, whiny tone, complete with sweeping generalizations and contradictory arguments.

  • Matt Carl
    2019-01-06 10:34

    I feel like I have a lot to say about this book, but it's hard to confine it to a short review. I will say I consider Ayaan Hirsi Ali one of the most inspirational people alive today, and don't see why her words are so controversial. Here in the West, there should not even be a hint of compromise when it comes to the universality of human rights, particularly women's rights in this context. If someone can defend even for an instant the idea that a woman should not be allowed to choose, for example, her own spouse based on reasons of culture or faith, I have little to say to that person. I can only hope this book will help improve discourse, and that the reform Hirsi Ali says is needed will be furthered.

  • Joe
    2018-12-30 09:30

    I'm really hesitant to even put a review down for this book and that itself speaks volumes to the point Ayaan Hirsi Ali is trying to make. Some have criticized this book for being too anecdotal and Ali for not being an Islam scholar but that didn't bother me. Her anecdotes help illuminate wider issues and she never claims to be a scholar. Simply someone who has many problems with Islam and wants to be able to have an open dialogue about it.For those raised in the West and/or Christian, this seems like a no brainer. Gone are the days of burning people at the stake for taking Communion wrong or anything else for that matter. In Christianity, if you don't like how something from the Bible is being interpreted, you work to get that changed or you start your own off shoot sect. Easy peasy. Islam can't do this for a couple of reasons.There's no central authority in Islam. Anybody with followers can call themselves an Imam. Say what you will about the Catholic church but at least they are a good measuring stick for crazy ideas. It's the equivalent of knowing what chicken tastes like before trying a whole bunch of other foods. It's a baseline.But no central authority is only part of the problem. The other problem is that Islam explicitly says that it cannot be changed and gives explicit instructions for dire consequences to those who do.Ali is very candid about her live growing up in Islam and shows how her journey brought her to where she is today. She writes in a clear and compelling style and builds a strong argument. I would like to see her debate her critics! I'm sure she'd do great.Issues that she brought up that intrigued me:- Male vs. Female Muslims and the imbalance of the power structure inherent in Islam.- Islam being closely tied with government which makes it ever harder to change.- Consistent suppression of criticism of Islam, often violently.Look, I'm not hear to say what religion is right or wrong. The vast majority of practicing Muslims are peaceful people. However, that does not mean that major reformation isn't needed in Islam stat. If I ripped up a picture of the Pope on TV today, people would laugh and at worst say, "What an asshole." If I showed a picture of Mohammed on my Facebook page, I could very well be killed in the name of Islam. I don't know what the answer is, and neither does Ali. But without open and honest debate, I can guarantee it'll never change. Her critics say she's not impartial. Fuck impartial. She clearly stakes out her space on one side of the debate and is inviting the other to the table. That's all. Surely God is strong enough to survive a debate, right?

  • Chris
    2019-01-16 10:07

    It is coincidence that as I was reading this book and as I write this review that among the many stories in the news there was a shooting in Texas due to cartoons showing Muhammad, six PEN authors have drawn out of Gala where Charlie Hebdo would receive an award, and NPR is doing a piece about an art show in California and whether or not Islamic art is a correct term to use. In many ways, Ali’s newest book is timely, not simply because of what is in the news but because it is a good companion to Headscarves and Hymens (or Eltahaway’s book is a good companion to this one) as both women are advocating the same idea just different focuses. No doubt people will say that Ali is an Islam phobic, that she is biased, and that what she says is hate speech. Well, in that so was Martin Luther and so is Pope Francis. Because, she has a point. Why is being critical about someone/something or suggesting change automatically hate speech? If I say that the structure of the Catholic Church, including the willingness of high officials, allowed for the abuse that occurred over years? Am I guilty of hate speech? So why do certain subjects, in Ali’s case Islam, get a blanket protection. What I actually found most interesting about this book, aside from the thesis of Reformation, is Ali’s division into Medina and Mecca Muslims, as well as her discussion about the different schools of Islam. And that is important because the news really doesn’t make this divide, or at least the average American newscast doesn’t (being too concern about a royal baby that has nothing to do with the USA), and it should because it allows the layman to see the religion as more than the mass that is usually presented to the non-Muslim public.

  • Abby
    2018-12-27 09:17

    Whew. Such mixed-up feelings here. I was admittedly hesitant to read this book. My best friend in college was an Arabic major, and I recall her saying that she loathed Ayaan Hirsi Ali and that her books weren’t to be trusted. And so I stayed away—until this book. After the introduction, I was wondering, “Oh, boy, is this the Somalian Ann Coulter?” But having finished this book, I think Hirsi Ali deserves some credit. Specifically, I was impressed by her humility and her ability to say that she was wrong in her former book, Nomad, that Islam was a hopeless case, and in her focus here on the desire for reform that is growing within the Muslim world. It’s a rare pundit or critic who is able to admit failure or wrongdoing. And I believe her humanist call for religious reformation is sincere. Thinking people of all faiths or of no faith ought to come to terms with the fact that Islam is long overdue for a reformation. Every major religion has its dangerous fundamentalist factions, but few can compete with the global scale and scope of Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore, without debate and critical thinking about the actual theological principles of Islam—not just the lack of economic and social justice in the Islamic world—no true, lasting progress will be made. A religion that cannot abide any criticism—and incites murder of its supposed detractors—has some serious, serious problems, and it’s not racist or xenophobic to point this out. The limitations of this book are, naturally, the focus on extremism and the suggestion that we should be inspired by the Cold War/the Red Scare to eradicate conservative Islamic thought from society. She definitely is willing to stoop to conservative fear-mongering (sharia law is coming for America!), which seriously weakened her message for me. The examples are legitimate, but the insistence on outlying horrific examples makes a reader feel as if all Muslims were bloodthirsty zealots, which, clearly, is not the case. Hirsi Ali says this caveat from time to time (that, obviously, all Muslims are not suicide-bombing, beheading nightmares), but it’s easy to forget amid all the terror. It is easy to reduce a religion down to its most horrific fundamentalist examples and so get stuck in an overgeneralizing trap, and I think this happens to Hirsi Ali from time to time. Still, I think the overall message of this book is sound and ought to be reckoned with. If Islam is overdue for a theological reformation, what must happen to sustain such a tremendous shift in belief? I think one of the strongest elements of this book is her appendix, in which she names and lists Muslim reformers all over the world who are eager for some serious theological change.Up next, to balance the scales: G. Willow Wilson’s memoir (The Butterfly Mosque) about how she, an atheist American, converted to Islam and moved to Cairo. After reading this book, I cannot fathom why any free American woman would want to be Muslim, because it seems to be patently the worst religion to belong to if you’re a woman, so I’m very curious to read it. Also interested in a book called Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Will report back.

  • John
    2018-12-24 09:14

    “On _____, a group of _____ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a _____ in _____, opening fire and killing a total of ____ people. The attackers were filmed shouting ‘Allahu akbar!’”This is Ms. Ali’s first paragraph in her book and unfortunately the world does not have to wait many days to fill in the blanks again. I’ll admit to this book being one that “preaches to the choir” for me. Ms. Ali is one of the few people who intellectually advocates for the concept of reforming Islam. Why one of the few? Because, you will get yourself killed for challenging the notion that Islam and the Qur`an need reforming. And that’s a problem, as she says in the book. Early in the book, she says:“Let me make my point in the simplest possible terms: Islam is not a religion of peace."If she cannot even convince Jon Stewart of her thoughts in this book, one can see she has a long way to go. See this 20 minute Daily Show interview with her recently:

  • Peter
    2019-01-16 09:16

    What do we want ? An Islamic reformation ? Timely, well though out. Personal yet global in scope. Ayaan's best book yet . This topic is important for the entire world .

  • Kristina
    2019-01-04 15:16

    Anyone who has any interest at all in world affairs should read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. My thoughts regarding Islam have long been ambivalent. In the past, I was reluctant to criticize Islam because to criticize someone’s religion always seems to be wrong. Which is so ironic for me, an atheist. But I think Hirsi Ali got it right when she said that Americans are queasy about condemning religions because “we generally assume that ‘religion,’ no matter how defined, is a force for good and that any set of religious beliefs should be considered acceptable in a tolerant society” (213). By and large, I think Americans are raised to view religion and religious representatives as “good” and “good people.” Even though I rejected religion years ago and am intellectually aware that being religious in no way means you are a good person, I still have this automatic reaction that religion represents goodness. After reading this book, my feelings are no longer ambivalent. Islam is not merely a religion; it is a political ideology that abuses human rights, does not allow for critical thinking, brooks no disagreement, and metes out harsh penalties, including death, to anyone found guilty of straying even slightly from its strict guidelines. Muslims calling for reform need to be supported and protected and cultural oversensitivity needs to end. Hirsi Ali states: “Now, when I assert that Islam is not a religion of peace I do not mean that Islamic belief makes Muslims naturally violent. This is manifestly not the case…what I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam” (7). She identifies three types of Muslims: Medina, Mecca and Modifying. She divides Muslims into these groups based on the nature of their observance. I read some reviews that that thought her subdivision this way was ridiculous, but those reviewers missed her point: Islam is a single core creed based on the Quran and the hadith. The author is interested in discussing are how this single creed is observed, not technical differences (Sunni and Shia). Medina Muslims are the fundamentalists who believe that it is their religious duty to forcibly impose sharia; they are much more likely to view Muhammad as a warrior and symbol of absolute morality. Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance and are less likely to engage in violence. Modifying Muslims may or may not be practicing Muslims, but recognize that Islam needs reform to break its cycle of violence and human rights abuses. At the end of the introduction, Hirsi Ali identifies five precepts central to Islamic faith that must be reformed. Each of the following chapters is devoted to these precepts, why they are problematic and how they can be changed. I’m not going to go into much detail about Hirsi Ali’s arguments for reformation except to say that of all of them, I think the most troubling is the idea that Muhammad and the Quran are above reproach, not to be questioned, not to be discussed, not to be even read or understood. The Quran is memorized and recited—it is not open for discussion. There is no Muslim equivalent of Christian Bible study. That to me is the most daunting hurdle—if it is forbidden to even question the scripture, if it is considered divine, then it is going to be very difficult to open minds to new ideas. If new ideas are punishable by death, then how can sharia be reformed (or discarded completely)? At the end of this book, Hirsi Ali has a chapter called the “Twilight of Tolerance.” She cites examples of why she thinks Islam is slowly responding to reformers. It is a hopeful chapter, and I certainly want to agree with her. However, again and again, she argues that Western thinkers, feminists and liberals need to stop their political correctness, stop worrying about being called Islamophobes, and support Muslim reformers. She is incredulous of Western ignorance and our “tolerance of intolerance”: “It is a political religion many of whose fundamental tenets are irreconcilably inimical to our way of life. We need to insist that it is not we in the West who must accommodate ourselves to Muslim sensitivities; it is Muslims who must accommodate themselves to Western ideals” (213). She is correct. You respect and obey the laws of the country you live in. If those laws interfere with your religious beliefs, then you need to either modify your religion or leave the country. Honor killings, female genital mutilation, denying women their basic rights should not be tolerated in Western countries. They shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere, but where those acts are illegal, they should be prevented as much as possible and violators prosecuted and punished. I also agree with Hirsi Ali’s stance that the military “war on terror” will not be successful. Again, she is correct. The “terror” is the symptom. The United States is spending billions, if not trillions, of dollars on military interventions. We may kill dozens of terrorists, but we will never kill the ideology. We need a more comprehensive strategy that addresses the ideology of the believers and opens their minds to other points of view. This is a very disturbing book. Islam is different from other religions because it is also a political message, and its political message is: (essentially) kill unbelievers and create one world united under Mohammad. Adherents to this message are humorless, unswerving in their devotion and engage in a kind of death cult, in which the allure of the paradise of afterlife is more important than living an actual life. This kind of simplistic devotion will be difficult to sway. If we, Western liberals and feminists, do not support Muslim reformers and continue to engage in squeamishness regarding criticizing the violence that Islamists perpetrate, women in Islamic countries will continue to be killed for minor infractions and treated as sub-humans and terrorists attacks, like those in France, will eventually find their way again to American shores.Negative reviewsI read a number of reviews about this book and was fascinated (annoyed, surprised, disturbed) by how many of them attacked Hirsi Ali for angry rants, for using extensive anecdotes, for being an Islamophobe. Most of the reviews I read seemed to ignore the main message of the book. Was this book a delightful romp through the English language? No, but then it’s a nonfiction book. I found it to be straightforward and scholarly. Most of the time she is impassive. There are no angry rants. Which is amazing, considering the subject matter. Does she express exasperation? Yes, but it was more in the words she used (“I am incredulous as to why…”) rather than her tone. I don’t understand why readers complained about her extensive use of anecdotes. Hirsi Ali drew upon her own extensive personal background, but she also supplied news reports and research from other sources. She has over twenty pages of citations in the back of the book. If you doubted her, the information was there to check. If you doubt her, just turn on your news program of choice and listen. Calling Hirsi Ali an Islamophobe is ridiculous. She is a grown-up who sees her birth religion and cultural background with clear vision. She doesn’t say that Muslims are bad or even that the religion itself is bad and should be abolished. She calls for a very necessary reform for the good of the religion, its followers and the countries in which Muslims live. It’s not that I think it’s impossible to disagree with Hirsi Ali. It certainly is. It’s just that so many negative reviewers would say, “Hirsi Ali is wrong about this” and not say why. If you can’t say why she’s wrong, then I wonder about your reasons for saying she is wrong. It’s quite possible to disagree with her main thesis, that Islam is not a peaceful religion, yet still recognize that the way women, dissenters and the LGBT community is treated in Muslim countries is abhorrent and must be stopped. You don’t have to agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but you must defend her right to make this argument.

  • John Kaufmann
    2019-01-01 13:06

    I debated giving this book 5-stars, but I'm a pretty tough rater. While excellent, when I look back I’m sure it won’t come to mind as one of the best - i.e, one of the most thought-provoking, memorable and impressionable - books I’ve ever read. Nonetheless, it was a well-written and stimulating read. The author is a "lapsed" Muslim, and has written two previous books - Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. Since I didn't read either of those books, I can't say what the differences are or how the books compare - i.e., whether this book is redundant, goes beyond those other two books, or is something significantly different. (From a comment the author made, I believe this first book, Infidel, is more autobiographical).I have read quite a few other books about Islam after 9/11 - several were supportive of Islam, some were critical (I try to look at all perspectives). Of those that are critical of Islam, the arguments are very similar - but this book is the most sweeping and, in my mind, the most damning and best defended. This is not a Muslim-bashing book by a right-wing westerner, but a self-critical book from someone born and raised in the Muslim faith. Whether you agree or disagree, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not afraid to lay it out there, and she is not to be easily dismissed.Ali claims that Islam is not a religion of peace, and needs to be "reformed." Her main premise is that certain key facets of Muslim faith are incompatible with modernity, and that the turmoil within and surrounding Islam in the modern world are rooted in the sacred texts and history of Islam. Islam, she claims, is intolerant of many human (and especially women’s) rights, intolerant of critical thinking and diverse opinion, condones (or at least doesn’t repudiate) violence, and lacks innovativeness and adaptability. Ali claims there are two main strands in Muhammed’s teachings: the Mecca Muhammed and Medina Muhammed. The early Muhammed of Mecca days went door-to-door to persuade/invite polytheists to accept Allah, while the later Muhammed from the time in Medina forced people to choose between converting or dying. (As Islam began its conquests and expanded, it offered people a third choice – accept status as a tax-paying, second-class dhimmi.) The early Muhammed was a prophet, the latter a conqueror. State and religion were intertwined - there is no concept of separation of mosque and state in Islam as there is separation of church and state in the West. Islam is more than a religion – it is a whole social structure, encompassing politics as well as religion and family. This dates back to the founding. The Qur’an is seen as “inviolate, timeless, and perfect.” What is written cannot be changed or criticized. Thus any dissent has always been regarded as a betrayal, as heresy to be punished harshly. As a result, innovation, critical thinking, individualistic impulses, and reform have been suppressed. She also takes to task the idea in Islam that life after death is what matters. It leads, she says, to fatalism on the one hand, where people accept miserable conditions as “God’s will,” and to martyrs prepared to die to spreading their religion in order to gain a more favorable status in paradise. Ali also includes sections discussing how this affects concrete issues such as women’s rights, honor killings, and homosexuality.She goes on to talk about five foundational precepts of Islam that need to be reformed. Islam needs more tolerance. This begins by acknowledging that the Qur’an may not be perfect and timeless. People should be allowed to question and discuss the meaning and interpretation of the Qur’an and of Muhammed’s words (the Hadith) for the modern era, without fear of being called an apostate and subject to death. Islam also needs to embrace the idea that what we do in this life is more important that anything that happens to us after we die.The two schools of Islam (Mecca and Medina) are vying to win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Muslims who are somewhere in between - those who don't actively engage in violence, but who may condone it and who may be susceptible to its arguments, and who cannot regard any questioning or criticism of Islam as heresy. The Medina Muslims are currently winning, she says, and we must take note. We must aid the dissidents and reformers, like we did during the Cold War. The battle of ideas is not to be won by military means, as we have been doing. Her main audiences are two-fold. The first is the large majority of Muslims who accept their faith but condone (or don’t repudiate) the intolerance and violence around them. The second is western liberals who, in their multicultural relativism and political correctness, may regard anti-Muslim attitudes as racist and intolerant. She argues that we must reject the notions that any critical examination of Islam is inherently racist; Islam is a threat to our western intellectual traditions, and we tolerate intolerance at our peril. She argues that we must look at Islam much like we looked at Communism during the Cold War. As a liberal/progressive, I encourage you to read it with an open-mind. It is well-reasoned and presented from an insider, who has subsequently adopted the western liberal tradition; it is not knee-jerk, racist Muslim-bashing. (Even if you disagree with her, I don't think you could conclude that her position is irrational, blind, or bigoted). Perhaps her perspective will sway you, perhaps not – but at least your opinion will be based on a broader spectrum of opinion and evidence.

  • Bookworm
    2019-01-06 15:10

    Perhaps very one-sided, but does provide food for thought Considered highly controversial for her views on Islam and Muslims, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written a book about why Islam must under go its own "Reformation." I was very eager to read this book, having read her first two and hearing similar ideas from other people. Unfortunately, her best work was probably her first one. The book (I felt) tended to come across as very one-sided, focusing on just about everything the author felt was bad or wrong with Islam. There are references to 9/11, the Boston bombers, ISIS, etc. HIrsi Ali refers to the many times she came in conflict with Muslims (from the death threats to the confrontations she had in classes and lectures), although it was frustrating that she often did not detail some of the criticism she received on content (if any) but rather the personal and ad hominem attacks about how she was brainwashed, hated Islam, did not know the truth, etc. I also found a little bit of eyebrow-raising use of statistics. In her introduction there's a chart with a respondents from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq on issues such as conversion, the death penalty for people who leave Islam, the acceptance of polygamy, etc. However, there is no context provided in the text and a reader must go to the endnotes to find out what the heck this about. It's from a Pew Research survey, and while I am no expert, I question about the way Hirsi Ali presented this data, especially as the Pew survey seems like they were asking people who lived in various countries but were not looking to immigrate. Whereas the presentation in her book made me question whether the respondents were these people who answered were immigrating to the US. AND had these views. I could certainly be wrong but there's no way for me to know because there's no further explanation for me to what this chart is or how she is using it illustrate her point. However, I did feel she does bring up some good points. For example, she discusses how some Muslims will try to protect themselves and isolate themselves/their families as much as possible. However, when their children grow up and must deal with the outside, majority non-Muslim world, there can be a conflict and sometimes what could be a sort of "culture shock" and sometimes that can lead to questions that don't have answers. I thought of a couple of friends who are Muslim and what they might think about this book. Back when we knew each other better I asked about what they thought (at the time I think only her first book was out) and they gave non-committal, bland answers about how they respected that she had gone through a lot, but didn't agree with her. Which is up to them and I respected that. But I wonder what they would have thought of 'Heretic' and some of the many points the author mentions, especially as one grew further away from Islam (stopped covering her hair, began drinking, etc.) and the other grew closer and more religious. Would each give the same answer and say Hirsi Ali has gone through some things that have led her to her views or would they agree with her need for a Reformation? It's been interesting to see the very wide range of views of people, some of whom who have declared similar sentiments to those who say Hirsi Ali does not help their cause, etc. I think there were some interesting and thought-provoking ideas here, but it can be tough to get past the rhetoric that sometimes really made me cringe. I borrowed it from the library and would recommend a reader do so.

  • Michaela
    2019-01-16 12:09

    In her brand new book, Heretic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about why Islam needs reformation and gives 5 main ideas on what needs to be changed. Originally intended to be a fictional book, the author changed her mind because she wanted her ideas to be taken seriously. She divides Muslim people into 3 groups: the Medina Muslims, most often called extremists, who wage war on non-believers; the Mecca Muslims, who are the majority of peaceful people and Muslim dissidents like herself. The idea she puts forward the idea that while denying that terrorists have anything to do with Islam may be done with good intentions, it is not the truth. She says that military means aren't enough to stop organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram and another approach must also be taken - one that challenges their ideologies. Her first idea of change is that nothing, including the Quran, is exempt from criticism and people should be able to analyze and interpret it without fearing for their lives. Her second proposal is that this life,which is seen as temporary and a test, should be given priority over the aterlife, which is seen as real life and eternal. The third suggestion is to stop shariah law's supremacy over secular law and divide religion from the state. The fourth idea is that the practice of commanding right and forbidding wrong (honour killings, stoning infidels to death, cutting thiefs' hands off) should be ended. The fifth and final - to abandon the idea of jihad altogether. She goes into detail for each one, giving many examples to support her arguments. Ayaan explains that contrary to popular belief most people who join the holy war do so not because of poverty or ignorance but because of the belief that sacrificing themselves and becoming martyrs will bring them closer to their god in the afterlife. She also goes on to add that the belief that this life is temporary is the reason why so many refugees fail to integrate - "Why bother if this is not the real life?". A comparison between the Bible and the Quran I found interesting is that while the Bible teaches that each generation is better than the last one, the opposite is written in the Quran - Muhammad's generation was the best to ever life, the following one the second best and so forth. The author says that people being afraid of being called Islamophobic and thus avoiding saying anything on the subject may stop the dialogue and that the notion that only Muslims can talk about Islam should be rejected. The number of Christians in the Middle East is rapidly decreasing due to what the author calls "Christianophobia", which rarely gets media attention. Attention is also drawn to the way social media is used to recruit new members (there's even jihadi rap) and how how tempting it may be to get fame through followers and be immortalised in an instant. At some point this open letter is mentioned, which is worth reading - A documentary also wort watching is Trevor Phillips's Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True. The book ends on a positive note saying that by focusing on the ideas behind violence and not just violence itself can bring about a change. Ideas should be fought with ideas, first and foremost. Religion is for humans to interpret and not for the state to impose.I definitely recommend reading Heretic - it is well-written, it will inform you and give you food for thought.

  • Caidyn (BW Book Reviews; he/him/his)
    2019-01-16 13:08

    2.5On one side of this book, there are people shouting about how Islamophobic Ayaan Ali is. On the other side, people are agreeing with this book and the generalizations Ali makes. And, I don't agree with either of them. The Islamophobia that Ali has is justified. She's frightened of the extremists, not at the general population of Muslims. Hell -- and, I'll be honest -- I'm absolutely terrified of the extremists as well. I'm scared if their version of Islam. However, I also don't agree with the generalizations that Ali makes about how violent Islam is as a religion. Yes, it is violent, but I don't see her also condemning Jews and Christians for their religions. In Judaism, God reputedly told them to drive out all nonbelievers from the Promised Land, and isn't that what Israelis are doing? And, what about Christians? They're horribly violent and have a history of it.I could only think: "Not all Muslims!" Much like how men say "Not all men!" about rape. It's that sort of generalization Ali makes. Some women make terrible generalizations about men, that they're all rapists and some just haven't acted on that instinct. Then, when men cry out about how not all men are like that, they condemn them for trying to speak out. And, women who say that are saying it because their fears of men have generalized based on their attack. Ali shows that spectacularly. Her fear of Islam has generalized, not to include the progressives and moderates as well.Yet again, all I could think about was Dalia Mogahed's interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. In case you don't want to watch the video, I'll give a brief summary here. Basically, she denounces what Ali makes you feel is how all Muslims are. That Islam is the catalyst to these awful things. However, Mogahed says that no, it's not. These people would do this no matter where they were. They would have these feelings and just use the language of the land to justify their actions. To me, that's like the KKK using Christianity as their justification. Or, Westboro Baptist Church doing the same thing.Despite all that, it was a good book. Islam does need a reformation, or even there is one in progress as Reza Aslan makes in his book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam. It's just not the kind of reformation that we're looking for. I just couldn't agree with Ali's core premise of Islam being this huge evil when it's just not. I agree with Mogahed, they would use what justification fit best. I agree with Aslan, this reformation is already happening.

  • Sandeepan Mondal
    2019-01-18 11:29

    This book by the female Muslim author reaffirms the various facts associated with the mismatch and incompatibility that Islam has with the modern world. The atrocities on women (in the name of the religion), the patriarchal traditions that impede free thinking and the over-emphatic focus on their holy book, are the primary focus of this book. The author not only recounts her personal harrowing experiences in narrating what is wrong with Islam but also manages to segment Muslims based on the 'fundamentalism' level of their belief. Based on this segmentation, she comes up with recommendations or rather action steps that are immediately needed to reform Islam.While researching or writing this book, the author faced harsh criticism and death threats as well. And we, as a knowledgeable reader of current and past affairs concerning Islam, can only sympathize with her personal struggles - first, as an individual Muslim belonging to an impoverished part of the world (read 'Somalia') and second, being a female Muslim voicing her opinions and concerns openly - an act of defiance and courage. Overall, though the book appears very critical to the concept of Islam, the author is optimistic about its future. She acknowledges the rise of modern and liberal Muslim scholars and thinkers who want to steer away Islam - from its medieval, tribal philosophy - to a state where it is compatible and congenial to the modern world view. She voices the concern about their weakened strength, in numbers as well as quality, but she is hopeful that through continued dialogue with the west and embodying the best from them, Islam can be rejuvenated to survive and thrive in the modern world, without harming other faiths and beliefs.My personal opinion on this matter, however, differs from the author. I am deeply skeptical of any rejuvenation let alone reform in this religion. Until and unless, the people of Islam stop believing in the horseshit fed to them via their mosques, their holy book and madrasas, they cannot move beyond their parochial thinking. The tribal philosophies , the rigid belief system, and the anti-other-religion stand needs to be done away with, inside the Muslim mind - only then the true spirit of Islam can be preserved and made synergistic with the present world.

  • Ann
    2019-01-09 10:30

    I read Infidel and had my eyes opened at the inside view of a girl growing up in Islam in different parts of the world. I read Nomad and was riveted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali's personal journey and her struggle to navigate the modern world with tools of the old world. After reading these the cultural clash seemed insurmountable and just something else to rail against.Heretic offers hope and new insight.Islam isn't just a religion, as we in the West have been taught to think. It is an all-encompassing 7th century rule-book with horrific punishments promised for anyone questioning or stepping outside its strictures. Muslims are taught to value the afterlife more than the one they are living and yes, the Qur'an does advocate violence.Our political correctness and sensitivity to other cultures keep us from questioning the basic human rights being denied Muslim women, not to mention the punishments (often death) meted out to homosexuals. We tend to think that Islam just hasn't caught up to us on these issues, but in fact it is moving backwards in many countries. Ali looks at what motivates young people to join the IS(IS) jihad and how the glamour of attaining martyrdom appeals to well-educated, but conflicted Muslims. She shows why the terrorism isn't going to go away, but will continue to escalate.She calls for a reformation to the religion itself. Outlining five key tenets that need to be addressed, she suggests support for reformers of Islam, rather than military conflicts. Going to the root of the problem may be a more complicated process, but it could eventually change millions of lives.Brilliant, well-presented and much-needed reading.

  • Caroline
    2018-12-24 15:29

    I'm abandoning this book. It's not because it's badly written (it is not badly written), and it's not even because she's EXHAUSTING in her intensity. It's not even because she quotes the current military ruler of Egypt as if he were a progressive just because he put down the Muslim Brotherhood.It's because I don't think she is being intellectually honest. I am not well informed about Islam and I am ready to believe she is correct in her thesis that the vast majority of Muslims, being moderate, need to challenge the devotion to the seventh century text and create a modern religion. However, I think she is purposely ignoring the violent content, foundations, and history of Judaism and Christianity, misrepresenting them, soft-pedaling them, pretending they're not there, exaggerating the worldwide influence of so-called 'moderates'. Why? Is it that she is uninformed? Possibly.However, I can't escape coming to a more cynical conclusion, and one that makes it impossible for me to read on. My conclusion is that if she were to be honest and say that all of the 'Big Three' religions equally need to break their devotion to a violent exclusionary tradition, she would lose her audience among those who believe that somehow Islam is bad, alien, different, and something to be opposed. She would not be the 'good Muslim' to these people anymore. And so I'm going to stop reading. The enemies of your enemies are not necessarily your friends.

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    2019-01-06 15:12

    Christianity and Judaism have come to the realization that some people are gonna blaspheme their religion. The have more or less gotten used to this since the reformation and the enlightenment. Christians and Jews have learned in practice most of the time that people are going to say things which offend there religious sensibilities and they will not wage a holy war. this book is not calling banning of muslims like some right wing politicians are calling for these days but it does say that muslims should get used to the idea that if they are living in 21st century blasphemers are gonna blaspheme and they are going to have to accept this without doing violence to the people who insult the prophet or islam. This is essentially the reform Islam will have to face much like the Christians and Jews had to face in the making of the modern west. It will have to put up with the fact that laws won't be based on writings of the prophets and it can not expect relativism on the part of some westerners to turn a blind eye to some of the practices of its religion. It is not a call for a military campaign or deportation but a recognition that secular values are nonnegotiable if we are going to get along. So essentially its message is Blasphemers are gonna blaspheme get used to it if you want to live in the west.

  • Jeffrey
    2019-01-12 09:11

    Hirsi Ali says in the introduction that she is writing to the so-called peaceful "Mecca Muslims", who make up the "clear majority" of Muslims, in order to convince them not to be violent. It seems she is forgetting that they're already peaceful for the most part, and so any argument she makes is simply going to fall flat. She also thinks for some reason that these Muslim moderates never speak out against the violence, which is demonstrably factually wrong.She argues against the understandings of the "Medina Muslims", the militant fundamentalists that make up 3% of the Muslim population, as if they had the one true doctrine of Islam. On one page she'll talk about the tremendous diversity of Muslim scholarship and interpretation and then on the next talk about how Islam is entirely uniform and how it forbids interpretation (as if interpretation was avoidable forbidden or not).Worse her distinctions between so-called Mecca Muslims, Medina Muslims and Modifying Muslims obscure important details through the process of abstraction. For example, within the Medina Muslims there are undeniably groups of fundamentalists that do not get along with each other and think the other Median Muslims have got it all wrong. For example:, Al Quaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram all have different goals, different targets, and very different origins. It's highly misleading to lump them together as part of a single group.At times she implies that Islam has successfully resisted change for 1400 years and is a true reflection of the 7th century beliefs, which is absurd. If there was any doubt about what she meant she makes it clear when she says that Islam is a "static religion", unlike Christianity. But that's a load of crap. Islam is syncretic just like any other major religious tradition, adapting itself to deal with different and changing cultural contexts. It's rather disturbing that Hirsi Ali doesn't seem to realize this simple fact.She states very clearly in the introduction that religious doctrine is the number one primary reason for the various crises in North Africa and the middle east. To emphasize the fact that these are failed states that have been bombed into none-existence is secondary. To privilege a working government, social security, economic well-being, and person freedom as more important factors than religious doctrine is to give too much credit to "exogenous forces." This despite the fact that, in later chapters, Hirisi Ali admits the Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood types were largely kept in check before these governments failed, and that effective militaries and police forces work to keep chaos from breaking out. Forgive me, but that sounds like a working government is the primary factor, making for quite the contradiction.The vast majority of her examples are from the Middle East and North Africa, which is something of a selection bias. She also ignores Muslim majority countries like Albania, Turkey, and Morocco. She ignores India completely, even though in terms of Muslim populations it's #3 in the world. She also really struggles to find examples from South East Asia. The one time she does mention Indonesia she used it as an example of increasing Muslim violence against Christians, but the numbers she used were suspiciously old, from 2010 (throughout much of the rest of the book she uses up to date examples from as late as 2014), and from an odd source, The Christian Post. I looked those numbers up on Human Rights Watch and the violence has either decreased or stayed the same from the time she cited and she ignored this information. She also suppresses the fact that the violence against minorities in Indonesia is also largely against minority MUSLIMS, that happen to be the wrong kind of Muslims, like the Ahmadiyyas. Yes violence against the Christian minority still takes place and is concerning, but she badly overplayed the example, stretching it beyond the breaking point.Hirsi Ali's best points come in the first ten pages of the book where she argues against people characterizing Islam as a religion of peace, or saying things like "no real religion advocates for violence". She's right. Unfortunately for her the rest of the book falls down due the glaring inconsistencies, historical inaccuracies, and the fact that it is targetted towards the virtually non-existant violent mostly-peaceful Mecca Muslims.In the end Hirsi Ali laments how The West ignores or dismissed Muslim reformers because they are "not representative", while simultaneously lamenting and ignoring Muslim reformers as being not representative of Islam. This is precisely what happens when you agree that the fundamentalists have the one "true" faith.