Thursday, September 07, 2017

“Heretic”– Book Review


This summer, I read the political analysis, “Heretic:  Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


As a self-described heretic and apostate, Ayaan Hirsi Ali long ago questioned the religion of Islam, in which she was raised.  Upon fleeing Islamic countries for The Netherlands, she received higher education in the more liberal Western culture and it was this that shaped her views that Islam was not only misogynistic, but also, doctrinaire as well.  In her writings, interviews and speeches opposing Islam, she has been met with many death threats.  Ultimately, she has arrived at the conclusion that the only way Islam can be fixed is by reformation – much in the same way as other major religions have undergone their own reformation over the ages. 

The author is of the belief that within Islam, there exists three types of Muslims:  The Medinas, The Meccas and The Modifiers.  She identifies herself as a Modifier – an apostate who cast doubts upon the religion in order for it to be reformed.  The Meccas – which is how the author was raised – are the peace-loving group that closely follows the rules of the religion.  The Medinas are the most problematic group because these are the ones who are the most violent and see the purpose of their religion as a political movement.  It is this group for which the book was written. 

Hirsi Ali then goes on to outline her own five-point plan of areas where Islam Reformation need to occur: 

  1. The Prophet Muhammad’s infallibility and the literal interpretations of The Qur’an
  2. The fact that life after death is valued much more than life before death
  3. Denunciation of Sharia Law
  4. Commanding “right” and forbidding “wrong” in order to enforce the religion  
  5. The importance of Jihad (holy war)


It is simply undeniable that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of “Heretic”, writes about her topic with passion, conviction and absolute sincerity.  Her wisdom borne out of a lifetime full of her own personal experience combined with impeccable research imbues this book with tremendous authenticity which makes this book worth reading.  Traversing from chapter to chapter, it’s nearly impossible to keep from nodding in agreement with just about everything this woman says because it all makes such perfect sense.  All of which makes the ending of the book so maddening.

The main problem with “Heretic” is the fact that it never explains either how or why this religion would ever seriously consider reformation.  Based on what we know and what we have seen from Islamic extremists, this appears to be totally against their nature; there is essentially nothing in the world that would motivate these people to consider reforming the religion, especially when you remember that these very same people want to live as though they are still in the 12th century (and also want everyone else to live that way).  It is this matter that seems a huge flaw in the logic behind this otherwise intrepid work.

If you are familiar with the background of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you know that this woman is far beyond merely courageous; in fact, calling her courageous almost seems like something of an insult.  Therefore, it is painful to say that her optimism – Hirsi Ali’s belief that this reformation has in fact already begun – is naïve and lacks sufficient foundation.  Does she truly believe this herself?  Or was she convinced by her editor that she needed to have some semblance of a “happy ending” in order to sell more copies of her book?  It would be nice to think that Hirsi Ali is far too smart to fall for that.  

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