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Nomad is Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s third book, the second that is autobiographical.

This book retells some of her family and remarkable personal history. But Ali focuses most of the text on immigrating to America, Islam in America, her description of Islamic religious teaching and cultural perspectives on sex, money, and violence, and finally her recommendations for preserving and developing free societies.

Ali is an excellent and engaging writer. Her vocabulary is impressive and her social and political analysis more so. In American political culture she’d be called a conservative for many of her views, yet she is liberal in her attitudes toward sexuality and religion. She embraces and propounds Enlightenment thought and yearns for a world where women especially would be liberated from male, religious, and cultural masters. Most of all, she wants people to be free to think, to learn, to decide, and to do as they independently wish to do in the pursuit of happiness.

Ali is an atheist, having rejected Islam during the last two decades of her geographical, spiritual, and intellectual journey. Yet she does not trash Christianity as some atheists do. Rather, she says “The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance.”

Ali considers the Muslim veil in all its gradations simply a form of mental slavery. She says, “The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons.” Islam, Ali says, takes girls and “grooms them for docility.” They live in an “apartheid of sex” that is legally and culturally enshrined. Even in the West, Alia says, Muslim women are “conditioned to live in a prison within a society that is free.”

Ali is also strongly critical of Islamist schools and what she labels an authoritarian and rote approach to learning. She contends students are brainwashed with no exposure to any ideas conflicting with Islam and students are cut-off from society, and that schools perpetuate misogyny under an arbitrary god of fear. She argues this approach to education ruins girls, if they attend school at all, by making them subservient, compliant, and unable to think for themselves. She believes this education ruins boys by developing in them an arrogant sense of entitlement and lack of curiosity dampening their creativity and ability to be as productive as they could be in a free economy.

Ali is understandably extremely critical of practices like female genital mutilation or “brutal excision,” which pre-dates Islam but is embraced by many within Islamist culture. Ali says this egregious offense to girls is happening daily in the West—as is honor killing, albeit less frequently, and child-brides in arranged marriages, quite frequently. These offenses, along with other debasements of femininity, are why she says, “I believe that the subjection of women within Islam is the biggest obstacle to the integration and progress of Muslim communities in the West.” She goes further in answering her critics, arguing that to claim oppression of women has nothing to do with Islam and only a traditional custom is intellectual dishonesty.

As in her bestselling autobiography, Infidel, Ali argues strongly against the cultural relativism behind “multiculturalism.” She believes multiculturalist attitudes undermine assimilation, progress, and wellbeing among immigrants whose cultures are protected by Western governments as untouchable even when they perpetuate the subjugation—or “gendercide”—of women. She calls this the “racism of low expectations,” noting that “Every important freedom that Western individuals possess rests on freedom of expression.”

Ali also believes the Christian Church has bought into multiculturalism and its morally relativistic outlook. She believes Europe, especially, is “sleepwalking into political, cultural, and ideological disaster” because the Church is neglecting immigrant neighborhoods. At the same time, she says it is naïve to think inter-faith dialogue will bring Muslims into the fold of Western Civilization. She thinks governmental or ecclesiastical multiculturalism aimed at “respect” becomes just a “euphemism for appeasement.”

What’s most interesting is to hear Ali, an atheist, encourage Christians to be more evangelistic in reaching out to Muslims. She acknowledges that the Christian God of the Bible is a loving, forgiving God of redemption and hope, something even she says Muslims need. She urges Christians, as well as Western governments, not to bow to the politics of intimidation.

There are other experts emerging who speak to the “clash of civilizations,” but few if any bring to the discussion the personal experience, visceral depth of understanding, and gifted intellect as does Ali. Agree or disagree with her arguments, but do Ali and the principle of freedom of thought the respect they deserve by doing due diligence on her views. Ali is influential because her experience, talent, and critical thinking have earned her influence. I highly recommend this book.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

This is a book about survival against all odds. On nearly every page of the book a story is told that makes you wonder, “How is this woman still alive?” The book is the incredible autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian woman who escaped her family, clan, culture, and religion in search of freedom.

Let me say at the top that I highly recommend this book for several reasons. First, it provides a view of clan culture in East Africa that for me at least was new, informative, and enlightening. Second, it helps you understand the ways in which Islam works itself out in different cultures, the political ideology the religion demands, and the manner in which the theological system and traditions that have built up over centuries regard people, girls and women in particular, and life itself.

Third, the book is simply compelling. It’s different, relates familial or religious practices that are astounding for their disparagement of human life and individual value, and provides a social analysis at once winsome and courageous. Fourth, the author Ali was always smart but is by now a well-educated woman who can write. I’d even say gifted as a writer. I was hooked in the first few pages. Fifth, Ali is a political scientist by education and profession so her political and cultural analysis is as good as any you’ll find dealing with the topics she addresses.

Ali made her escape from Germany by taking a train to Holland where she found a kind people and a welfare state especially prepared to receive and nurture a scared but strong Somali woman who wanted nothing but to be independent, to live freely. She made this bold run for freedom at 22 years of age after her father had arranged a marriage for her with a Somali man living in Canada, a man she did not choose. Her father had put her on a jet to Canada but she bailed during her layover in Germany.

The book relates with amazing memory formative events from her childhood spent in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya. She describes her religious odyssey, one that eventually saw her reject Islam and embrace atheism. (Ali at least in this book is not an “angry atheist” and she does not attack Christianity. She simply no longer believes in God or an afterlife.) She speaks knowledgeably and movingly about female genital mutilation—which she endured, the sexual paranoia of her religion and culture, and her later experiences with love and sexual maturity. And she shares her feelings and concerns for family members who, though often hateful and abusive, she still loves.

Eventually, through what can only be described as a process of pluck and passion she becomes an elected Member of Parliament in the Netherlands, makes a controversial short film (Submission, Part 1) with a Dutch producer about the plight of women under Islam, loses her Dutch citizenship only to have it restored, and finally immigrates to America.

In the meantime, the Dutch producer is brutally killed on a Holland sidewalk by an Islamist murderer who leaves a note pinioned to the dead man’s chest with a knife, a note to Ali. She then becomes the focus of Islamist assassins and now requires constant security likely for the remainder of her life. As a result of all this she becomes a personality lauded worldwide for her beliefs and actions in support of freeing women and girls from religious suppression.

Ali is especially articulate and passionate about multiculturalism, which she believes allows cultures to perpetuate evil in the name of moral relativism. She believes most European countries have made a huge mistake in adopting a multiculturalist attitude toward immigrants, which she contends delays their assimilation and adoption of the new language and new values in their new homeland. This, she says, perpetuates poverty, isolation, ignorance, and suppression of creativity and independence in women, thus denying the economy productivity it and the immigrant group could enjoy.

As I said, I highly recommend this book because it is well written and because I believe Ali offers so many sagacious lessons. The West would do well to listen and to learn.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

If you’re interested in China or the interplay of atheism and Christianity this book is a nice starting point. If you’re interested in the attitudes and insights an experienced Christian evangelist, in this case Luis Palau, might bring to a relationship with an atheist you’ll find this book intriguing. If you want to learn how to convey respect and intellectually engage with an atheist this book is a primer.

Luis Palau, an Argentine-American known the world over for preaching Christ and Christianity via huge public “festivals” visited China and specifically Zhao Qizheng in 2005. They conducted a dialogue on a series of religious and philosophic questions.

The book also contains pictures of Chinese sites, art, and artifacts, partly in an effort to make Chinese culture more accessible to American readers.

Palau does a good job of sharing the fundamentals of Christianity. In his comments Qizheng comes through as the highly educated and intelligent man he is.

The book isn’t long enough or intended to be an in-depth analysis of the issues dividing Christians and atheists. But it summarizes an all too rare exchange. Would that more believers and non-believers would talk.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Robert Morgan’s historical narrative of the massive land expansion that became the American West is well written and interesting. Since I like history, especially 17th and 18th Century American history, I thought this book was a winner before I opened the cover.

Morgan tells the story of the exploration, early settlement, and acquisition of the West—in that order by the way: note that acquisition generally came after Americans were already there—through the lives of major figures who played key roles. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Nicholas Trist, Kit Carson and others stand tall (even the relatively short in stature Carson) in this incredible saga of how vast acres, environmental riches, and beauty became the American West.

Manifest Destiny, that ambition that captured the national consciousness in the 19th Century, made its mark. So did a desire for Pacific harbors, river routes to the sea, furs, gold, and other commercial inclinations.

Morgan doesn’t sidestep or gloss over less attractive parts of the story: slavery, Native American displacement and extermination, greed, and self-aggrandizement. All made an impact and all follow us to this day.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, British cession of parts of northern North Dakota and Minnesota in 1818, Spanish cession of Florida and parts of Louisiana in 1819, Texas War for Independence in 1836 and annexation in 1845, British cession of Oregon Territory in 1846, Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceding millions of acres of territory, including California, ending the Mexican-American War in 1848, Gadsden Purchase in 1853. The fledgling United States acquired every acre from the Mississippi River to the Pacific in 50 years. It’s an astounding record of toughness and tenacity, tragedy, some travesty, and triumph.

I can think of no better wrap than to say this book is “A good read.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

In Memphis April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, unelected but indisputable leader of what today we call the Civil Rights Movement. In Hellhound On His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History (Anchor Books, 2010, 2011), Hampton Sides tells the pre and post-assassination story of the strange, smart but disturbed James Earl Ray aka Eric S. Galt aka Harvey Lowmeyer aka John Willard aka Ramon George Sneyd.

Sides writes a quite readable book, a kind of combination biography and historical novel. He digs deep on Ray: the man’s odd flophouse life, prison terms, and seeming creativity in finding ways to escape prison. Sides also uncovers Ray’s racism, a longtime part of his life but interestingly not often blatantly expressed—until he took one minute standing in a dirty bathroom tub to end the life of one the more gifted American orators of the 20th Century.

Conspiracy theories rage on to this day. Just google it and you’ll see. But Sides lays out the overwhelming amount of evidence that points to Ray and concludes without reservation that Ray acted alone.

I was in high school in April 1968. It was a challenging year for America, to say the least. A few months before MLK, Jr succumbed to a bullet, the Tet Offensive was launched in Viet Nam. In March, LBJ said he would not run for a second term as President. A few months after MLK, Jr died, Robert F. Kennedy, RFK, joined him when Sirhan Sirhan took his life in a California hotel June 6, 1968. In August, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was marred by violent protest. The Counter Culture Movement had not yet reached its zenith. All of this is seared in my memory.

MLK, Jr, was a flawed leader, as Sides doesn’t hesitate to note, but MLK, Jr’s essential message from his most well-known speech continues to resonate: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

If it’s true that racism is not what it once was in the United States, it is also true that it yet exists. So books like this remind us we've yet got work to do.

This book is not “fun” to read because its topic is serious and sad, but I recommend it highly.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Frank R. Wolf has served in the United States Congress for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District since 1981. In that time he’s become known as a tireless worker on behalf of the oppressed, downtrodden, suppressed, poor and hungry, and marginalized the world over.

This book, Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights, was written by Frank R. Wolf with Anne Morse and has just been released. Stories from Congressman Wolf’s career form the outline, with chapters focusing upon famine in Ethiopia, Romanian political oppression, prisons in Russia and China, suppression of rights and religion in Tibet, tribal missions in Ecuador, genocide in Sudan, and more recent adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Beijing Olympics. He ends the book with a chapter called “Our Fiscal Time Bomb,” followed by a conclusion discussing America’s potential for collapse or rejuvenation.

There’s no question Rep. Wolf is a kind of modern-day Wilberforce. Wolf is consistent in his Christian faith, wants not just to be but to do, tries over and again to change the world for the better, and most of all, works to advance human rights and the strength of the United States of America in whose founding ideals he still believes.

I first encountered Congressman Wolf in the mid-1990s when I was writing my first book on legalized commercial gambling. At that time, few people understood the negative social and economic potential hidden within gambling's gleaming temptation. Yet Congressman Wolf was, at that time, one of the earliest and is still one of the few national leaders to speak against the advance of legalized commercial gambling. I cited him in my book, Gambling: Don’t Bet On It, first published in 1997 and revised and republished in 2005. While most Democrat and Republican leaders have fallen over themselves assisting Native American tribes and localities in installing this perceived panacea for all fiscal crises, Rep. Wolf knew better then and now. I salute him for this.

Congressman Wolf’s conscience, his concern for the freedom and wellbeing of others worldwide, is rooted in his Christian faith. He is a man who understands his Christian worldview and its implications and he’s never shied from speaking up, speaking out, and speaking truth to power when he felt he needed to do so.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was in some sense like a trip down memory lane, for it catalogs many of the political issues I’ve read about and followed in the past twenty years. Some of the reading wasn’t fun in the sense that gulag oppression doesn’t make for light reading. But the tale that’s told in this book needs to be told.

This book is not just about one man’s work. It’s about what we all need to be, know, and do in the service of the Lord and others.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.