A few nights ago, I started reading book I was sent when I forgot to turn turn in the reply card for my book-of-the-month club. The book is Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and it is a memoir of Ayaan's life growing up as a Somolian refugee in various countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Be forewarned there are powerful and disturbing description of her clitoris and labia being "excised," and the author describes being caught up in the wave of Islamic fundamentalism that washes over Africa in the seventies and eighties. She talkes about her struggles to live a pure life according to the religion she was born into while questioning a faith that tells her she must submit absolutely to the will of her father and her husband - even if they beat and rape her.
I thought Ali's descriptions of women's roles in Islam were especially interesting in light of training I attended recently as part of the Diversity Leaders Network at TACS. The training was titled: Muslim Culture: Get Accurate Information. One of the faciliatators was a fairly young woman who talked about the importance of gender equality in Islam, and this is something Ali talks about as well. But gender equality is something that seems to be more readily accessible to facilitator of my training than to the author of this book.
What struck me in comparing the two woman was how much culture affects religious beliefs. As Ali travels from one African county to the next, Islam is practiced in very different ways, and of course, our culture, plays into the way it's practiced here.
This book is a fascinating reading if anyone is looking for a recommendation.