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Infidel SmallAyaan Hirsi Ali’s wonderful memoir is a dispassionate recollection of her painful childhood and teen years, and a passionate recollection of her subsequent journey to intellectual freedom. Her early life in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya was an inside look into the harsh life of Islamic society. From the lack of a proper education and frequent beatings to an arranged marriage and an appalling circumcision, Ayaan has recounted the horrors is Islam more objectively and honestly than one would expect.

The story of her early life, while powerful, is told with remarkable restraint. That in itself is an achievement. But I was more inspired by her courageous journey to Holland, how she broke free from the constraints of her culture and religion, and discovered the joy of free thinking.

Even more striking was that she didn’t stop with gaining her own freedom–she also spoke out against the barbarity of Islam towards millions of other women. This earned her a multitude of death threats, after which she couldn’t step outside her home without a security detail.

She had enemies other than Muslim men, however. She was also criticized by some citizens of Holland that believed all religious beliefs are equal and deserve respect. And although her book is getting very positive reviews, there are some that resent her critique of Islam. Many liberals may feel it impolitic to criticize religion, but they apparently have no reservations about unleashing their pens against a freethinker. I don’t think it will bother Ayaan too much, though. After all, she relishes a good debate. It is much preferred to the death threats.

Ayaan now lives in the United States and works at the American Enterprise Institute. I’m thankful that someone like Ayaan is around to keep the ideologues honest, and I’m glad that she’s in America.

Support Ayaan Hirsi Ali by purchasing a copy of Infidel (and pick up a copy for a friend while you’re at it).

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“All praise to God for bringing us all here together.” This is how Barack Obama begins all of the events in his presidential campaign. With many politicians, people wonder if they really are religious, or whether they are just trying to win votes. With Senator Obama, it seems that his religious faith is real and extremely important to him. How would this effect how he governs? Would his faith play a prominent role in his presidency like George W. Bush?

I listened to Obama’s keynote address at the Call to Renewal to get some insights. While listening to the speech, I heard some great things, and I heard things that made me worry:

Good: “Faith doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts.”

Bad: “Our fear of getting ‘preachy’ may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.”

Good: “I’m not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology–that can be dangerous.”

Bad: “…secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square.”

Good: “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a nation of unbelievers.”

Bad: “…to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Very Good: “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason…Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality.”

Very Bad: “…one can envision certain faith-based programs–targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers–that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.”

In the upcoming election I am not so naive as to think that there will be anyone other than Christians running. I’ve made my peace with that. But I can reserve my vote for the candidate that believes strongly in the separation of church and state. In the end, the only real deal-breaker for me in regards to Obama is the “faith-based programs” part (if he intends them to be funded by the government).

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