What the West can learn from two fiercely intelligent Muslim women who took opposing paths in life.
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Throughout her years of schooling and after, Siddiqui was more and more drawn to fundamentalist Islam and began working closely with members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in both the US and Pakistan. When she married one of the principal plotters of 9/11, Siddiqui landed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. She was finally captured and convicted of murder in 2010.Skip to next paragraph
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Meanwhile, Hirsi Ali fled her native Somalia to live in Holland, first as a refugee, then as a member of society with A-list status. The freedom to do as she pleased after 20-plus years of life under the control of others led Hirsi Ali to adopt Western ways of dress and culture. She “had a very clear vision of what she wanted to achieve”: a career, money, and a life involving politics.
Through hard work and a good education, Hirsi Ali rose in the political chain of command in Holland to become a member of parliament. With her position of power, she was able to denounce the extremist Islamic practices that prevented women from being able “to dress as they pleased, to marry whom they chose, and to travel, work, and generally order their lives without male permission.”
“Submission” caused a huge stir in Holland and around the world, bringing Hirsi Ali acclaim in the West and death threats from her fellow Muslims. Likewise, her autobiography, “Infidel,” received rave reviews in the West and deep criticism from some Muslims.
Scroggins herself takes a bleak view of Hirsi Ali’s fierce criticisms of extremist Muslim practices. If Siddiqui consciously provoked religion-based violence, Scroggins implies, Hirsi Ali did so unconsciously, by inciting hatred toward Muslims.
The exhaustive research Scroggins did into the lives of her two subjects adds multiple levels to her narrative. “Wanted Women” reads like a mystery as one event unfolds into another. Lies, death threats, battles over the need for bodyguards, secret marriages, and disappearances that extend for years add to the intrigue. Meanwhile graphic details of female genital mutilation, beheadings, and torture force readers to question the role of Islamic extremism in the lives of women.
Thought-provoking and thorough, Scroggins’s comprehensive book offers a unique perspective on the tensions between Islam and the West as seen through the life stories of two very different and influential women.
Lee E. Cart is a freelance writer and book reviewer living in Maine.