Monday, June 23, 2008

The Caged Virgin and Willful Blindness

How's that for a matchup? Actually, those are the titles of two books on my must-read list. Both examine Islamic beliefs and practices but from distinctly different perspectives.

I've read enough excerpts of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin to know that I want to read the entire book. Her more recent release, Infidel, provided a fascinating look at her life as an Islamic woman and traced her journey from Somalia to the Dutch Parliament. In The Caged Virgin, Ali offers a rebuke of Islam's treatment of women as well as a critical analysis of fundamentalist Islam and how it is perceived in the West. Her perspective is that of an insider who escaped being forced to marry her cousin and who lost her sister to the emotional aftereffects of genital mutilation. Hers is a compelling story, and that is an understatement.

My knowledge of Willful Blindness stems entirely from an interview by Hugh Hewitt on BookTV with author Andrew McCarthy, the federal prosecutor who brought the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, to trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. What struck me most about the interview was McCarthy's vulnerability about the mistakes he made and his shallow understanding of Islam. And then there were the many revelations about the lack of communication among government agencies and other lapses in national security measures that allowed the Blind Sheikh to carry out the attack — and that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks. An equally compelling read in a different way, I suspect.

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