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Read It Now: Wanted Women—Faith, Lies and The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui

by Megan O’Grady

 
Photo: AP Photo/FBI

A welcome respite from the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric in post-9/11 international affairs is Deborah Scroggins’ eagerly anticipated Wanted Women: Faith, Lies and The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui (Harper Collins). The book, which grew out of a 2005 article for Vogue (below) chronicles the wildly divergent, oddly parallel destinies of two women raised in Islam: the Somali-born author (and former member of the Dutch parliament) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who became famous—or infamous, depending on one’s point of view—as a scathing critic of Islam and a champion of the West; and the MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was linked to Al Qaeda and disappeared for several years before she was eventually captured and convicted, in a New York courtroom, of attempted murder. Highly intelligent, ambitious, and seemingly motivated by an intriguing mix of idealism and self-interest (and perhaps self-delusion), both women have become figureheads of sorts—on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Emma’s War author Scroggins has a gift for locating the complex human narratives behind the all-too-reductive headlines, and here she captures the critical disconnect between the West’s perception of Islam and its multifaceted reality—at the heart of which is a lightning-rod issue: the status of women. “In the mirror symmetry operating here, the jihadis claimed that they weren’t really fighting to maintain their control over women but rather to throw off Western dominance. Right-wing Westerners, meanwhile, claimed that they weren’t fighting to maintain Western dominance but to liberate Muslim women,” concludes Scroggins. “Women like Ayaan and Aafia became symbols in battles that were really about other things.” Currently, Hirsi Ali is married to the historian Niall Ferguson, with whom she has an infant son; Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

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