Irshad Manji: The trouble with Islam: A wake-up call for honesty and change
BY: DIETRICH KUHL
An amazing book! It starts with an open letter to Muslims and Irshad Manji’s honest confession about her struggles with Islam. In spite of calling herself a Muslim refusenik (www.mus lim-refusenik.com) she does not desire to leave Islam; but neither is she prepared to close her eyes to the problems and troubles with Islam. Dr. Manji’s doctorate is in sociology. She is a well-known TV journalist in Canada, a feminist and an openly confessed lesbian. Her father is Indian, her mother Egyptian. She was born in Uganda, but her family was expelled by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
She says she studied the Qur’an and Muslim beliefs for the last 20 years and is convinced that Islam has to change if it wants to receive a hearing from the younger generation. Her basic proposition is that Islam has to return to the concept of ijtihad, to independent and honest thinking, away from rigid dogmatism, away from its obsession to glorify the days of Muhammad. She describes her long pilgrimage in studying Islam, reading far and wide, discussing issues with her Muslim, Christian and Jewish friends, asking provocative questions, travelling to Arab countries and to Israel, unwilling to accept pet answers or to be satisfied with taboos and traditions. Her aim is to reform and modernise Islam. Her campaign Operation Ijtihad is her attempt to achieve this goal. Her book is a call to intellectual honesty, openness and tolerance. She clearly and without mincing words describes the issues she feels need to be tackled by the Muslim community and those which need to be changed: the oppression and discrimination of women, the rejection of independent, open-minded thinking, the misguided desire to live in the same way as Muhammad, the rejection of the univer sal human rights, the discrimination of religious minorities in Muslim countries, anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel which poisons every new generation from early childhood onwards, jihad and anti-western hatred. Her aim in this all is to stimulate discussion among the silent majority. She also believes that an essential part of her campaign is to free Muslim women from their financial dependency in which Dr. Manji sees the conceptual and institutionalised reason for the oppression and discrimination of Muslim women.
The book makes exciting reading. Dr. Manji’s conclusions are based on wide reading and well researched facts. Quoted websites and literature are helpful. She invites discussion. Her assessment and conclusions seem honest and fair. I have not found a single typing error in the book – certainly a sign of thoroughness. The book has been published in at least 14 languages in 20 countries, including Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan and Brazil. Translations into Urdu and Arabic are available since 2005 on Irshad Manji’s website free of charge (www. muslim-refusenik.com). Since September 2005 about 50.000 copies of the Arabic translations have been down-loaded by individuals all over the world. Her website also provides information on all sources for the facts she quotes and lists also positive and negative letters to her and fatwas against her.
At the end one wonders how long she will be able to survive all threats on her life and the fatwas against her. The Canadian police and Salman Rushdie advised her to take certain precautions – but how effective will they be in the case of someone who is dead serious in killing her in order to protect the honour of Islam and Muhammad?