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The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith Paperback – February 10, 2005
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This "call for reform" reads like an open letter to the Muslim world. Irshad Manji, a Toronto-based television journalist, was born to Muslim parents in South Africa. Her family eventually fled to Canada when she was two years old. Manji shares her life experiences growing up in a Western Muslim household and ask some compelling questions from her feminist-lesbian-journalist perspective. It is interesting to note that Manji has been lambasted for being too personal and not scholarly enough to have a worthwhile opinion. Yet her lack of pretense and her intimate narrative are the strengths of this book. For Muslims to dismiss her opinions as not worthy to bring to the table is not only elitist; it underscores why she feels compelled to speak out critically. Intolerance for dissent, especially women's dissent, is one of her main complaints about Islam. Clearly, her goal was not to write a scholarly critique, but rather to speak from her heartfelt concern about Islam. To her fellow Muslims she writes:
I hear from a Saudi friend that his country's religious police arrest women for wearing red on Valentines Day, and I think, Since when does a merciful God outlaw joyor fun? I read about victims of rape being stoned for "adultery" and I wonder how a critical mass of us can stay stone silent.
She asks tough questions: "What's with the stubborn streak of anti-Semitism in Islam? Who is the real colonizer of the Muslims-America or Arabia? Why are we squandering the talents of women, fully half of God's creation?" This is not an anti-Muslim rant. Manji also speaks with passionate love and hope for Islam, believing that democracy is compatible with its purest doctrine. Sure, she's biased and opinionated. But all religions, from Christianity to Buddhism to Islam should be accountable for how their leadership and national allegiances personally affect their followers. One would hope that this honest voice be met with a little more self-scrutiny and a little less anti-personal, anti-feminine, and anti-Western rhetoric. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Islam is "on very thin ice" with one follower, Canadian broadcaster Manji. Her book will be an unsettling read for most of her fellow Muslims, although they may find themselves agreeing with many points. She describes how childhood days spent at her local mosque left her perplexed and irritated; she complains that the Middle East conflict has consumed Muslim minds. She highlights several grievances many Muslims probably share: what she casts as Saudi Arabia's disproportional and destructive influence on Islam, how the hijab, or veil, has become a litmus test for a Muslim woman's faithfulness, and the need to question the accuracy of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The exclusion of women from Muslim leadership is criticized as well. However, Manji's arguments would be better taken-and easier to follow-if not accompanied by an unceasing list of Islam's misdeeds. Manji often chooses the most controversial Koranic passages (rarely providing current scholarship for a more accurate reading of key verses), and her treatment of Islamic history is selective. She mistakes the negative fan mail she receives from Muslims who have seen her on television for the views of all Muslims, and lambastes those who present a sympathetic view of Islam, including the late scholar Edward Said. The writing, though energetic, is unfocused, with personal stories that are sometimes confusing. Although the book raises important points, Manji's angry tone and disjointed writing may obscure some of the valid questions she asks of Islam and Muslims.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Second of all, I would like to make it known my position on Islam. In this I differ from many, but my position is backed up by the Quran, not by narrations from other than the author of the Quran (and I believe this to be God). In summary, I believe as per 18:54 `And We have clarified in this Qur'an for the people from every example; but mankind was always most argumentative'. I do not accept other than the Quran as a source of religious law. I believe it to be an amazing book, but a book which has been denigrated primarily by those claiming the name of Islam through made-up narrations which they claim to have been made by the Prophet Muhammad and a second source of law in `Islam'. Not only are these narrations themselves backward illogical and contradictory to the Quran, but they also encourage their adherants to look at the Quran in an intolerant and illogical way (in order to justify their narrations). The Quran forbids anything else besides it to be taken as a source of religious law:
45:6 These are the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc.) of Allâh, which We recite to you (O Muhammad SAW) with truth. Then in which speech (HADEETH) after Allâh and His Ayât will they believe?
As for her book:
Irshad Manji is a Muslim everyone. She is a lesbian Muslim and she wants everyone to know. Muslims are backward and hypocritical and the Quran is a schizophrenic mix of misogyny, violence and contradictions. Most of the problems in Muslim societies are due to the Quran. Muslims should look to Israel as an ideal country with religious tolerance. Muslims need to reform the message of the Quran for today's society by interpreting it. This is called itejehad. This is her message and she thinks she is very clever. She is hailed as a role model by the right wing, who only wish more Muslims would be like her.
Below are the problems I have with her book:
She commences her book with a semi-autobiographical description of her early days in Canada, her family having been forced out of Uganda by Idi Amin. You can tell that she has had no positive male role-models in her life. Her father was a violent man (as she makes out) and the men who `taught' her `religion' at the local `religious school' were all nasty and misogynistic. In this, I am sure is an explanation for what she would call her `lesbianism'.
She then goes onto imply that the Asian Muslims in Uganda because of the Quran, which never forbids slavery took slaves and treated them badly! This is blatant ignorance. There are currently plenty of non-Muslim Africans who enslave each other during the multitude of wars that are unfortunately going on in Africa. Furthermore had she even attempted to explore the question rather than falling in love with herself for asking it, she would have realized that the Quran has numerous verses encouraging the manumission of slaves, e.g. 90:12-13 : `Do you know which is the better path? The freeing of slaves' The Quran makes it clear that in an ideal society, slavery should not exist. Why does the Quran not advocate clearly a total ban on slavery? Simple, an immediate ban on slavery in a country with many slaves would leave slaves impoverished and with nowhere to go.
She displays another example of her shallow morality by stating that if God did not want her to be a `lesbian' then why did he make her `fall in love with a woman'! This is worse than even Hollywood movie morality! The Quran is clear on same sex lewdness : 4:15 And those women who commit lewdness, you shall bring four witnesses over them from amongst you; if they bear witness, then you shall restrict them in the homes until death terminates their lives, or God makes for them a way out.
4:16 And the two men who commit it from amongst you, then you shall punish them (the punishment mentioned in the previous verse! ). If they (both women and men) repent and amend, then leave them alone. God is Redeemer.
Presumably she feels this verse needs `interpreting'. She then implies that other religions have no problem with this issue! No religion will ever approve/give equal recognition to same sex lewdness. Again, she is completely wrong and has an opinion devoid of any moral principles.
Next on her list is another Islamic falsehood (although unfortunately adopted by Muslims who have no idea what the Quran says) concerning an income tax which the Quran allegedly states that all non-Muslims must pay. In fact a look at the text (without using the hadith of Bukari et al) reveals what this `tax' is. It is reparations to be paid out when Muslims are attacked by non-Muslims (the only justification for war in the Quran is self defense as per 2:190). And guess what, read Robert Hoyland's book about `Seeing Islam as Others saw It' and what do you see? Early in Islam this `tax' was only paid in frontier towns (who were presumably waging war against Muslims)! Later on the Caliphs imposed this on all people. So, historical proof of a move away from the Quran (conveniently backed up by the hadith) can be demonstrated.
She quotes from MEMRI - one just has to google this term to realize it is run by an ex-Mossad agent. She displays gross ignorance concerning the creation of the Zionist state. Every `Muslim' crime she magnifies and displays ignorance of the context or adopts bizarre right wing conspiracy theories which have no basis in scholarly research.
I hope you get the impression! The people who reviewed this book well blindly accepted the facts without verifying them for themselves violating the Quran 17:36.
Out of those who read the book, those who verified the facts will dislike this book. In reality this book is terrible. It is like a fast food sandwich - it gives people what they want but the ingredients are unhealthy.
However, the only valid point she has, and I want to end on this point is this : Muslims are unable to engage in a free minded discussion on so many issues. I have consistently been surprised at how, despite the levels of education and intellectual attainment, how many Muslims on issues of religion act as if they are some third world dictator and attempt to stifle debate through intimidation.
Thirty reviews are positive--3 to five stars--and 14 (nearly 50%) are by people who have reviewed for Amazon before. Only 7 (less than 25%) are anonymous, signed "A Reader"). In general, the reviewers discuss the merits of the <book>.
Twenty-two reviews are hostile--almost all only 1 star--and only 5 (about 23%) are by previous Amazon reviewers. (One claims a children's game caused repeated vomiting by her child; reviews a $2.79 screwdriver; and attacks a book she admits not having read. In short, she doesn't review--she rants.) Nine (about 40%) are anonymous. Many are merely ad hominem attacks on the author, who is described as dishonest, ignorant, money-hungry, publicity-seeking (even fatwa-seeking) and fostering a "craze for Islamophobia." One calls Manji "simply not a Muslim" because of her "inability to read Arabic, absence from active Mulim worship, embrace of the West and its secular values, not to mention her identity as a Lesbian feminist."
I believe Amazon's reader-reviews are important and should not be distorted by partisan attacks. Readers should be alert to possible unfairness in this case. Now (at last) to the book itself.
Manji addresses her fellow Muslims thus: "I have to be honest with you. Islam is on pretty thin ice with me. I'm hanging on by my fingernails . . . ." What sounds like a nifty, snappy, wise-ass opener is, it soon becomes clear, really an expression of pain. Spirituality is important to Manji, and she feels her religion has betrayed her--from childhood onward--and she makes a number of important points.
First, she rejects the notion, popular since 9/11, that the problem isn't Islam but that Islam has been 'highjacked' by murderous psychopaths. No, she says: Mainstream Islam IS the culprit; it is cruel and even brutal toward women, toward Jews, toward Christians, toward all other infidels--even toward other Muslims. Dissident Muslims can be and have been beaten, imprisoned, killed. Muslims who aren't religious enough (e.g., those impious, kite-flying Afghanis) have been crushed. (Indeed, they were the Taliban's first victims: There's nothing fundamentalists hate more than apostates.)
As for the simplistic idea that "you mustn't confuse Islam with culture," she's all too well aware that Islam and such cultural horrors as Sharia law go hand in hand, each supporting the other. Sharia law, you may recall, means honor killings, punishing homosexuals by toppling walls on them, punishing adulteresses by stoning them to death, and defining rape victims as adulteresses.
She is clear on Islam's hermetic nature: Ask a question and get no answer, especially if you're a woman. Propose interpretation and be told the Koran is the literal word of God--and that the 'hadiths' or secondary sources are likewise not to be questioned, analyzed, interpreted. The source of this closed view is, she says, "desert Islam"--the narrow, harsh Wahabist Islam of Saudi Arabia. Its hermeticism is only increasing. The Koran, according to fundamentalists, can't be translated but must be read in Arabic (some also believe that only Arabs are "real Muslims"), and the Wahabist madressas (religious schools) don't want many people to read it even in Arabic. They don't teach reading but foster illiteracy; their students must learn to recite Koranic verses by rote.
Very interesting: What you can't read, you can't question or analyze or parse. You can't even know there are contradictory Koranic passages of compassion and tolerance toward non-believers and other beliefs. Can they be literally God's words? "The Koran is so profoundly at war with itself," says Manji, "that Muslims who 'live by the book' have no choice but to choose what to emphasize and what to downplay." Unless, of course, they're madressa-trained illiterates who will never know the contradictions exist. Imagine that: a religion with a vested interest in illiteracy. Is that a recipe for backwardness, or what?
Manji says most "moderate Mulims" allow these and other abuses to continue without protest. They remain silent--silent except, Manji says, for "screaming self-pity." Indeed, Muslims are frequently quoted in the New York Times on being maginalized, discriminated against and harmed by "backlash" and Islamophobia. Really? Such reports conspicuously lack anything but accusations and charges; there are never any facts. If Muslims in America in particular and the West in general were being victimized, do you not think you'd have heard about it by now? Manji's view and mine is that Western Muslims either support the abuses of desert Islam--or they are crippled by fear of retirbution.
In 217 pages Manji cannot be a scholar nor a historian. She goes a little too easily on the West and Isrtael at times. But she is successful at raising important questions, contradictions and challenges. She is not the best of writers--her tone is urgent, insistent and unmoldulated (to the point of being tedious at times). But her flaws are few and her courage cannot be questioned.--Bill Marsano is a professional writer and editor.
This woman is promoted as a Muslim, by those who use her in their campaign of maligning Islam. I suggest you learn some basics of Islam, read a little bit of Quran, and a little bit of Hadith, then ask yourself this question: Is she Muslim? I am sure your answer will be an emphatic no. This woman is not Muslim but promoted as Muslim. This is just one of their malicious tactics.
Would you let a carpenter operate on your eyes instead of an eye doctor?
Would you let a plumber operate on your heart instead of a cardiologist?
Would you let mechanic prescribe for you medicine?
So why let somebody who has no knowledge of Islam teach you about Islam? Think about it
It is not worth even 1 star.