Muslim Women on Islamic Reform

Since 9-11 the capacity of Islam for renewal and change has become a central issue in the complex religious and political give-and-take that now surrounds relations between the West and the Muslim community worldwide. Because one of the focal points of Islamic reform is the role of Muslim women, whose social, economic, and political lives have been curbed in the religion, it is refreshing to see two lively North American Muslim women finding their voices.

Irshad Manji’s blunt and provocative The Trouble with Islam may make her more enemies than friends within what she calls "mainstream" Islam, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing this daring book. Manji, who works as a journalist and television personality in Toronto, is no happy camper within the fold: "Islam is on very thin ice with me." Deeply critical, Manji takes seriously the troubling questions that discerning non-Muslims have posed about Islamic fundamentalism. "Honesty" was the word I kept jotting in the margins as I read.

After recapping how her family fled religious persecution in Uganda (under Idi Amin) for British Columbia in 1972, when she was four, Manji discusses her bad experiences in Canada with Islamic religious schools. But most of the book carries Manji’s stinging indictments of Muslim attitudes toward women, human rights, Jews, America, and even the Quran. "First and foremost," she writes, "being self-critical means coming clean about the nasty side of the [Quran], and how it informs terrorism." To those Muslim readers who may be cringing, she asks, "Is that a heart attack you’re having? Make it fast. Because if we don’t speak out against the imperialists within Islam, these guys will walk away with the show."

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Sojourners Magazine October 2004
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