News Agencies – May 10, 2012
Police crackdowns and attacks by religious extremists have attempted to derail the book tour of famed Muslim Canadian author Irshad Manji through Indonesia, a country she previously described as a symbol of “meaningful moderation in Islam.” “Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism,” said Ms. Manji. “Things have changed.”
Raised in Vancouver, Ms. Manji rose to prominence as an advocate for progressive Islam with her 2003 book The Trouble With Islam Today. Most controversially to many of her religious critics, she is openly lesbian. Ms. Manji was in the South Asian country to promote the Indonesian release of Allah, Liberty and Love. Amid laying out a blueprint for Muslim reformation modelled on the U.S. civil rights movement, the book singles out Indonesia as a model Muslim society.
News Agencies – June 10, 2011
Canadian author Irshad Manji writes in her new work, Allah, Liberty & Love, that she has moved from “anger to aspiration.” A rallying cry to readers to question orthodoxy without fear, the book concludes with the suggestion they get together to trade ideas. Manji even includes a recipe for chai tea to fuel such discussions. Anger was at the centre of The Trouble with Islam, her 2003 worldwide bestseller decrying her own religion’s entrenched prejudice against Jews and injustice toward women. The book earned her many fans but also hate mail, pinched-face cranks calling her the daughter of Satan, and even a smiling man who leaned in to shake her hand but instead spat in her face.
Manji now lives in a book-filled apartment — she calls it her Manji cave — in New York’s Greenwich Village, where she moved in 2008 to launch the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In the course, she encourages students to “challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.” A regular on Bill Maher’s late-night HBO show — the audience cheers when she comes on the set — and on the networks MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia and, occasionally, FOX, she’s seen all over America and around the world. Manji writes twice monthly for The Globe and Mail, and contributes to The New York Times op-ed page and The Wall Street Journal.
Despite Manji’s wide audience in the U.S., her work has not resonated in parts of Canada’s mainstream Muslim community. “I don’t know why, but there seems to be little mention of Irshad in Muslim circles in Canada,” says Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
In this article Irshad Manji points to how Americans are posing questions about the Fort Hood shootings, demonstrating that they are far from rushing to judgment. If an alleged criminal merely happens to be a Muslim, then religion may well be immaterial. But if his crime is committed in the name of Islam, then religion serves to motivate. In that case, the suspect’s Muslim identity absolutely matters. Words, gestures and images should be analyzed – fully, openly and honestly, says Manji. She compares this instance to the arrests of the Toronto 18 on terrorism charges in 2006, and how police refused to use to use the words “Muslim” in their press releases, even though the group can coined their organization, “Operation Badr.” She claims that while journalists must not reduce the story to Islam, they should not to erase Islam altogether. Understanding, she concludes, is served by analyzing, not sanitizing.