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The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith

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The Trouble with Islam

The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith

Is there something wrong with Islam today? Many people think so - including not a few Muslims. Not too long ago criticisms of Islam would not have been well tolerated, even coming from outsiders; but in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, we have seen a small wave of books by Muslims who are reexamining their faith and asking others to do so as well.


Title: The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith
Author: Irshad Manji
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312326998

•  A powerful, if angry, voice for renewal and reform in Islam
•  One of many recent books by Muslims seeking to improve Islam from within

•  No index
•  Tone and style might not be welcome by some readers

•  Canadian journalist, lesbian, and Muslim criticizes problems within Islam
•  Calls for reform in Muslim attitudes towards their own religion and towards non-Muslims
•  Argues that Islam has been hijacked by tyrants and Muslims have failed to think critically


Book Review

Unfortunately, there are still many who aren't reacting well to all of this - they insist that any problems experienced by Muslims today are due entirely to the actions and prejudices of others: Islam itself is not and cannot in any way be responsible. That, unsurprisingly, is actually one of the things that authors are asking be reconsidered: the idea that there is a single pure Islam followed by everyone and which is only responsible for good, never evil.

One recent contribution to this movement comes from Irshad Manji, a Canadian broadcast journalist who is a woman, a lesbian, and a Muslim. Her book *The Trouble with Islam : A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith is as much about her as it is about Islam - perhaps more so, in some ways. It is a highly personal account of the experiences of an immigrant girl growing up in the West, but also in a household where a very conservative - even oppressive - form of Islam was taught.

As a consequence of her experiences, Islam is "on very thin ice" with her. She's "hanging on" by her fingernails - she likes Islam and values her religion, but the conditions of Islam today are such that she no longer feels entirely comfortable with it. She is embarrassed by what other Muslims are doing and has difficulty in truly distancing herself from it all.

Manji identifies a number of targets for causing problems within Islam. There is Saudi Arabia, with its insistence on funding and promoting an extremist view of Islam. There is the "Arab monopoly" on Islam, from which stem a number of cultural issues, such as only allowing the Qur'an to be read in Arabic - something akin to the medieval requirement that the Bible not be translated into the vernacular. This allows a select few to maintain a stranglehold on Qur'anic interpretation and understanding.

The Trouble with Islam

The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith

Finally, there is also rampant antisemitism which treats Israel as a source of all evil and Arab nations a source of all good - even though in practice just the opposite is often true. Manji travelled to Israel, which she found to be a democratic state that tolerates internal criticism of just about anything the government might do (in fact, she probably wouldn't have been invited to visit and allowed to move around so freely in any Arab Muslim state - an important point which bears reflecting upon).

The Palestinian leadership, however, doesn't even use some of the millions of foreign aid to repair the failing internal structures of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Manji talked to a woman at the Dome of the Rock about this, a woman quoted as explaining: "Some people say, 'Don't worry as long as the mosque looks strong and sturdy on the outside.' They only care about the symbolism, not the people." This is the core message of Maji's book: that too many Muslims care only about how their religion looks on a superficial level, regardless of the problems caused for people internally.

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