Irshad Manji’s Interview with David Frost on Al-Jazeera

Here’s a point of view that you won’t see in the mainstream media:

My views on Irshad Manji (self-proclaimed “Muslim refusenik” 🙂 🙄 ) are mixed. One one hand, I find it refreshing that Irshad Manji is a Muslim who saw the way that Islam is being practiced, but chose not to reject the entire religion. She can see that it is not the Islamic ideology that is the problem, but rather how some people choose to interpret their faith, and this I find refreshingly open-minded. Additionally, the victim mentality is dangerous, which means that if we want things to change, I agree that we need to be self-critical.

However, I think Irshad Manji’s world view is rather simplistic. For example, I find her staunch defence of Israel to be rather hypocritical. There’s clearly a double standard there; I don’t understand how on one hand she can be self-critical when it comes to her own brethren, but isn’t at all critical of Israeli policy in the West Bank. I think empathy is absolute; if you sincerely believe in truth and justice, then you empathise with anyone facing oppression and persecution. I just can’t understand how someone can one hand empathise with Israelis persecution but places no emphasis on the rights of the Palestinians who are also facing persecution every single day. It is sheer ignorance to suggest that only Muslims have a role to play in the Palestinian conflict.

I think it is important for Muslims to be self-critical, but at the same time, Manji ignores all effects of the Western media, instead attributing all blame to only Muslims. The irony is that she is herself as victim of Western bias towards Islam; since she is a relatively progressive and moderate Muslim, the only channel that will give her air-time is Al-Jazeera.

Nevertheless, given that the media only chooses to portray either fundamentalist Muslims or ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali who completely reject the faith, Irshad Manji provides an alternative view that at least challenges conventional beliefs about Islam. You could argue that it takes an open-minded person to face the kind of reaction that Irshad Manji has from her Muslim brethren and still remain loyal to their religion.

On the other hand, when you consider her perspective on global issues (she was once quoted as saying “Neither Israel nor America lies at the heart of Muslim problems”), one wonders about her sincerity. One would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but perhaps, at the end of the day, she is just another attention-grabbing mediocre author looking to sell a few books.

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10 comments

  1. evedyahu · February 21, 2008

    What is so wrong about this statement: “Neither Israel nor America lies at the heart of Muslim problems”?

    Don’t you think/believe that most times the problem(s) is/are INTERNAL? Why always blame others and never (or almost never) yourself? Isn’t this a defeatist attitude?

  2. evolution · February 21, 2008

    I agree with you, it is. I agree Muslims need to stop blaming other people because the victim mentality is dangerous. In addition, being self-critical is important. I had already stated that above.

    The Muslim community has internal problems and we need to face up to that reality. That’s one of the reasons I admire Irshad Manji.

    However, these things are never that simplistic; they always involve a multitude of factors. I don’t think we can ignore either America or Israel’s role in the Palestinian conflict. There are always two sides. At the end of the day, both sides are to blame.

    Also when Irshad refers to “Muslim problems”, this could mean a multitude of things. It would be helpful if she was a lot less vague, so it would easier to understand exactly what she is referring to.

    I certainly, believe, for example, that there are no excuses for fundamentalism, or the over-reaction of Muslims.

    And can we really ignore America’s role completely? I think not.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Peace,

    evolution

  3. aamer · February 22, 2008

    One thing that has always bothered me is her brazen, provocative nature.

    She names her book “The Trouble With Islam” and, as you said, she uses vague terms like “Muslim problems.”

    I’m not offended by criticism towards Islam at all, but I don’t see any reason to approach things in such an aggressive manner. She approaches her arguments with the behavior of a marketer rather than an analyst. Whatever legitimate criticisms she has ultimately end up being overshadowed by a few catch phrases.

  4. evolution · February 22, 2008

    Aamer,

    Indeed I agree! It seems every interviewer will introduce her as “Osama bin Laden’s worst enemy.” And as you said, she is not exactly analytical in her approach, and some of her arguments are very weak. That’s why I prefer the approach of Tariq Ramadan or Ziuauddin Sardar, since they come from more of an intellectual background and have rigorously studied Islam.

    In some ways, she reminds me of Yasmin Alibhai Brown – she’s someone who set herself up to represent the “moderate Muslim” viewpoint, but I think she is fooling herself somewhat as she chooses the aspects of Islam that are convenient for her.

    I am somewhat confused about sincere she really is. For example, in her new film, she interviews Salman Rushdie when the rest of the Muslim world had moved on. Perhaps this is because both Rushdie’s and Irshad’s careers are at the point of stagnation. 😉

  5. Pingback: Personal Response from Irshad Manji « evolution
  6. evedyahu · March 5, 2008

    I guess you have no reply on my previous comment.
    Too bad – I would have loved to hear your perspective on some of the issues I raised. 😦

  7. evolution · March 5, 2008

    evedyahu,

    I answered your comment. I reply to all comments on this blog.

    See above, second comment, just after yours.

    You might have missed it as the first line was “I agree with you.” 😉

  8. evedyahu · March 5, 2008

    I had a second comment that I told you not to post it on the blog – because it was NOT directly connected to your post. It was more of a series of questions.
    I did see that you answered my first comment.
    Thanks anyway.

  9. evolution · March 6, 2008

    evedyahu,

    Honestly, i have no idea what you’re talking about. Didn’t receive any other comments. You can email me at [email address removed] if you like, although I would prefer that you comment on the blog.

    I’m also on Twitter under the handle evolutionlondon.

  10. evolution · April 10, 2008

    Note to commenters: my blog, my rules. In most cases, I will approve comments, unless they are slanderous or personal attacks.

    In the spirit of openness, I would like to let my readers know that I did not approve the last comment since it contained a personal attack on Irshad Manji, rather constructive criticism.

    Th evolution blog is one of peace and constructive debate of the issues, not tedious personal attacks.

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