Personal Response from Irshad Manji

First of all, some background. A while ago, I wrote about Rowan Williams’ comments about introducing Sharia law into the UK. Whilst I was doing some research for this blog post, I read Irshad Manji’s comments about the issue, and was pleased to find that I share her point of view. I decided to let Irshad know my thoughts my emailing her directly:

Hi Irshad, I am a regular reader of your blog, and thought I would send you a quick note to say that I like what you are doing here. I don’t agree with everything that you write, but I like that you challenge existing viewpoints and create dialogue. At the very least, you give people something to think about. I think your approach is refreshing, because as a British Muslim, I feel the media only gives a voice to fringe elements: either those who vehemently oppose the West, or to Muslims who vehemently oppose Islam. Like the saying: “they kept the shell but forgot the essence,” I think people forget that the essence of true Islam is to bring us closer to God through our shared sense of humanity, truth, and justice. I have read your writings on your blog (although admittedly, I’ve not read your book yet) and in my humble opinion, I think that you are sincere and really believe what you write; i.e. You don’t do it just to create controversy. I just started my own blog, partly because I was frustrated with how the media writes about Islam. We know that we have a lot of crazy people in our religion, but for my part, I’ve never met any of these types of extreme Muslims. Most people I know are just like other Westerners. At the same time, I think as Muslims, we can’t just blame the media, we need to incorporate a greater degree of reflection and look to the problems within our own community. If we take the first steps to demonstrate that we want to integrate ourselves with the West, then surely greater rights and equality will follow, inshallah. I also wrote about Rowan Williams comments before I read your opinion about his statement, and I found that your opinion to be similar to my own. I write about everything, not just religion, but I thought you might be interested in reading about my comments on Sharia law: Yours sincerely, Aliya Zaidi

Later on, I wrote a rather mixed response to Irshad Manji’s interview with David Frost. Today, I received a personal response from Irshad herself:

Dear Aliya, Salaam alaykum. Thank you very much for your message. I appreciate you taking the time to write and share your thoughts. Because of all the work on my plate, it’s taken me a while to respond to you. Perhaps that’s for the best because I’ve just visited your blog and am very confused (let me be more honest — disappointed) by your assumptions in regards to my work. This is not an attack on you; it’s a candid explanation of why it’s important to read, as the first word of revelation to the Prophet advised, **before** you proceed to judge the author as “mediocre.” You say below that you have not read my book. But in your blog you criticize as hypocritical my “staunch defense of Israel.” Yet if you haven’t read my book, how do you know what I say about Israel, Palestine, the two occupations that must end and why we Muslims can’t blame all of our ills on this regional conflict? If you’re basing your analysis on what others have said or written, how is this any less “simplistic” than what you accuse my worldview of being? Above all, what would you think if I proceeded to analyze the Quran without having read it? Wouldn’t you dismiss my work out of hand? In all sincerity, don’t you think that’s what you’ve done here? As I say Aliya, I’m not looking to be contentious. I appreciate your ambivalence toward me and my work. You have every right to be ambivalent — even hostile. But doesn’t it behoove you to educate yourself before judging? I leave you with these questions. Perhaps you’ll find it in your heart to post my entire response, inshallah. I look forward to hearing back. In peace, Irshad

I really appreciate that Irshad took time out of her busy schedule to respond personally. First of all, I’d like to say that I really do like what Irshad is doing. I think it’s refreshing to analyse and challenge conventional beliefs, and I agree with her sentiments that Muslims need to be self-critical. At the very basic level, she asks difficult questions, which make people, think about why they believe certain things. Fundamentally, she creates dialogue and discussion, which I definitely appreciate. At the same time, when I read something, I have to try and be objective and see the wood for the trees, as it were. I have visited Irshad’s site many times to read what her opinion on various issues, and get an alternative point of view. Although I have not read her book, my “assumptions” are based on her blog, her interviews with the media, clips of her new film, and transcripts of her speeches. With respect to Irshad’s point being confused: let me say that by no means have I formed an absolute opinion on her writing. I agree with her on some issues but not others. Simply put, I’m learning all the time and have not made up my mind about her yet. I base my opinion on what I have read so far, but I’m definitely open to being convinced. I humbly concede that yes, I need to read Irshad’s book, but nevertheless, I defend my position based on what I have read that’s been quoted from Irshad herself. If that’s wrong or misleading, then sure, I’d love to be hear another point of view on that. Here is my response to Irshad.

But in your blog you criticize as hypocritical my “staunch defense of Israel.” Yet if you haven’t read my book, how do you know what I say about Israel, Palestine, the two occupations that must end and why we Muslims can’t blame all of our ills on this regional conflict?

My references are: Linda Belanger’s article Jewish Post & News Q News From Occupied Palestine Article from The Times, written by Irshad herself. I agree with Irshad that Muslims cannot blame all their ills on Palestine. However, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that Irshad has said that she is impressed with Israel’s “democracy” and “freedom of expression.” I ask her, what does she think of Mordechai Vanunu, who was imprisoned by the Israeli government? What about Israel’s policies that forbid Palestinians who are married to Israelis from living in Israel? It just seems to me, that there are a lot of inconsistencies with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You could argue that Israel has freedoms the Muslim world does not, but surely we have to take into account that Israel receives some $3 billion in US aid every year? As Amartya Sen explained in his book, “Development As Freedom,” economic freedoms bring political freedoms. Israel, however, has a bit of a head start, with the most powerful nation in the world propping them up. As Malcolm X said: “They cripple the bird’s wing and then condemn it for not flying as a fast as they.” Malcolm X actually said this in direct reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My problem is not that Irshad criticizes Muslims, but that she does not criticize Zionism or Israel at all. Surely, nothing is ever black and white, to criticize one party but not the other seems to me to be rather perplexing. With reference to The Times article, I agree that Muslims need to speak out against crimes committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. But, truth and justice is absolute. We should not side with people just because they are Muslim, but similarly we should not only criticize our own brethren. Rather, we should speak out against oppression wherever it occurs, and if that includes Zionism, then so be it.

Wouldn’t you dismiss my work out of hand?

I’d like to reiterate at this point, that I have not dismissed Irshad’s work “out of hand.” I humbly concede that I need to read her book, but at the same time, I’ve been reading what she has written for quite a while now. I really want to believe Irshad is sincere, and that’s why I have given the benefit of the doubt so far. At the same time, it is important to have some degree of cynicism. Everyone has their own agenda; that’s human nature. It would be highly foolish of me to simply take everything that she has said on good faith; that is why my approach is to try and analyse different points of view as much as I can. As a strong believe in the diversity of ideas, I love hearing alternative points of view, as they always bring up questions. I am constantly undertaking analysis and truth be told, I haven’t made up my mind about her work. But it definitely raises questions. My favorite Muslim authors and journalists include Tariq Ramadan and Ziauddin Sardar. If I’m truthful, Irshad, I like Tariq Ramadan’s approach because he is not afraid to criticize Muslims, but at the same time, he believes that Islam is not incompatible with the West. Zia is not afraid to criticize Salman Rushdie either. This is another issue that I find perplexing and have not found a satisfactory answer to. By no means, do I agree with the fatwa against Rushdie, but at the same time, I believe we have to condemn his views. Irshad, it’s one thing to be against his fatwa, quite another to befriend him. I do believe that the Muslim reaction to such provocation is highly damaging, but I think we should also criticize Rushdie‘s views, which at the end of the day, are tantamount to lies and slander. Rushdie’s views are part of a wider set of misconceptions about Islam, which we need to address. I agree that the victim mentality is dangerous. Many people are equally critical of moderate Muslims are much as extremists, and it is partly for this reason, that I started a blog. However, can we really completely ignore the media bias? Like it or not, it has a role to play, and I can cite many examples of this, but one in particular:

  • Tariq Ramadan, a moderate Muslim, is not given a voice. Rather, the media chooses to report on Muslims that neither you, or I have most likely ever met: i.e. the other 95%. Furthermore, he is discredited as being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, banned from entering the US, and lies are spread about him being a supporter of extremism. Justice? Surely, we have to speak out against this, too.

As I say Aliya, I’m not looking to be contentious. I appreciate your ambivalence toward me and my work. You have every right to be ambivalent — even hostile. But doesn’t it behoove you to educate yourself before judging?

I am not passing judgment or nor am I hostile; as I have said, I am constantly changing and re-defining my views. Irshad, if you want to send me a copy of your book, sure, I’d love to read it! 🙂 I’m not hostile, because I sincerely do like a lot of what Irshad has written. It’s just I’m critical of her position on other issues, and I am trying to weigh up both sides of the argument. On one hand, I admire Irshad because I think it’s refreshing that she has not turned away from Islam despite her earlier experiences. However, the cynic in me, asks would I have really paid attention to Irshad’s views, had she condemned Islam (itself, as opposed to Muslims) outrightly? Probably not. The fact that she refers to herself as a faithful Muslim is what gives her some credibility, unlike someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who calls herself an ex-Muslim, or Rushdie. I’ll end this rather long post here, but in conclusion: I give Irshad the benefit of the doubt, that she is truly sincere. I really want to believe it. However, that does not mean that I won’t question her position on certain issues. And, I’m open to having my mind changed. My email response to Irshad:

Hi Irshad, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to reply to my email. I’m sorry that you were disappointed by my blog. It’s just that I sincerely agree with you on some points, such as Rowan Williams’ comments but not on other issues. I appreciate that I need to read your book, but I base my opinions on what I have read so far, some of it from your own blog, articles and transcripts of your speeches. Also I humbly concede that I need to read your book, but wouldn’t it be foolish not to read articles from other sources before forming a complete opinion? That being said, I have posted your response on my blog, as well as some of my own thoughts. By no means have I formed a complete opinion on your work. I’m open to being convinced. May I say, I hope that you continue doing what you’re doing. It’s refreshing to have another voice raising these sorts of issues and creating dialogue. You have given me a lot to think about, and the fact that I disagree with you on certain issues does not mean I will condemn all of your work in an off-hand manner. Disagreement is good and surely the essence of your message. Sincerely, Aliya

Do you think I’m being too cynical? What do you think of Irshad Manji’s work? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



  1. George · March 5, 2008

    You say: “With reference to The Times article, I agree that Muslims need to speak out against crimes committed by Muslims in the name of Islam…”

    I am glad that you agree with this. In fact – you should START with this. And the same applies to Christians, Jews etc. We all should start with our OWN commmunities and them move on to our neighbors.

    Any religion that does not speak against its OWN crimes first – has no right to judge others…and I am afraid that the rights of Christians in Saudi Arabia (the heart of ISLAM) are much much much worse than the rights of muslims in ANY Christian country. What do you think about this?

    You have whole cities where Christians are not even allowed to go to – while you can build a mosque in Rome, Washington, London etc…without any real trouble.

    SOLVE your own major problems of INJUSTICE and INEQUALITY and then focus on others. You will see that your injustices and inequalities are much greater than the ones you criticize elsewhere.

    I would be happy if an intelligent and (seemingly) open woman like you would admit this. Since it looks like much of the rest of the Muslim world (who fairly recently wanted the death of a man who converted to Christianity from Afghanistan) is either blind to these, or prefers to sweep these issues under the carpet of Western ignorance and political correctness.

  2. Antonio · March 19, 2008

    Irshad Manji befriends Rushdie because it’s good publicity for her work. It’s all about her business, her business is Irshad Manji.

    I’m happy she responded to your email. That’s very ‘respectful’ of her.

  3. evolution · March 19, 2008

    Hi Antonio,

    Thanks for commenting. As I have stated previously, Irshad’s intentions confuse me. I’d like to hope that it isn’t just clever marketing.

    Incidentally, why did you put ‘respectful’ in speech marks? Was that a hint of sarcasm I detected there? 😉


  4. evolution · March 20, 2008

    I also wanted to add: Manji’s credibility is tarnished by the fact that she supported the French hijab ban:

    The government has no right to interfere in matters on personal religious conviction. It is completely immoral for the State to dictate women’s choices, and by that, I mean that banning hijab is the same as forcing one to wear hijab by law. Both cases are a violation of individual rights and the freedom to practice religion as one desires.

  5. Antonio · March 23, 2008


    To further your comment on whether it’s just all clever marketing, this is my response…

    Irshad Manji is a risk taker who is doing great things for people. She truly is making a difference for people other than herself.

    That being said the ‘body language’ of her website contradicts this very much.

    When Irshad Manji won the Chutzpah award from Oprah Winfrey a blurb was posted on her front page in a red border. Clearly showing that she had won recognition from Winfrey. It stayed there for weeks before it moved to the right side of the web page and became #1 on her list of newslinks.

    There were 7 newslinks (links to articles she wrote or that were written about her). As new links to articles were added with the coming days the ones that now hit #7 were moved to the archives section of her website.

    So after a few days the Oprah link started moving down this list…#2, then 3 then 4 until eventually it hit #7. Which meant that the next time this newslist was updated and a new link was added the Oprah link should then go into the archives right?

    Ah but it didn’t.

    All of a sudden Irshad Manji’s newslist grew longer. The Oprah link now became #8 on the list, then 9 and 10 until a couple weeks later it was sitting at #16!

    Finally the Oprah link was moved to the archives after a couple months from when she originally won the award. And the newslist which was now 16 links long suddenly shrunk back down to a mere list of 7.

    This was the only time that the newslist was ever expanded to include more than 7 links.

    That tells me one thing. The most important thing out of everything she is doing is to get recognition from a celebrity. For someone who isn’t living her life for validation from anyone that pretty much gave it away that she is indeed living for validation to be and to become famous herself.

    It’s all about fame, and it’s about selling a product (books and films). And to further evidence my point just go and look at the photos section of her site. Why are there no pictures of her with people in the countries with whom she speaks of that she claims to be helping. Why have all these pictures of herself with high profile public figures? And how many pictures do you need to plaster of yourself all over your site? One is sufficient in order for people to know how you look like, no?

    It’s all about validation, recognition and business, and her business is to look out for Irshad Manji.

    To answer your second comment about the sarcasm in my first point…I wouldn’t say that it’s sarcasm as much as it’s bitterness towards an old friend who doesn’t keep in touch anymore ever since she came out with her book.

    All the best,

  6. evolution · March 23, 2008


    Thank you again for your comments and for highlighting the news links. I did check out the photos page and indeed, there are a lot of photos- mostly of herself with various famous people.

    I’m also irritated that one cannot comment on her site. Presumably, this is due the high volume of abuse that she would receive. Nevertheless, at least that would allow people to debate the issues.

    I would have really loved to comment on Irshad’s latest post where she puts herself in the same context as (wait for it!) Einstein, Plato, Socrates, Spinoza, Rosa Parks (???) and Barack Obama ! 😀

    As a British person, that little post alone made it difficult for me not to use some element of British humour when talking about Ms Manji 😉 (I mean, *seriously*, Rosa Parks???). (I’ll resist the temptation, although I did want to use my Comic Life skills to make an Irshad Manji cartoon strip…)

    Another great tactic to gain credibility is to only quote the extremists as your critics. It’s easy to answer back to uneducated, ill-informed fringe elements, but less so to moderate Muslim critics.

    When I first started looking into the issues of women’s rights and Islam, Manji is the obvious person to look to. However, there is important work being done by many Muslim women, such as Zainah Anwar, who do not seek fame, and actually do something practical by helping women on the ground.

    They may not be as famous as Ms Manji, but their approach is a lot more welcoming. It’s Ms Manji’s approach that really irks me.

    For more info, please check out my post on the New Enlightenment.

  7. godlessjew · April 2, 2008

    Just read the book. It is a short and good read. also, Israel was a democracy years before the US started economically backing it up . but that is not relevant to the main issue at hand.

  8. cruiscin · April 3, 2008

    my first two impressions on Ms Manji were both very good and very irritated: she seems every bit as self promoting, egotistical and self righteous as her most annoyed critics claim. she does not seem like the kind of person I would want to hang around with, nor do I agree with everything she has said.
    I think it is AWESOME that she is doing what she is doing in terms of breaking some very scary barriers from the inside out. I like her continued argument that religious reform is not just for scholars, but for everyone. I wish she could be a little easier on muslims in general, simply because her aggression does seem very off putting for all but the most liberal anyway, and they dont need convincing of change, they already know they need it! but unfortunately, I think she is right on in a lot of what she says about muslims taking accountability for things done in the name of their religion. there is just so much damage done by the fact that no matter how many polls go out about “95% of muslims consider themselves moderates and do not support blah blah blah”, there are riots over some stupid cartoon, not a woman getting lashed for the crime of being gang raped.
    also, i’m biased towards her because my personal interpretation of islam is very similar to hers. but i do think her effectiveness as a leader and an agent of change is hampered by these same things I find so appealing; she is so far outside the mainstream that her reach is limited. you can bet the mosque in my town wouldn’t be allowing her shadow to darken their doorstep, and they are not notably conservative, just very average.
    on the whole, for the apparently few really liberal muslims, she is incredibly refreshing. too bad she couldn’t be just a little more likeable 😦

  9. evolution · April 3, 2008

    Hi cruiscin,

    Thank you very much for your comments. It is refreshing to meet another liberal Muslim, who in some respect I agree with very much. I think if liberal Muslims work together to make their voices heard then inshallah, perhaps we can change the mainstream perception of Islam.

    I agree with you in some respects that Ms Manji at least is an example of a liberal Muslim, and makes a refreshing change from the Muslims we mostly see in the media.
    I do agree that my personal interpretation of Islam crosses over with hers in some respects, but it’s just that I don’t really like her approach, nor the way she writes (on her website, I have not read her book).

    It’s just I prefer (and respect more to some extent) the understated approach of others like Tariq Ramadan and Zia Sardar. Their approach appeals to me a lot more because I feel it’s a lot more logical as they criticise Muslims without completely ignoring the issue of discrimination in the West.


  10. cruiscin · April 6, 2008

    “Any religion that does not speak against its OWN crimes first – has no right to judge others…and I am afraid that the rights of Christians in Saudi Arabia (the heart of ISLAM) are much much much worse than the rights of muslims in ANY Christian country. What do you think about this?

    You have whole cities where Christians are not even allowed to go to – while you can build a mosque in Rome, Washington, London etc…without any real trouble.”

    It’s a bit of a stretch to say without any real trouble; the way I understand it more and more european countries are passing laws against new mosques. however, the meat of this statement is mostly true: the discrimination faced by muslims living in the west is not comparable to that faced by non muslims living in a sharia governed country. and there is a sizeable number of muslims who would NEVER consider living in a so called muslim country, because of the lack of so many basic rights! it is THESE people I feel need to start making their voices heard; there is so much talk about the incompatibility of the west and islam, and it just isn’t true. but for people to realize that, there needs to be more awareness of people like Tariq Ramadan, Zainah Anwar, and yes, Irshad Manji (see, this was related to this thread somewhere, I knew it 😉
    I have decided that my fondness for Ms Manji is my inherent liking of brashness. I have more intellectual respect for Tariq Ramadan as well, and I think his approach, in the long run, is what is needed to bring all sides of this together. But given that I’m the only woman I know who both plans on covering her head and getting my motorcycle permit this summer, I can’t help but admire someone breaking those image boundries. while it does strike me a bit as posturing while the adults do real work, sometimes it is just plain satisfying to give people a shock. and some people think about this in such simplistic ways, sometimes a good surprise is enough to get them thinking.

  11. Antonio · September 7, 2008


    If you haven’t come accross this blog I suggest a read.

    I think it’ll help answer your question about clever marketing.

    I hope you’ve had a great summer!


  12. ijtihadist · September 7, 2008

    I’m the author of the blog mentioned by Antonio above. There’s a lot more I could publish there, but I’m holding off for now because I do detect an ounce of sincerity behind all of Saraswati’s contractions.

    Anyhow, with regards to Manji — the real travesty is that someone who makes so many ridiculous arguments (a) is given so much attention by the media and (b) finds a home at prestigious universities even though any serious scholar of Islam (Muslim or non-Muslim) considers her a third-rate polemicist. A distinguished professor of Islamic Studies at my university (who is a secular Jew himself) dismisses Manji as an opportunistic hack who owes her fame to the interest groups which support her, name the pro-Israelis who are happy to buy into the message that it is the Muslims, and not the Israelis, who are at the root of problems. They are the ones who buy tickets to her events (she charges a large speakers’ fee), and who open the doors for her to speak from the perch of these great universities despite her utter lack of qualifications.

    This blog post does a great job of explaining why Ms. Manji is ridiculous, and how she disingenuously rigs her talks so that she is not upstaged by scholars of Islam who could easily rip apart her arguments. Particularly striking is her insistence that she can pray in whatever fashion she wants, rejecting in principle and practice what is perhaps the core ritual of the religion! If she merely neglected to pray (such a person is still a Muslim, albeit a lazy one) then OK, her Muslim-ness would still be within the realm of plausibility. But to reject the five pillars and the Quran as the word of God and still consider oneself a Muslim? That’s like a dentist who tells you can eat all the candy you want, neglect to brush your teeth, and still expect a gleaming smile for eternity.

    Finally, a great debate between Manji and the Angry Arab, As’ad AbuKhalil:

  13. Antonio · September 15, 2008

    I can’t quite see how a Christian latina is the commander of project Ijtihad.

    I’m interesting in finding out if Raquel Evita Suriel decided to become a Muslim and change her name to Saraswati by her own accord, or was this a condition set by Irshad Manji that Rauel had to go through in order to be hired as Project Ijtihad’s spokesperson.

  14. evolution · September 15, 2008

    Hi Antonio, and Ijtihadist,

    Thanks for your commenting and for highlighting the blog.

    i think that whatever we think of Irshad Manji, I don’t think we should judge the Muslim-ness of her personal assistant, Raquel Evita. I should disclose at this point, that I have exchanged a few emails with her, and she seems sincere enough to me. In any case, who are we to judge her faith? It affects no-one but her, and it’s a personal relationship with God. That is, at the very least, I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt as she seems sincere.

    The same cannot be said of Irshad Manji, because she is using her potent message to potentially turn young people away from the faith, in order to make herself famous. That’s my perception and conclusion now, anyway.

    Antonio- I believe you are right, that Irshad Manji’s message is clever marketing now appears to be self-evident.

    Ijtihadist, as you say, Manji’s Muslimness is frankly ridiculous: unlike Raquel Evita, she seeks to change Islam and justify whatever she wants, by conveniently ignoring every basic tenet and principle, as you say, to the extent that she think it’s okay to pray however she wants. You can’t change namaz: that’s the basic principle that every Muslim regardless of school of thought adheres to, and it’s what unites us.

    I’d like to highlight this post and quote in particular:

    “It’s proof positive that reading The Trouble with Islam Today corrupts good Muslim boys and girls. I’m only sorry that I needed the help of a lousy airline. You’ll see what I mean….

    Irshad replies: Then my work here is done.

    Right. So… instead of bringing people back to what you believe is the true form of the religion, Irshad seeks to “corrupt good Muslims.”
    That does wonders for her credibility… I think not.

    One more equally repulsive quote:

    As the Prophet might ask, “What the fig?”

    Mazallah. I understand that non-Muslims may not understand the love that we Muslims have for the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) but it makes me sick that a Muslim can disrespect the Prophet (SAW) in this way. Despicable.

  15. ijtihadist · September 18, 2008


    Yes, I detect some sincerity on the part of Ms. Saraswati, but there are also a lot of half-truths. Furthermore, she is part of Irshad’s team; if she works for and endorses Project Ijtihad, then the criticisms against Project Ijtihad/Manji apply to her too. Also, Ms. Saraswati is quite enthusiastic about appearing in the media in a religious capacity, so it’s not just her “personal relationship with God” that is at issue. She affects the young, impressionable people she tries to influence. That is why her own ideas are deserving of scrutiny. If she really was just an individual struggling with religious issues, then I would happily let her be, even if I don’t agree with her. We are all at different stages of religious development.

    As for the post of Manji that you highlight, it seems that Irshad is being sarcastic when she says “good Muslim boys and girls”. She equates orthodoxy with backwardness, and having them leave orthodoxy is therefore a wonderful achievement because it is supposedly a sign of individual/critical thought. Still, it does reveal her agenda quite clearly.

    Here is a debate between Irshad and Dalia Mogahed that is really worth watching:

    Dalia runs circles around Irshad with graceful, knowledgable arguments. Irshad is actually left speechless and stupified at a couple points in the debate. The most important point is near the end, when Dalia highlights how the radicals are very much Irshad herself in that they reject orthodoxy and want a democratization of ijtihad so as to justify their noxious whims. Irshad is unable to counter that and so she just brings up some entirely irrelevant talking points. You can see why Irshad chose not to link to this debate from her own site. 🙂

  16. evolution · October 2, 2008


    First of all, apologies for my late reply – Ramadan has kept me quite busy.

    I watched the interview you sent me and was very impressed with Dalia’s answers – very logical, coherent line of reasoning. I really enjoyed it, so thank you for sharing it.

    A few points:

    – The audience seemed to be hand-picked to be people who would naturally support Irshad, so I didn’t get the impression that most people agreed with Dalia.

    – The contrast with the Angry Arab video is particularly interesting. It is easy to argue with an angry, somewhat irrational perosn who makes personal attacks, more difficult when the person is calm but making logical arguments with a scientific, factual and statistica basis.

    – Irshad seems to change depending on who she is conversing with, something that I have noticed Ayaan Hirsi Ali also does. For example, please check out these videos and debates with scholar, Tariq Ramadan:

    With Irshad:

    With Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Part 1 of 3):

  17. ijtihadist · October 14, 2008

    – The audience seemed to be hand-picked to be people who would naturally support Irshad, so I didn’t get the impression that most people agreed with Dalia.

    I think this venue was composed of average Americans, who would be unfamiliar with traditional Islam and the nature of the shari’a. (Indeed, even many modern/liberal Muslims don’t know much about how the shari’a actually works.) In fact, it is this very lack of knowledge which makes it possible for Irshad to get any attention at all — she can jabber on cluelessly about ‘ijtihad’ because her audience doesn’t know any better than she does, while she confirms their improper stereotypes of Muslims and the shari’a. The same goes for Hirsi Ali — she doesn’t know much about Islam; her career exists because she serves the useful purpose of confirming people’s prejudices. See Fareena Alam’s excellent review of her book “The Caged Virgin” here:

    I wouldn’t describe the “Angry Arab” as irrational. He knows his stuff and his answers were far more nuanced and accurate than Irshad’s. He was just really blunt and didn’t hold back his contempt for her disengenuous pretentions and overgeneralizations. Very male of him, yes, but not irrational.

    Hope you had a happy Ramadan!

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