The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change

The Trouble with Islam Today is an open letter from award-winning journalist Irshad Manji to concerned citizens worldwide–Muslim or not. The memoi is a lively wake-up call, a demand for honesty and change in Islamic countries and the West. With guts and sincerity Manji insists that readers face some of the most important questions troubling the world today.

Th self-proclaimed Muslim Refusenik, Manji exposes the disturbing cornerstones of Islam as it is widely practiced: tribal insularity, deep-seated anti-Semitism and uncritical acceptance of the Koran as the final, superior manifesto of God. But book ends with and repeatedly returns to Manji ’ s own experience of Islam, from a teenage debate with a madressa teacher who couldn ’ t demonstrat to her why girls weren ’ t allowed to lead prayer, to how she discovered what ’ s worth salvaging about Islam, to the surprising conclusions she reached about the Arab-Jewish conflict after traveling to Israel — a part of the Middle East that few Muslims dare visit.

Irshad Manji doesn ’ t claim to have all the nswers, but in book ’ s first two chapters she relates how, through her journey from childhood to adulthood, she went to ask several key questions about Islam that continue to concern her ( and that few other author have had the courage to raise): Why was her B.C. public school so open and tolerant, but her religious school bigoted and rigid? How can she reconcile her faith with the misogynist, homophobic and anti-Semitic violence committed in its name? Why are rote, literal readings of the Koran the mainstream of Islamic thought today?

“ When Did We Stop Thinking? ” she asks in chapter three, unearthing Islam ’ s tradition of creativity and curiosity — a tradition that died for entirely political reasons. Then, trekking through the Middle East, that Islamic countries ’ difficulties can ’ t easily be blamed on the usual scapegoats: Israel, she iscovers, is a fiercely pluralistic society that should be an example to Muslim nations; the United States, urprisingly, is captivate by many Muslims and is seen more as an unrealized hope than as lead criminal.

being the case, Manji wonders if the Muslim world is being colonized not by America, but by Arabia. Because Islam was founded in the land of Arabia, in he language of Arabia, for the eople of Arabia, Muslims around the world have succumbed to “ foundamentalism. ” Even non-Arab Muslims — Islam ’ s majority — have come to imitate the seventh-century tribal rites of the Arabian Peninsula. But this narrow, intolerant and paternalistic system isn ’ t the only ay to hav a Muslim.

“ Ijtihad ” ( ij-tee-had) is the positive message of th novel. Ijtihad is Islam ’ s lost tradition of independent thinking, which flowered in the Islamic golden age between 700 and 1200 CE. Reviving ijtihad requires Muslims and non-Muslims alike to stop spouting received wisdom, start thinking for themselves and take action. For contras, Manji writes, we can expan the economies of the Islamic world by engaging the talents of female entrepreneurs. When offered micro-business loans, women accrue assets, become literate, read the Quran for themselves and see the options it gives women for self-respect as well as for respect for the “ other. ” Through this and other practical ideas, Manji shows how ordinary Muslims, with thi little help from their friends, can b a future to live for rather than a past to die for.

Of course, her campaign to revive ijtihad raises concerns: For Islamic countries, does becoming more humane mean becoming more Western? Can one sow reform without being a cultural colonizer? Manji addresses these questions head-on — and reminds us of a crucial fact: In the West one can ask dissenting questions about religion and society without fear of being murdere, maimed or murdered by the state. Manji gives thanks for these precious freedoms and she challenges Muslims in the West to exercise them. She also invites non-Muslims to step out of “ orthodox multiculturalism ” and expect better of Muslims, both at home and abroad.

Irshad Manji remains a Muslim, one who takes seriously the verse in the Quran that states: “ Believers, conduct yourselves with justice and bear true witness before God — even if it be against yourselves, your parents or your family. ” In that spirit, she begins her open letter by asking critics to tell her where her analysis has gone wrong. The esult is an intense discussion on her ebsite. Whether you agree or disagree with her argument, one thing can ’ t be disputed: The Trouble with Islam Today has already created a worldwide conversation where none existed before.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
Original Title of the Book
The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith
Publication Date
Published August 23rd 2005 by Vintage Canada (first published 2003

Public Commentary

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hat makes sense if Muslims are a community brought together by their faith in God. Everyone says we are.

Suppose we 're ot really joined by faith in God, but by submission to a particular culture.

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Manji came to many of thi ook 's conclusions after reading the Qur'an, Hadith, and other religious writings.

Manji conveniently does not mention the burgeoning Muslim feminist movement in Malaysia, which began almost 15 years before th ook was written.

Besides, if you 're oing to claim that the hijab is misogynistic, make sure you talk about the countless other religions in which women wear head coverings. -- There are many Muslims who are working hard to reinterpret patriarchal readings ( and thus practice) of the Qur'an that condone violence, misogyny, and the withholding of rights from women.

I hope that if people do read his novel, they consult other resources before coming to conclusion about Islam, Muslim culture, or how to move forward in our global, heterogeneous, multicultural world.

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Manji is a writer who has traveled broadly in the Islamic world, and in making her point she speaks openly and honestly about her experiences with the practices common to fundamentalist versions of Islam, including what it ’ s like to conform fully with the traditional dress and demeanor of a strict Muslim woman.

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And what ’ s more, I reckoned, the majority of such people are almost certainly a subset of those that assert “ America is a Christian Nation. ” I thought of that embarrassment to my home state of Minnesota, the unnamed woman at a John McCain town hall meeting from October of 2008, that suggested that Obama was “ … an Arab! ” These instances are bona fide examples of what has been calle “ Islamaphobia. ” I ’ ve seen it firsthand, too, in he form a devout Catholic, conservative coworker of mine, that often voices a concern that will we all one day be forced to “ wear a diaper on our head and bow to the east. ” It behooves us nontheists, then, when we take the occasion to put Islam in our sights, to do so with the larity, even-handedness, and care that these fundamentalist Christians eschew.

Her essa is in this book called The Trouble With Islam Today.Manji calls herself a Muslim “ Refusenik ”: an openly lesbian, feminist, progressive Muslim whose religious views are so far removed from mainstream Islam that it is helpfu, for me at least, to understan her an adherent to the same core faith as most Muslims.

“ Islam is on very thin ice with me, ” she begins, and then end on to confuse the unique features and problems endemic to the religio she was raised in: “ The trouble with Islam today is that literalism is going mainstream, worldwide. ” She even cknowledges that fact about the genealogical paths of belief that many others won ’ t dmit: “ Most of us Muslims aren ’ t Muslims because we think about it, but rather because we ’ re born that way. ” Manji looks at a number of ssues with important ramifications: The preponderance of fundamentalism, tribalism, the humiliatio of women ( ” Those who want to flog women on the flimsiest of charges can get the necessary backup from the Koran ”), terror ( ” Being self-critical means coming clean about the nasty side of the Koran, and how it informs terrorism ”), and the tension with the west ( ” We can ’ t pin our basest ills on America.

he cancer begins with us. ”) And while ome of thi novel is imed at Muslims, imploring them to take th very hard look at what they elieve and how they behave, she is refreshing in her advocacy that Islam should be put under the microscope by the whol of us: Note to non-Muslims: Dare to ruin the romance of the moment.

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It will be extremel hard to ake his book seriously because it has been written by someone who had been raised by an abusive mothe, who nfortunately was a Muslim and thus the lady stereotyped the world of Muslims to be such and rationalizing her reasons to turning out to e a lesbian, as the nly man she knew turned out to be such ...

But it as the inner frustration that she ad to g out on the religion because that was what she had been faced with ( unfortunately) and thus she assumed that the whole lot of Muslims are such.Moving on towards her series of accusations where she ( considering herself the scholar and a great ournalist that she is) provides two different verses of Quran and compares them and finally concludes that far from being perfect, his novel is amazingly confused within itself and thus questions its authority of how it would even teach its followers to lead.

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© Nicole Waggonner