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

Irshad Manji

"I have to be honest with you. Islam is on very thin ice with me....Through our screaming self-pity and our conspicuous silences, we Muslims are conspiring against ourselves. We're in crisis and we're dragging the rest of the world with us. If ever there was a moment for an Islamic reformation, it's now. For the love of God, what are we doing about it?"

In blunt, provocative, and deeply personal terms, Irshad Manji unearths the troubling cornerstones of mainstream Islam today: tribal insularity, deep-seated anti-Semitism, and an uncritical acceptance of the Koran as the final, and therefore superior, manifesto of God. In this open letter to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Manji asks arresting questions.

"Who is the real colonizer of Muslims - America or Arabia? Why are we all being held hostage by what's happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Why are we squandering the talents of women, fully half of God's creation? What's our excuse for reading the Koran literally when it's so contradictory and ambiguous? Is that a heart attack you're having? Make it fast. Because if more of us don't speak out against the imperialists within Islam, these guys will walk away with the show."

Manji offers a practical vision of how the United States and its allies can help Muslims undertake a reformation that empowers women, promotes respect for religious minorities, and fosters a competition of ideas. Her vision revives Islam's lost tradition of independent thinking. This book will inspire struggling Muslims worldwide to revisit the foundations of their faith. It will also compel non-Muslims to start posing the important questions without fear of being deemed "racists." In more ways than one, The Trouble with Islam is a clarion call for a fatwa-free future.

Publishers Weekly writes:

Islam is "on very thin ice" with one follower, Canadian broadcaster Manji. Her book will be an unsettling read for most of her fellow Muslims, although they may find themselves agreeing with many points. She describes how childhood days spent at her local mosque left her perplexed and irritated; she complains that the Middle East conflict has consumed Muslim minds. She highlights several grievances many Muslims probably share: what she casts as Saudi Arabia's disproportional and destructive influence on Islam, how the hijab, or veil, has become a litmus test for a Muslim woman's faithfulness, and the need to question the accuracy of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The exclusion of women from Muslim leadership is criticized as well.

In addition to the above, the Weekly nevertheless disliked the fact that she "provides an unceasing list of Islam's misdeeds" and "often chooses the most controversial Koranic passages (rarely providing current scholarship for a more accurate reading of key verses)," while "her treatment of Islamic history is selective." But that's all a matter of opinion--focusing on the worst is exactly her point--and there is such a thing as excessive expectations. These grievances could only be removed by writing several thousand pages more, which is ridiculous.

On the other hand, the Weekly argues that "she mistakes the negative fan mail she receives from Muslims who have seen her on television for the views of all Muslims," though I think this might be an exaggeration--hate mail is not to be sneezed at as some aberration. It indicates a serious problem in the community. Likewise, though she "lambastes those who present a sympathetic view of Islam, including the late scholar Edward Said," I think that is certainly fair. We call them apologists. And quite often, their bluff deserves to be called. Other complaints (her angry tone and interspersing of personal stories) are also to be expected from a journalist who, quite rightly, feels betrayed by her own faith.

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