Monday, July 18, 2005

Reforming Islam

Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble With Islam," and seeker of an Islamic reformation, spoke to The Times:
Doesn’t the violent Muslim minority show Islam is flawed? “I ask myself the same question,” she grimaces. Far from regarding Muslims as oppressed they have a “supremacy complex — and that’s dangerous”. This, she contends, is true even among moderates. “Literalists” who consider the Koran the “perfect manifesto of God” have taken over the mainstream; and far from misreading Islam, as Tony Blair and the Muslim Council of Britain insist, terrorists can find encouragement for murder in the Koran...

...“Why do they protest against France for making it illegal to wear hijabs, but not against Saudi Arabia for making it illegal not to wear them?”...

...She recalls asking Mohamed al-Hindi, political leader of Islamic Jihad, where the Koran glorifies martyrdom; he insisted it was there, but even after looking up books and phoning colleagues, he couldn’t find one reference.

“His translator suggested I better go if I wanted to leave alive,” she recalls. “I asked why he had even given an interview, and the translator said, ‘Oh, he assumed you would be just another dumb westerner’.”

Muslims, adds Manji, must find positive role models rather than jihadists: “Martyrs are the rock stars of the Muslim world, shown on the internet against a background of funky music. They feed on the self-esteem crisis of young Muslims.” That could be addressed by history lessons paying greater tribute to the Muslim contribution to the Renaissance.

She denounces terrorism and the response to terrorism, which is not sufficiently robust. It is no good, she argues, for respectable Muslims to say “violence is not the Islamic ideal” if violence has become Islamic practice. And she attacks the proposed religious hatred laws, saying: “Society needs people who offend, otherwise there will be no progress.”

Indeed. But can Manji and her followers provoke Muslims into progress?