Manji’s trouble

The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change by Irshad Manji (Random House), 247 pages,.

The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change by Irshad Manji (Random House), 247 pages, $22.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN

islam crosses cultures from North Africa to South Asia. In each of these cultures and economies, human rights records lag behind most of the globe. So says TV pundit and gay Muslim activist Irshad Manji in her book The Trouble With Islam: A Wake-Up Call For Honesty and Change. An intelligent little girl who grew up in Vancouver as a South Asian Muslim, Manji began asking questions about her faith. She was told to shut up.

Education not indoctrination, she writes, is the key to a mindful and surviving Muslim culture. Rather than a jihad (which means both a holy war or personal struggle against evil) she calls for itjihad (the Islamic principle of independent thought). She dubs herself a jihad refusenik.

She bravely claims it should be a Muslim priority to come clean about the nasty side of the Koran and how it informs terrorism. She points out that Islam is a religion that was born in the fiercely tribal desert culture of 600 AD and stagnates there, still rife with racism and, most visibly, a violent sexism. To survive it has to evolve. To evolve it has to be open to dialogue.

But there isn’t much of a sense of dialogue in this book. Rattling assurance drives Manji’s conversational writing style. She disconcertingly mixes academia and activist speak with short colloquial statements like “You bet” or “Weird.” While her points need to be made, the book careens from topic to topic under chapter headings that relate very little to their content. It is wearying.

As you read you’re compelled to wonder how many other blind spots Manji has. She rightly blows the whistle on Muslim anti-Semitism but glibly discounts how anti-Western and anti-Zionist feeling is informed by the ongoing brutalization of the Palestinian people (whom she ignorantly depicts as all Muslim) and the occupation of their land.


Irshad Manji is very good at asking questions, but she’s not very good at listening. Perhaps the trouble with Islam is also the trouble with Irshad.

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