Manji takes readers outside the boxes of “moderation” and “multi-culturalism” to boldly tackle the problems with modern Islam.
In the wake of her 2005 book The Trouble with Islam Today and PBS documentary Faith Without Fear, the author looks toward an optimistic fix for Islam’s woes. She finds this remedy in the ancient Islamic practice of ijtihad, a “tradition of dissenting, reasoning, and reinterpreting.” Focusing on seven simple yet challenging lessons she has learned about reform, Manji urges readers—whether Muslim or not—to challenge those who hide behind social constructions like “moderation,” which perpetuate a culture of violence and intolerance. She makes it clear that Islam must be separated from Arab culture, which idolizes family and collective honor above individual integrity. Going further, however, Manji calls for a reinterpretation of Islam itself by Muslims to bring readings of the Qur’an into a 21st-century context, decrying the Muslim fear of outside cultures while ignoring Islam’s own severe cultural problems. Muslims, she writes, must stop having “high defenses against the Other and low expectations of ourselves.” She also calls upon non-Muslims to stop wringing their hands over respect for another culture and to remember that certain things, such as honor killings, wife beating, etc., are simply and universally wrong. Throughout the book, the author quotes from e-mail communications with critics and allies alike, many of which echo the resounding hatred and striking fear that many Muslims live with daily. Her writing is emotive, penetrating and sassy. Readers of all backgrounds should be struck by her assertion that, “A sovereign Creator isn’t threatened by our self-knowledge; only the Creator’s uptight gatekeepers are.”
Exceptional reimagining of Islam.