News / Middle East

Reinterpreting Islam

Reinterpreting Islam
Reinterpreting Islam
Ellen Spolar

"Nothing needs to stay the same forever, and that must include Islam as well," best-selling author Irshad Manji says of her reaction to the democratic uprisings in the Middle East now known as the Arab Spring. Protesters throughout North Africa and the Middle East are fighting for economic and political reforms as well as a basic sense of dignity.

Best-selling author and self-described Muslim reformer, Irshad Manji, hopes that the same level of dedication and energy which fuels these rebellions will also be applied to reinterpreting Islam.

Speaking on VOA’s Press Conference USA, Irshad Manji, laments the fact that Ijtihad, the Muslim tradition of independent thinking and questioning, is missing in contemporary Islam. The need to regain that tradition is one of the themes in her most recent book Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom.

A devout Muslim, born in Africa and raised in Canada, Irshad Manji says that several practices attributed to Islam, such as wearing the hijab (headscarf) are not in fact Muslim customs but are actually pre-Islamic tribal traditions. “I think it is very unfair that a pluralistic civilization like Indonesia should have to conform to Arab tribal standards in order to be considered authentically Muslim,” said Manji, as she reveals that only 20 percent of Muslims are, in fact, Arab.

Due to a rise in tourists from the Gulf region flocking to coastal provinces such as those in Indonesia, she finds that "the leaders of these provinces are capitulating to the cultural standards that come from tribal Arabia, and now these standards are being imposed on the most vulnerable in Indonesia, chief among them women." Manji urges Muslims to gain integrity and wholeness through challenging what she describes as the "cultural imperialism of the Arab world towards the 80 percent of the Muslim around the world that are not Arab." In her most recent book, Allah, Liberty and Love, Manji advocates that Muslims must reconcile their faith in Islam with the freedom to meet these challenges.

Allah, Liberty and Love
, is meant to be a primer for like-minded Muslims who wish to find the language to reinterpret their faith and reform the current state of Islam. "The Muslim mind has stagnated. For purely political reasons, not spiritual reasons, the gates of ijtihad, the doors of independent thinking have deliberately been narrowed. Not completely shut, but narrowed," says Manji. She urges Muslims around the world to reopen these doors and begin a much needed dialogue about the problems within Islam.

Manji asserts that the stagnation has dragged on for centuries and therefore rejects the notion that Islam was “hijacked” by terrorists on September 11, 2001. "That suggests that Islam is like a plane that was cruising along to some human rights haven, and were it not for those nasty terrorists on 9/11, this plane called Islam would have reached its wondrous destination without a bump. Well that is simply not true," Manji says. Moreover, she says that unless moderate Muslims do more to denounce and not just to distance themselves from extremists who misuse Islam to justify violent ends, non-Muslims will not detect any difference between the two.

Irshad Manji remains adamant that reformist Muslims, those willing to look inwards at the trouble with Islam today and take on Islamic extremists through reinterpretation of faith, are the true key to progress.

Irshad Manji is the author of the best-selling novel The Trouble with Islam Today and her most recent work Allah, Liberty and Love. Manji is also director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University.

For more listen to Press Conference USA.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid