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 Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs