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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid