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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid