[I’m blogging my thoughts chapter-by-chapter on Irshad Manji’sÂ Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom. Manji is an outspoken activist for Muslim reform, and the author of the influential The Trouble with Islam Today, a book I highly recommend.]
Chapter One – Some Things Are More Important than Fear
Manji shares a number of heartbreaking emails she has received over the years: Muslims who secretly share their doubts with her, afraid of being ostracized by family, or (surprising to me, I must admit) of being rejected by God. Many of them live in countries that enjoy no political or religious freedom (keep in mind this book was written well before the so-called Arab Spring–also keep in mind that the jury’s out on whether the Arab Spring will end in democracy and pluralism, or just another form of authoritarianism).
Amusingly, Manji often turns the jibes and abuse she receives (often from self-identified MODERATE Muslims) into a good-natured exchange. Something tells me this doesn’t work very well, since my observation is that Muslims don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to religion and dissent. How to respond to people who accuse you of being a lesbian feminist sucking up to the West, or who find your writings highly useful–as toilet paper? Still, Manji has chutzpah in trying to use humor to turn the hatred back on her interlocutors, hopefully showing them the ridiculousness of their positions.
Manji highlights that when Islam interacts with the West, it’s not so much a clash of civilizations as a front in an ongoing Islamic civil war. When Muslims in the West meet and fall in love with non-Muslims, and when they observe the near-complete freedom non-Muslim Westerners have in choosing their partners, the argument that ensues is mostly between hidebound Muslims who think there is only one way to interpret the Qur’an, and Muslims who believe that Islam should not be a closed system; rather, it should be a system in constant dialogue with itself.
Manji calls upon her fellow Muslims to reject tribalism-at-any-cost and to embrace the diversity of Allah’s creation: Â “A sovereign Creator isn’t threatened by our self-knowledge; only the Creator’s uptight gatekeepers are. Â Let’s depose their counterfeit god of fear, widen the gates of ijtihad and explore what happens when we put integrity first.”
On to Chapter Two!