Allah, Liberty, and Love – Chapter Seven

[I’m blogging my thoughts chapter-by-chapter on Irshad Manji’s 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 Seven – Lack of Meaning Is the Real Death Threat

Home stretch…

Manji urges her fellow Muslims not to use Western civilization as the catch-all scapegoat for problems in the Muslim world. She points out that Muslim-on-Muslim violence is by far a bigger problem than any damage the West has done recently. (She is careful, of course, not to excuse the West of its transgressions; nonetheless, she points out that, as poorly as the West often behaves, Muslims living there enjoy impressive amounts of tolerance, both for their lifestyles and freedom of speech.

Manji seeks to bolster the courage of reform-minded Muslims in the face of family disapproval, ostracism from their community, even violence and murder. She hopes that by keeping the example of reformist heroes for peace (both from within Islamic history and, like MLK Jr., from outside it) in the minds of young Muslims, that they will find the will to speak out, forcefully but respectfully, and by using the language of the Qur’an itself.

I’ve expressed my doubts before that it’s possible to trade in irrational, violent Islam for a more tolerant, diverse (but in the end, equally irrational) form of Islam. Granted, I’d much rather see the latter than the former, but I have doubts that there will be enough reformers willing to risk death by staying where they are and fighting for change. It’s clear the Islamists are willing to kill and terrorize; it’s not so clear that reformists can withstand a relentless campaign of terror.

Frankly, I think that ONLY when moderate Muslims find their backs against the wall (almost literally) will they finally wake up and fight. When they can no longer flee to the West they will have no other options: fight or die. The so-called Arab Spring (which hadn’t yet occurred while Manji was writing this book) shows that Muslims are willing to fight for reform. What’s unclear is whether this fight is to replace secular authoritarians like Mubarak for Islamist authoritarians who are more in the mold of the Taliban or the Ayatollahs.

Allah, Liberty, and Love is available in hardcover and for Kindle. Meanwhile, for moreabout Irshad Manji, visit her official website at

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