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Muslim Refusenik
A review of The Trouble with Islam by Irshad Manji.

By Shauna Singh Baldwin

The Sikh Times, Jul. 22, 2004

The Trouble With Islam by Irshad Manji (Random House Canada 2003) is a must-read book. Read it and admire Manji's courage - or foolhardiness. I'm proud of her as a fellow writer and Canadian, and hope our common God is personally watching over her safety. The fatwa over Rushdie's Satanic Verses was a lasso thrown from the twelfth century into the twentieth. Now what will religious literalists prescribe for this fiesty self-described lesbian author - tarring and feathering? Too Western a practise for them, thank heavens.

If Manji is lucky, she'll be safe in a terrible way: they may just ignore her because she's female. But ignoring this self-described 'muslim refusenik' would leave all of us, whether Muslim or Non-Muslim, worse off - we'd remain precisely where we are.

Manji is a Muslim and a writer in the truest sense, speaking out and describing hypocrisy where she sees it. Even so, in parts of her book, Manji offers a cartoon version of history. Or maybe it's just me: I believe all refugee populations and their descendents, not only Israeli refugee populations and their descendents have human rights; my Punjabi refugee heritage tells me a Partition is no solution for any people at any time in history. But selectivity is the tactic of the activist and you can certainly put Manji's name in that column.

Her point, hammered home in the book and continued on non-Islamist Muslims must wage war on intolerance and literalism. Manji isn't interested in the beauty of the symbolic in Islam, nor does she care how things got the way she describes them, but since fundamentalism in any faith doesn't suddenly arise in a vacuum, I would have appreciated some comments on the role of global economic interests in both West and East, in the creation and promotion of this phenomenon.

In conclusion, Manji urges the empowerment of women in Islamic countries through microloans, an area in which outsiders may best assist. The magnitude of the problem she describes quite dwarfs the solution recommended, but both her book and this recommendation for individual action offer us all, Muslim or not, a darn good start in a better direction.