Monday, July 18, 2005
A Muslim Author Speaks Out
For reasons beyond me, the London Times refers to her (in their headline!) as a 'lipstick lesbian'. (Would they do that for an outspoken Catholic?) Other than that, the article (hat tip: Professor Glenn) is fascinating, and well worth a read:
No wonder Irshad Manji has received death threats since appearing on British television: she is a lipstick lesbian, a Muslim and scourge of Islamic leaders, whom she accuses of making excuses about the terror attacks on London. Oh, and she tells ordinary Muslims to “crawl out of their narcissistic shell”. Ouch."Ouch" indeed. Nothing new here... except that the speaker is a Muslim. (And a Muslim woman at that! Remarkable.)
The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare”.*grin* Dream on, Osama...
“The good news,” she insists, “is it doesn’t have to be like this.” She wants a reformation in Islam, returning it to its clever, fun-loving roots. “The world’s first ‘feminist’ was an 11th-century Muslim man. Baghdad had one of the first universities in the 9th century; the Spanish ‘Ole!’ comes from ‘Allah’; Islam even gave us the guitar.” But now it gives us the suicide bomber: why?Why, indeed? (More to the point, why are terror -- and oil -- the chief exports of Islam to the non-Islamic world today? This is a question Muslims should be asking themselves.)
It was not always like this -- Islam gave us much more than feminism and guitars. We have much to thank Islam for, in fields as diverse as science and poetry, algebra and art. (Ask any student of poetry about Khalil Gibran or Omar Khayyam... or any linguist about where the word "algebra" comes from.)
And if Muslims today want it badly enough, they can cause their culture to flourish again. Speaking of my own religion, Jews contributed relatively little -- beyond their own communities -- to European culture during the Middle Ages. Jewish contributions to Europe -- during the Christian Era, I mean -- didn't start in earnest until the 19th century, when "emancipation" (as it was then called) opened up previously-forbidden professions and lifestyles to Jews. Jewish contributions to the world at large really got going with the establishment of Israel in 1948. (Mind you, if Muslims want to spark off a new Islamic Renaissance, they don't need a new Muslim state; they already have quite a few.)
Ms. Manji speaks specifically about European treatment of Muslims, too:
“In continental Europe people of faith are regarded as second-class citizens. In America Muslims are allowed to earn their status by competing. In Europe, Britain included, your past establishes your identity much more than your future. If you don’t have the lineage here people might well feel disaffected.” She points out that American mosques display signs proclaiming: “God bless America”; inconceivable here.Amazing. I think I'm going to have to buy her book.