This is an easy read "as smooth as milk" and equally digestible. Manji prosecutes a fairly rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the problems associated with modern Islam in particular, one that is of tremendous relevance given the hundreds killed by suicide bombers almost on a daily basis. Muslims kill other Muslims in the main in order to defeat their stated enemy, typically Jews or Americans though the ire could equally focus on any group that is seen to threaten Islam, though of course the logic of killing your own kind to avenge your enemy seems to be a bit lost. Manji's catalogue of problems associated with Islam may have applied to Christianity in the past, but I don't think any other modern mainstream religion including Judaism can be compared in the context of violence and treatment of the "other" to Islam (despite claims to the contrary). Tribal religions can vaunt themselves over others arrogating for themselves the God given right to pillage and destroy whomever or whatever they please (in the name of God and self defence). Thus we see the superior Sunnis killing the Shias as infidels and the pacific Sufis marginalised into the periphery, also regarded as infidel material. And that's just intra Islamic violence. Manji's book is quite old now. Since then, we have witnessed Islamic beheadings of innocent people be they Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or Jews as well as burning people alive, proudly placed as videos on the web. "Let me propose this much: equality can't exit in the desert, not if the taxonomy of the tribe is to remain intact" argues Manji in one of the most forceful sentences in the book.
She effectively describes a plethora of problems in general and in particular, teasing out history and examples of her encounters with other cultures including a trip to Israel and the trouble she had seeing Islam's holiest shrines as a woman. As an example, Manji queries the lack of an outcry to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha's from a Muslim feminist: " `Manji, do you know what's happening to Muslims in Palestine?' .... Somebody return me to earth or transport my butt to a part of the solar system where we distinguish between justice and justification."
I enjoyed Manji's treatment of the Palestinian conflict and her trenchant analysis of freedom and openness in Israel compared to her neighbours. By playing the victim card, Muslims seem to have lost out so far. Each and every time something terrible happens, the finger seems to be pointed at the Jews and Americans. Make no mistake, the Middle East convinced themselves that 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy in all earnestness. There is nothing new here, the Jews were accused of spreading lies as far back as 1848, the scapegoats of choice for any calamity in the Islamic world. The exploration of anti-Semitism from a relatively short Islamic golden age to the present is telling.
Irshad scorns and chastises the rise of Whabism from Saudi Arabia and highlights the spread of this brand of Islam thanks to petro dollars. More than the West, it is Arab culture that has colonised global Islam. The author exposes hypocrisy on several fronts and scorns the culture of ignorance that Wahabism and what is described as "foundermentalism" in particular has created. We learn about Turkish observatories that were torn down shortly after construction because of complaints from the Mullahs and free thinking philosophers like Ibn Rashd who were assassinated for expressing themselves. Saudi Arabia has been busy obliterating historic Muslim architecture in case it encourages idolatry and Muslims are kept ignorant about the Jewish roots of their faith (or at least, these roots are not emphasised).
Yet Manji remains a Muslim, beloved by many other Muslims sick of the lengths to which hatred is espoused on the basis of the Koran and Hadiths. A different kind of interpretation is possible, toning down the violent rhetoric, begging the question as to what constitutes a Dhimmi or a Believer? A reformed Islam is surely possible and Manji's is probably the first major book exploring reasons for hope within the Islamic diaspora, particularly in the West.
Manji explains that Allahu Akbar does not mean so much "God is great" but that "God is greater", Greater than my petty views and opinions and the potential need to kill and destroy in His name.
I think that the length of her essay does not permit enough room to explore the solutions in bringing about reformation - one topic explored in some detail is women's empowerment. We see that Manji is passionate for the accommodation of Muslims by civilisation at large, and they should at least be grateful (given many don't like this book) that she explains the need for Muslim immigration into the Western or Developed world if they are to maintain their productivity. Manji talks passionately about the need to educate the disenfranchised young in Muslim countries via media programs: "Whoever denies these kids economic and civic participation will incite a degree of chaos capable of convulsing much of the planet". She seeks the participation of anyone with resources to help Muslims to think independently, outside the box. She calls this Itjihad, too long swept under the carpet by theocratic governments.
The author is a powerful communicator and activist and has obviously started something. Having appreciated this book I can only hope it will influence Believers in a positive way but Manji's epistle probably falls largely on deaf ears. At least she may be a Cassandra forewarning her kindred and us poor infidels as to dangers ahead. This surely rates as a document of its time, worthy of dissemination and discussion now and in the future. Its impact if any, remains to be seen.