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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual perspective, 1 July 2004
This review is from: The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change (Hardcover)
Reviews of this book tend to be extremely polarised: readers either love it or hate it. The reality is (of course) somewhere inbetween, but on the whole the book is well worth reading.
This is not a detailed academic text, but it is not meant as such. Rather it is an open letter, adressed both to the Muslim community and to the wider world, drawing deeply on personal experience. The text is impassioned, but it is not a diatribe: given the author's background it is remarkably calm. Ultimately it calls not for an end to Islam, but rather for a reformation. The facts about Islam will be well known to anyone with a passing familiarity (such as could be obtained by reading a book by Karen Armstrong): what is unusual is the perspective and the determination of the author.
Manji begins with her personal experiences, growing up in a subculture filled with conformity and misogyny, and these themes run through the book. She documents the depressing features of many Islamic societies, both historic and present day: the opression of women; the vicious persecution of homosexuals; racism and the virulent hatred of Jews; slavery; political paranoia; ignorance and conformity; the forcible suppression of dissent. She explodes traditional myths, most notably the myth of medieval Islamic tolerance of Christians and Jews (while the record compares favourably with that of medieval Christendom, it does not look good by any other measure). Her first main theme is to trace these faults back to a fundamentalism which she claims is inherent in mainstream Islam.
Many Muslims would claim that Manji confuses religion and culture. Manji is well aware of this distinction but refuses to accept it. To her Islam is as Islam does, and the distinction is little more than an excuse.
After all this, why does Manji still call herself a Muslim? Partly, I suspect, sheer bloody mindedness, and a refusal to let the them grind her down. But she does draw hope from the Islamic tradition of Ijtihad, or renewal. Some Muslims claim that the spirit of Ijtihad is alive and well in the Islamic world; like Manji I see precious little sign of this. The second half of the book is a passionate call for radical renewal, combined with practical ideas on how to go about it.
Open your mind and give it a whirl!
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