If you consider yourself at all interested in world affairs and have not heard of Irshad Manji (pictured right) it's about time that you did.
Manji is a Canadian radio talk-show hostess, recently described as "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare." Now, being that Manji is an upwardly-mobile, thoroughly-modern feminist, an open lesbian and, as you can see, appears in public wearing makeup and sans-headscarf, that she'd boil any Islamofacist's blood is not news to anybody. So why the distinction of the special disdain of terrorism's top dog? (appologies to actual dogs for the comparison, of course.)
Because Manji is herself also a practicing (if thoroughly-skeptical) Muslim, who's written several books and delivers frequent speeches on the subject of faith and terrorism. And her takes on such? Manji is pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-gay rights, anti-jihad and offers up the following advice to her co-religionists in regards to "understanding" terrorism: She wants fellow Muslim's to admit that something has gone horribly wrong with Islam as a religion, and that it needs to be fixed.
In case you're wondering, yes, the windows or her home are currently fitted with bulletproof glass.
Here's her official website:
What's important to note here is that, while she's earned the ire of religious "conservatives" in her own faith (hatred of gays, independent women and personal freedom in general being, after all, common threads between fundamentalism in almost all major religions) Manji is no self-hater or apostate: Instead, the theme of much of her work is that Islam has lost it's way from being what was once a progressive faith that once championed science and helped spur the Western Renaissance has in large part regressed into a freedom-disdaining fascism that forces women into burkas, hates modernity and launches suicide strikes on innocent civilians.
Manji aims to help change all that, and to do so from the inside out. Her recent book, "The Trouble With Islam," is essentially a laundry list of refutations of the typical defenses used to justify or dismiss acts of terrorism. It culminates in a laying-out of her primary formulation: That Islam can only save itself from implosion by enough of it's adherents rediscovering the lost art of religious skepticism; i.e. questioning the Koran, tossing out medieval notions of "written by God," and focusing on getting religious faith to fit into the modern world instead of demolishing the modern world to suit religious faith.
I bring this all up primarily because, along with the fact that I've long admired Manji's guts as a fellow enemy of unchecked religious fundamentalism, she's got a great peice in the current issue of Time that I think everyone should take a look at. Read it here:
Money quote from the article:
"While our spokesmen assure us that Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism, those who commit terrorist acts often tell us otherwise."
"For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting "Islam means peace" to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it. Not erase or revise, just recognize it and thereby join moderate Jews and Christians in confessing "sins of Scripture," as an American bishop says about the Bible."
"It's not enough for us to protest that radicals are exploiting Islam as a sword. Of course they are. Now, moderate Muslims must stop exploiting Islam as a shield--one that protects us from authentic introspection and our neighbors from genuine understanding."
The "War on Terror," if it's ever going to be won, has to be fought with ideas every bit as forcefully as it's fought with firepower. People like this, with the ability to speak frankly about the dangerous of religious extremism and the guts to do so, are the way to start.