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re: Kazi's comments

Reader comment on item: [The Abu Ali Case and] Balancing Liberties, Security

Submitted by Maxx (Canada), Oct 31, 2005 at 20:54

Hello Kazi,

Your letter raises the important question of whether it is a wise strategy to expect the reform of militant Islamist ideologies when Muslims who enjoy little to no legitimacy within Muslim circles are championed by non-Muslim critics, (the latter who enjoy even less legitimacy from Muslims and Arab Solidarity advocates), while Muslims who denounce in no uncertain terms the use of suicide belts to achieve shahada and the next world and who still manage to enjoy some degree of legitimacy from a larger Muslim constituency are ignored or subjected to censure and may even be exposed to censorship from the same non-Muslim critics that champion disliked and controversial Muslim reformists.

I took your advice and I read Firas Ahmed's 'Why Tariq Ramadan?' piece from Islamica Magazine (Spring 2005). Ahmed's principal disliked and controversial Muslim reformist is Irshad Manji and the principle argument Ahmed uses to demonstrate Manji's own irrational intolerance towards the majority of Muslims is the allegation that she: "argues for the removal of verses from the Qur'an that can be misinterpreted by extremists to advocate violence...". Ahmed goes on to explain that asking Muslims to excise verses from what for Islam and most Muslims is an infallible text is tantamount to asking Christians to not believe that Christ died on the Cross etc.

The problem with Ahmed's argument is that Manji does not argue for the removal of a single vowel from the Qu'ran. What Manji argues is that certain verses in the Qu'ran and Hadith which can be interpreted to advocate for violence have to be openly acknowledged by mainstream Islam and its scholars as verses which are capable of inciting violence and when and wherever those verses are invoked as justification for the deliberate murder of non-combatants, those invoking the verses must be widely denounced by mainstream Islam and its scholars, which Manji contests, is not happening today.

She argues that in some cases mainstream Islamic authoritative voices deliver one message renouncing all forms of terrorism to Western Audiences and another message to Muslim audiences in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, or Malay calling for jihad, shahada, itbakh al-yahud, each incitement referenced to specific Qu'ranic verses and certain Hadith. She argues that because many Muslims have never read the Qu'ran or Hadith for themselves and rely heavily on Imams and teachers at Madrassas for much of their knowledge of the Book of the Prophet and the sayings attributed to him and his successors, Islamist Imams and teachers are empowered to cite from the Qu'ran and hadith selectively, leaving out key words or ignoring the context in which the cited phrases were uttered, and escape scrutiny for doing so not only from unwitting audiences, but also from mainstream Islamic scholars who know better but still prefer not to rebuke them. Instead of rebuking Islamist Imams and teachers, Manji points out that mainstream Islam, its scholars and intellectuals prefer to deflect her criticism of the selective omissions employed by Islamists by disingenuously accusing her of wanting to remove verses from the Qu'ran in an attempt to silence her and her critique. Or they attempt to dismiss her ad hominem because she is a lesbian, or because certain disliked non-Muslim critics of militant Islamist ideology have sung her praises.

Manji argues that to the ears of those who are accustomed to and believe in Western jurisprudential defenses of liberty for the individual citizen from the coercive powers of the state and to the ears of all those who identify with contemporary Western liberal defenses of equality of opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their language, country of origin, disability, religious confession, nationality, ethnicity, colour, sex, or sexual orientation, these strawman and ad hominem attacks from mainstream Islam critics ring hollow.

Irshad Manji can be heard and read in her own words on her website where links are posted to her interview on ABC (Australia) and to a talkback show in which she participated in England.



Submitting....

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