Tue, May 10, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Author Irshad Manji calls for `Islamic reformation'

THE GUARDIAN , London

A Muslim woman author, once described as Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare, is to call for the setting up of an Islamic reform movement to press for a change in the faith's attitudes towards human rights, women and pluralist societies at a public meeting this week.

Irshad Manji, a Canadian-based writer and broadcaster, is to launch her campaign for Ijtihad (independent thinking) with a claim for Islamic pluralism and the aim of setting up a foundation for young, reform-minded Muslims to explore and challenge their faith.

"No community, no ethnicity, no culture and no religion ought to be immune from respecting the universality of human rights. This, of course, is a controversial mesage in an age of cultural relativism. I truly believe we can become pluralists without becoming relativists. Through our screaming self-pity and conspicuous silences, we Muslims are conspiring against ourselves. We're in crisis and we are dragging the rest of the world with us. If ever there was a moment for an Islamic reformation, it is now," she said.

Manji is the author of the bestselling book The Trouble with Islam: A Call for Honesty and Change, which as well as being read in the west has been published in Pakistan and is to appear this year in Turkey, Iraq and India. She has been lionized in North America, where the television host Oprah Winfrey gave her a "chutzpah award" and Ms magazine named her a feminist for the 21st century.

It was the New York Times that described her as Bin Laden's worst nightmare; the Jakarta Post named her as one of three women making a positive change to Islam.

"There are many more reform-minded Muslims out there, it's just that most of us are working in isolation.," she said.

In an introduction to her book, Khaleel Mohammed, professor of religion at San Diego State University, wrote: "I should hate Irshad Manji. If Muslims listen to her they will stop listening to people like me, an imam who spent years at a traditional Islamic university.

"She threatens my male authority and says things about Islam that I wish were not true. She has a big mouth but then I look into my heart and engage my mind and I come to a discomforting conclusion: Irshad is telling the truth," Mohammed wrote.

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