Sunday, March 06, 2005

Friedman on Manji

Thomas Friedman, a pulitzer winning writer for the New York Times wrote a piece in praise of Irshad Manji and her plans for a 'centre of excellence'. What that exactly means was humbly left to the reader's imagination. Muslimwakeup came out with their own views in a blog entry.
Manji confuses me. I respect her zeal for the revival of debate within Islam. I respect her views on Israel, but there is a lot that is left out in her book. For instance, Islam is not the biggest reason, neither is it the only reason why the muslim world lags behind the developed countries. From Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, a lot of the problems are political in nature. Poverty, dismal literacy rates, non-existence of free press, un-open economies and atrocities in the name of justice are huge problems, and many find their roots in the political climates of these countries, whether they are dictatorships, feeble democracies or kingships. Friedman is keen to point out that the western world has used the Middle East as its gas station; as long as the oil prices are low, the West is happy. But thats just the Middle East. Chomsky details the exploitation of Asia in his latest book, 'At war with Asia'.
And it isn't just the Western influence on the politics of countries - internal feuds for power, agrarian societies which lack industrial and technological capacities, poverty leading to exploitation of the masses for the gain of the few, generals and kings dictating the use of the few resources available - As I said, a lot has been left out of her book.
But at the same time, her demand for the revival of ijtihaad is something that I can not bring myself to disagree with. Its Islam's built-in feedback system that has been left rotting for two centuries now. The fatwaa, used to be a doctrine of law, is now merely a way of dissing opponents. Why do women have fewer rights in todays version of Islam? Not only is it unacceptable, its disgusting. Women can't drive in Saudi Arabia! To the asshole in Texas who keeps inviting these Holinesses one after the other to his ranch, can we forget the misunderestimation for a while and talk social change with the freaks incharge of these laws.
And as for muslims ourselves, if you read the muslimwakeup article you realize that cutting to the chase means shouting sell-out rather than debating a need. Isn't it the easy way out for us to label everyone we don't agree with as a sell-out? And it goes directly against the principles of free debate. Frankly, its all too maulvi-ish, to claim representation of one group (liberal muslims in this case) and pass a fatwaa that the other party's point of view is not worth arguing, because it is funded, projected or patronized by groups who are definitely against us.
Guilty by association, seems to be the verdict for Manji, as it has been for nearly anyone trying to bring muslims out of their misery for the last two decades. Attaturk, Jinnah, Syed Ahmed Khan - Yes, all sell-outs. Just so we can live happily in our coccoons, shielded from debate and dissent that just might prove us wrong. And the holy, the chosen can never admit to being wrong, can they?