The 21st century call for Islamic Reformation

irshad-manjiIrshad Manji, a Canadian television journalist and commentator, is a Muslim. She is on the front line of the public’s question about Islam. All made up looking like a model, but actually very tomboyish, she has become the cover girl of Melbourne’s The Age magazine with the caption, “Meet Irshad Manji.” Some say she was the late Osama Bin Laden’s worst nightmare.

Reporter Johann Hari described her in an interview: “Irshad is a key figure in the civil war within 21st century Islam. She is the Saladin of progressive Muslims, an outrider for the notion that you can be both a faithful Muslim and a mouthy, fiercely democratic Canadian. She does not drink alcohol and she does not eat pork.”

Christianity’s Reformation happened in the 16th century

“What I want is an Islamic reformation,” Irshad says. “Christianity did it in the 16thcentury. Now, we are long overdue. If there was ever a moment for our reformation, it’s now, when Muslim countries are in poverty and despair. For the love of God, what are we doing about it?”

The core concept in Manji’s thought – and that of all progressive Muslims – is Ijtihad. Ijtihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Koran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Koran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.“What was true for the 9th century Mecca and Medina may not be the best interpretation of Allah’s message today,” Irshad exclaims.

This seems obvious to post-religious European ears, but it is literally heresy to conservative and even most mainstream Muslims. Irshad explains, “At this stage, reform isn’t about telling ordinary Muslims what not to think. It’s about giving the permission to think. We can’t be afraid to ask: What if the Koran isn’t perfect? What if it’s not a completely God-authored book? What if it’s riddled with human biases?”


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