Sunday, August 28, 2005

I like Jonathan Curiel and admire his work. He is one US journalist who has specialized in writing about non-violent Arabs and Muslims (and they exist in large numbers lest you are wondering), and about arts, music, and literature among Arabs/Muslims. And he is now undertaking a very interesting book project. But his article today bothered me. I mean, Jonathan, of all the people you can write about, of all the Arab/Muslim feminists who do great work OVER THERE, you settled on Manji? Don't get me wrong. I have since my teens admired the courageous free thinkers and atheists in the Islamic/Arab civilization: people like Ibn Al-Warraq, Ibn Al-Rawandi, Ibn Al-Muqaffa`, Al-Ma`arri, Al-Hallaj, Abu Yazid Al-Bistami, etc. These were people with brilliant minds who challenged and defied conventions and religions. But the thing about Manji is this: 1) she is embarrassingly unknowledgeable about Islamic and Middle East matters, but that does not come apparent to those Western journalists who interview her. This is why she is not "controversial" as is often written about her in the US press, because she is not known, and when people who know read her or listen to her, her lack of knowledge comes through. 2) I am in favor of all challenging religions and pushing for gender equality (and I unlike Manji prefer to do it AGAINST religion (all religions) and not WITHIN religion). But she is very conveniently (in the US context where is he promoted) silent on Judaism and Christianity. A true unbeliever or even free thinker is somebody who speaks out against all religions and against all kinds of misogynistic and intolerant practices and ideas. It is important to speak out against Bin Laden AND against zealot Christian and Jewish and Buddhist crackpots. All. It does not take courage to attack Islam or Muslims in America, just as it does not take courage to attack Judaism and Jews in some Muslim countries. Do you see my point? I will accept somebody's credibility about reform in Islam if they are free of the selective "secular" and selective "feminist" standards that are often employed. This is akin to hear TV Christian envangelists in the US speaking about the need for gender equality in....ISLAM. 3) The most troubling thing about Manji (unlike Nomani who is featured in the article and who strikes me as sincere and credible) is that she sounds so lacking in credibility and honesty. And whenever I hear her or read her, I get the impression that she is making things up as she speaks. She never fails to tell an anecdote about some Muslim somewhere threatening her. I will not be surprised if she will soon tell the "story" about how Bin Laden came up suddenly from behind the beer counter at 7-eleven in Toronto to threaten her. Just read this story: does anybody really believe that a Muslim Arab man would dare in 2005 at an AIRPORT in a major city, for potato's sake, threaten a woman? And if this is true, why did she not call security or alert the police at the AIRPORT for potato's sake. And those Muslims who are threatening her at AIRPORTS, how do they know who she is. I mean she has been made famous, but that famous? And let me tell Curiel this: nobody in the Muslim or Arab worlds really knows who she is. When she talks about ijtihad for example (and how it all stopped in the 15th century (?) ), you get the urge to urge her to read a book or two lest she sounds too lacking in basic knowledge. But then again: if you want fast fame and some speaking fees in post-Sep. 11, just yell out: "I am a brave Muslim and I am being threatened by fanatic Muslims. Hear me sound so Western and so "free." Yippee.