Understanding Islamic religion

When Salman Rushdie published his book The Satanic Verses in 1989, he was immediately vilified by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Khomeini promised to have him killed. Many people in Canada (and the rest of the world) made his book a best seller, not because they needed to read it, (though many did) but because they objected to the author’s loss of freedom.

Allah, Liberty & Love

By Irshad Manji

Random House of Canada Publishers

When Salman Rushdie published his book The Satanic Verses in 1989, he was immediately vilified by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Khomeini promised to have him killed. Many people in Canada (and the rest of the world) made his book a best seller, not because they needed to read it, (though many did) but because they objected to the author’s loss of freedom.

I decided to read this book, knowing very little about the Islamic religion, but intrigued by the columns Irshad Manji writes for the Globe and Mail.

The author escaped with her family from Idi Amin’s Uganda when she was three years old, so she has lived her life in the religious freedom of Canada. She has been raised a devout Muslim, but, even as a child, asked questions. “Why can’t a woman lead prayer? Why can’t I have Christian and Jewish friends.?

Her first book , The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake up Call for Honesty and Change, led to death threats, but the author says she takes courage from such writers as Martin Luther King Jr, Robert Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi.

The idea that Irshad Manji is bringing to the readers in this book is the idea of ijihad, pronounced ij-tee-had. The word comes from the same root word as “jihad”, a word we have known since 9/11. (violent struggle) However, ijteehad, means exercising the freedom to ask questions, discuss, debate, challenge, learn.

Many of the pages of this book are given to the emails and web postings received from young Muslims who have heard her speak, or read her book, and want to share her thoughts and feelings. Some of the messages threaten her life.

This author maintains that the violence against women and dissenters that is reported in the news is the fault, not of Islam, but of tribalism. The twin problems of subjugation of women, and shaming within families, leads to overbearing control and murder. She proposes a “wider path” to Islam, that includes individual justice, she wants a religion of Allah, Liberty and Love. Five questions are posed in this book; What I love about my community is…

I disagree with my community about . . . If I say what I think the worst that will happen is . . .? If I say what I think the best that can happen is . . .? Should I say what I think? I have decided that . . .

Answer these questions with your community in mind, and then count your blessings. Does this book enlarge my knowledge of Islam?

If the atrocities we read about are the result of tribalism, then perhaps we should be hearing more from moderate Muslims. It’s evident that they are numerous.

Irshad asks her mother, “maybe God loves His creatures so much that He hasn’t made us mere subjects . . . doesn’t a relationship with God imply mutual confidence, yours in Him, and His in you?” Ask yourself, “what am I doing so that my Creator can continue having faith in me.”

Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.