A Book Review of Irshad Manji’s The Trouble with Islam Today

I hadn’t read any book reviews of The Trouble With Islam Today when I first picked up the book by Irshad Manji. The title and back cover description drew me in immediately. I was looking for something different to read and a book that made me think. This book easily provided me both.

Manji sees herself as a Muslim “refusenik”. She refuses to comply with the more radical elements of Islam yet at the same time doesn’t flee the religion itself. The purpose of her book is to serve as an open letter calling for the reform of Islam. Manji is not afraid to shy away from awkward or difficult questions about her religion. Within the first few pages of the book alone she asks five very poignant questions about Islam.

“Why are we all being held hostage by what’s happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis?”
“What’s with the stubborn streak of anti-Semitism in Islam?”
“Who is the real colonizer of Muslims – -America or Arabia?”
“Why are we squandering the talents of women, fully half of God’s creation?”
“How can we be so sure that homosexuals deserve ostracism – or death – when the Koran states that everything God made is ‘excellent””’?”

So in a nutshell what is the trouble with Islam today? Manji simplifies all of it into one compacted statement. The trouble with Islam today is “that literalism being going mainstream, worldwide.”.

Aside from criticizing Islam, Manji also makes many recommendations for what could make it better. One of these recommendations is what she calls “Operation Injitihad”. She believes that empowering a class of female entrepreneurs in the Middle East would lead to a higher standard of human rights for women. How?

One reason is that because the Koran permits women to negotiate marriage contracts. Women can in theory stipulate that if a man abuses her she can divorce him and keep the money that she earned from her business venture. Owning a business will also encourage a woman to become literate or more literate (which is a staggering problem in many countries in the Middle East).

What I think makes this book so good is not only its content but how it is written. Manji’s writing style is very easy to follow. She makes you think not just with theological ideas about the Koran and about Islam but with examples of ludicrous events that have shaped her or people she knows. She grounds things in common sense. “I hear from a Saudi friend that his country’s religious police arrest women for wearing red on Valentine’s Day, and I think: Since when does a merciful God outlaw joy – -or fun?”

I like the fact that Irshad Manji doesn’t just tell the reader what is wrong with Islam but that she also tries to find possible solutions to making it better. I also like the fact that this book makes you think about think even if you aren’t Muslim. If 9/11 hadn’t have happened or the Western world wasn’t as familiar with radical Islam as it was, this book would still be as thought provoking a book as ever

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