The progressive Muslim author Irshad Manji managed to launch her latest book in Malay last week, only to see all copies seized by police.
Her book “Allah, Liberty and Love” is about showing “how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas.” Her slogan is “for Muslim reform and moral courage.” This book is “the ultimate guide to becoming a gutsy global citizen.”
Saturday, May 19, she managed to get a small crowd to launch the book in Kuala Lumpur despite Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in charge of Islamic affairs, saying that Islam officials and the Home Ministry would not allow the author’s roadshow because of complaints about her ideology and because she is openly gay.
Her visit drew media coverage and in an interview with Free Malaysia Today, she accused moderate Malaysian Muslims of not being very moderate. She called them “useless,” saying that their “silence and passivity” allow extremists to get away with violence and intimidation.
When Martin Luther King said that the Bible was being used to justify racism, the Christians told him to stop creating tension. And he reminded them that tension already existed if the Bible was being used for such purposes.
I think the same message’s needed for Muslims today especially in Malaysia where the word moderate seems to have this wonderful tone to it but the reality is very different.
After police seized the book last Wednesday, her publishers said they would fight back as Malaysia’s Constitution does not permit them, they said, to restrict free speech and expression.
Manji’s first book, “The Trouble with Islam Today,” was banned in Malaysia three years ago. But she offers several translations of the book (Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Malay and Indonesian languages) available for free-of-charge download on her website. To date, the Arabic translation alone has been downloaded more than a quarter of a million times.
She had traveled to Malaysia from Indonesia, were she made similar observations about repression getting worse because of hardline Muslim efforts.
She faced five days of security threats and cancelled events in Jakarta before she finally went ahead with a book discussion, only to be violently attacked by religious extremists believed to be with the Indonesian Mujahidin Council.
But her book is not banned in Indonesia and she was protected by police and, at several points, soldiers. Nevertheless, she accused “police and government” of “capitulating to the thugs.”
Before leaving Indonesia, she told Radio Australia that she was cheered by the anti-extremism she saw among attendees at her events: “The real story here is that a new generation of Muslims is increasingly fed up with the deference to these gangsters.”
She also told Radio Australia:
Maybe I should be concerned for my physical safety but I’m not. I will not cower in fear, I will not compromise further because to compromise further is to continue to empower what I believe are the enemies of reason and humanity. And so I go ready for whatever the outcome may be. Now I’m not going to be stupid about it, I’m not going to be reckless about it. I do have some precautionary measures underway. But I will do what I need to do and I will fully inform everybody who has come out to support me of the potential consequences and invite them to do what is best for them and their families and their consciences.
Last year her event in Amsterdam was stormed by 20 men.
Photo of Irshad Manji by now_photos