Friday, August 18, 2006

Muslims, Myopia and Manji

Irshad Manji's back in the discussion, with her New York Times Op-Ed of a couple of days ago, titled "Muslim Myopia", in which she criticizes the recent statement/letter from prominent Muslim leaders addressed to their government. The point the British leaders make is that British foreign policy fuels extremism amongst Muslims. Ms. Manji's assertion is that Muslims who put any blame on foreign policy should "challenge the educated and angry young Muslims to hold their own accountable, too":

Muslims are often quick to dimiss Ms. Manji as a "sell-out" or worse. But, of course, as some folks have pointed out in the last couple of days, that's not really very helpful in the discussion of the relevant issues, and we can often forget that while we might reflexively know (or think we know) what the trouble, to use her phrase, is with what she says, people outside the community can be left grasping for why there's just a strong and knee-jerk reaction to her. Which is why I thought I would try to make an attempt to address her specific point in the op-ed above. Here goes!

In the morning yesterday, a local journalist had called to discuss reaction and feeling in the Pakistani community with respect to the recent news from Britian about a terrorist plot. I ran into Ms. Manji's op-ed a few hours after that conversation and followed up by sending the correspondent a link to it in an email with the simple subject line: "Groan". She replied to ask what parts I found troubling. Here's what I sent in reply:

"The parts missing.

"I am no supporter of the British Muslim leaders who signed the letter (remember my piece about Reflections on 7/7?), but the point being made by such statements is not, as Ms. Manji posits, that "jihadists" need "foreign policy grievances to justify their hot heads", but that those grievances make it much, much easier for the jihadists to recruit "the most vulnerable" (young people and converts, as has been said by several people) and much, much harder for the moderates within the community to counter their influence.

"By consistently (some say intentionally) missing this point, Irshad Manji consistently proves herself part of the problem rather than part of the solution."

As a follow up, it is a huge relief to now hear voices from outside the community and it's usual sympathisers saying pretty much the same thing. For example, Matt Stoller of MyDD made pretty much the same comment about the statement from British Muslims on Radio Open Source a few days ago. (I just heard the program later in the day yesterday.)

[For further discussion of Ms. Manji and her relationship to the community, what I have taken to doing is sending folks a link to an earlier post on this blog that provides a round up of critique about her from the left within the Muslim community: ]

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