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Faith Without Fear

Irshad Manji calls on her fellow Muslims to reform

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Irshad Manji is the internationally best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith.  Through a new lens, this questioning Muslim takes a journey to reconcile her faith in Allah with her love of freedom.  Along the way, she reveals the personal risks — emotional and physical — that come with such an urgent mission.  The result is FAITH WITHOUT FEAR.

Irshad Manji at Mevlana Mosque

Trekking through the Arabian peninsula, Manji speaks with Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, who explains why he’s willing to turn his young son into a martyr.  She also engages a California convert to Islam who now lives in Yemen and says that by covering her body and face, she’s exercising American-style freedom of religion. But is it really freedom if you’ll be punished for not covering? Manji meets one Yemeni woman who faces a steep price for rejecting the rules. Through them, Manji discovers what she thinks has corrupted a religion of justice to become an ideology of fear. She can relate: Her own home has bullet-proof windows.

Inspired by the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, Irshad believes that Muslims have broken faith with the passage that says God does not change a people until they change themselves.

Calling on her fellow Muslims to stop blaming others for their ills, she embarks on a mission to learn:

How can we Muslims change for the 21st century?

With death threats stripping Muslims of their God-given right to free expression, Manji heads West for potential solutions. In the Netherlands, she sits down with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Member of Parliament and fellow dissident who, unlike Manji, has left Islam.  Marked by rage, blood and a ritual murder, Ayaan’s story sheds light on how the fear is spreading — and whether it can be confronted. Manji then forays into the world of poor, young, disaffected Dutch Muslims.  She leaves with a crucial lesson about why debate must replace violence if Muslims are to save themselves.

Irshad Manji studies her reflection in a pool of water

But is debate possible in Islam? That question brings Manji to Spain, where different religions, cultures and ideas flourished under Muslim civilization. It happened because of “ijtihad,” Islam’s own tradition of independent thinking. She shows the art, architecture and achievements that Muslims could once claim.  In so doing, Manji finally encounters the Islam that she can love. Far from being a relic of the past, ijtihad is key to curbing atrocities committed today in the name of Islam. Manji introduces us to two Spanish Muslims who represent the humanity that ijtihad can restore to Islam, and the cruelty that Muslims will suffer at the hands of other Muslims if ijithad remains buried.

Throughout this high-stakes journey, Manji challenges herself to change.  Wondering if her heart is blocked to the beauty of Islam, she invites one of her fiercest Muslim critics to break bread — and what she takes away aren’t crumbs.  Yet Manji’s greatest epiphany comes from her pious mother. They don’t see eye to eye.  But her mom’s dignified response in a moment of humiliation teaches Manji that Muslims can, in fact, have faith without fear.  Islam allows it, if only Muslims will too.

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