THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith

Irshad Manji, Author . St. Martin's $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-32699-9

Islam is "on very thin ice" with one follower, Canadian broadcaster Manji. Her book will be an unsettling read for most of her fellow Muslims, although they may find themselves agreeing with many points. She describes how childhood days spent at her local mosque left her perplexed and irritated; she complains that the Middle East conflict has consumed Muslim minds. She highlights several grievances many Muslims probably share: what she casts as Saudi Arabia's disproportional and destructive influence on Islam, how the hijab , or veil, has become a litmus test for a Muslim woman's faithfulness, and the need to question the accuracy of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The exclusion of women from Muslim leadership is criticized as well. However, Manji's arguments would be better taken—and easier to follow—if not accompanied by an unceasing list of Islam's misdeeds. Manji often chooses the most controversial Koranic passages (rarely providing current scholarship for a more accurate reading of key verses), and her treatment of Islamic history is selective. She mistakes the negative fan mail she receives from Muslims who have seen her on television for the views of all Muslims, and lambastes those who present a sympathetic view of Islam, including the late scholar Edward Said. The writing, though energetic, is unfocused, with personal stories that are sometimes confusing. Although the book raises important points, Manji's angry tone and disjointed writing may obscure some of the valid questions she asks of Islam and Muslims. (Jan.)

Forecast: Manji, a self-proclaimed "Muslim refusenik," is a media personality in Canada, and hosts a weekly television show aimed at the university crowd. This book is already being compared to The Satanic Verses (a connection the publisher seems to be encouraging by including a photo of Manji with Salman Rushdie in the press kit). If the book incites a Rushdie-like controversy, sales will be very strong, despite the flaws in the book itself.

Reviewed on: 11/24/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-679-31250-5
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4299-0693-7
Hardcover - 254 pages - 978-1-84018-837-0
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