I happened to catch a C-Span interview this morning with Irshad Manji:


who has done a book, The Trouble with Islam Today, which recommends a number of reforms (supported with texts from the Koran) in more humane directions, particularly Islam’s treatment of women.  She is a sparky and attractive young woman, columnist for the NY Times, who was addressing the Librarians convention in tank top and jeans — not the stereotype of Muslim dress.  She, as Rushdie, has received death threats, but her book is being widely read in English, Urdu, and Farsi (Persian — although banned in Iran). It can be downloaded at her website above.

I first became directly conscious of the abuses of Muslim women at a human rights conference several decades back when a professional woman was making a passionate plea on behalf of fellow Muslim women.  She used the example that Muslim husbands could abruptly divorce their wives simply by saying three times, “I divorce you.”  Two Egyptians sitting near me had been giggling through her talk and one of them burst out loudly at that point, “Two times will do it!”

I started my teaching career in women’s colleges during the women’s revolution in the 1960s and I have been particularly concerned with women’s rights since then, having seen the before and after.  Until then women were largely banned from the ‘male’ professions except in auxiliary roles — from law, medicine, and even philosophy!

It is good to see the revolution beginning to percolate on behalf of women in the the Muslim communities — Ms. Manji is a Canadian by birth — perhaps the expansion of contacts in non-Muslim countries and  through the internet are opening doors among the younger generation even in such closed nations as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

I don’t think it is my observation alone that women tend to be more compassionate than men.  The more women are offered respect and opportunities for literacy, the more impact they will have on the children they are raising (one of Manji’s many observations).

Her book, she says, is written in a conversational tone and should be available to teens as well as adults.  I recommend it to all of us who need to have a fuller understanding of Islam as it can be at its best.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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