Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sir Salman - What The Fuss?

Salman Rushdie has received a knighthood. Once again, we see all Muslims being judged and maligned because of the rants of a small minority of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Indian and Iranian Muslims.

Some days back, Mr Murdoch’s only Australian broadsheet published an article by a woman who would like to be Salman Rushdie if only she could write better. Irshad Manji is a Canadian Muslim writer who thrives on controversy and is desperate to get a fatwa to improve her own booksales. Her major claim to fame is that she re-discovered the concept of ijtihad (roughly translated as independent juristic reasoning), a claim she shares with Usama bin Ladin and a host of other Muslim controversialists.

Manji’s article laments the recent response of some Pakistani lawmakers to the recent award to Rushdie of a Knight Bachelor for his services to literature. Why they were so angry beats me? Perhaps they were jealous Rushdie could still be regarded as a bachelor despite being married to a Bollywood actress and lingerie model?

What made Manji particularly upset was that Pakistani MP’s spent so much time worrying about Rushdie and so little time focussing on issues of poverty and women’s rights. Quite wisely, Manji did not blame Islam but rather “hypocrisy under the banner of Islam”. I doubt many Muslims would disagree with her, though that didn’t stop cultural warrior sub-editors at The Australian from giving this article the headline “Islam the problem”.

Now a small group of lawmakers and merchants in Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia are seeking violent revenge for the awarding of a knighthood to British author Salman Rushdie. As always, they are doing so using language and methods alien to their religious heritage.

Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Ejazul Haque claims the knighthood provides justification for suicide terrorist attacks. How could the awarding of a national honour by an overseas country to one of its writers possibly be used to justify homicidal terrorism? Haven’t enough Pakistanis, Turks, Indonesians and Iraqis (not to mention Western civilians) died from such attacks? Haven’t enough Muslim families mourned their loved ones killed in such attacks?

The Minister is apparently visiting Britain next month. It will be interesting to see if he is prepared to repeat his support for suicide terrorism in the presence of the family of Shahara Islam, the young English woman of Bangladeshi heritage and devout Muslim who was killed in the July 7 London bombings.

Even more imbecilic was the statement of a council of Pakistani ulema (or religious scholars) that Usama bin Ladin be awarded a special honour of Saifallah (“Sword of God”). Surely Usama bin Ladin (perhaps more appropriately known as Usama bin Reagan) has already been adequately remunerated by American intelligence agencies for his services in helping defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

I wonder at how low some Muslim nations have stooped that, in retaliation for a foreign government honouring one of its citizens, some Muslim religious scholars are prepared to honour those who kill innocent people in God’s name. And what kind of Muslim incites violence to display their religiosity?

I could write much more, but you can find my views published on the AltMuslim.com website here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007


Rhys said...

Hi Irfan,
I've been something of a fan of your writing since I first came across an article of yours a few years ago on Margo Kingston's Webdiary.

This post about Sir Salman is the kind of thing I like - interesting and well written, but also challenging and refreshing. I don't entirely agree with what you've written, but that's actually why I read your stuff; it shows me another way of seeing things.

I take your point about not wanting to be asked to speak out against every idiocy perpetrated in the name of Islam. And answering the virulently anti-Islamic ravings of various press reptiles must be pretty exhausting.

But I will take issue with this sentence:"Her major claim to fame is that she re-discovered the concept of ijtihad ..., a claim she shares with Usama bin Ladin and a host of other Muslim controversialists".

See, I'm also a bit of a fan of Irshad Manji, and putting her in the same sentence as bin Laden does nothing for my blood pressure!

I'm guessing it must be some 'lawyer thing' about non-professionals dabbling in jurisprudence, but I've often got the impression that your opinions were frequently not a million miles away from hers.


Irfan Yusuf said...

I haven't read any of Manji's books, but her columns annoy me. In her last column, she was bragging on about how an Urdu translation of her book was being downloaded by lots of people. I read it and was wondering about whether she had circumcision marks on her forehead.

Shakira said...

Manji is not being put in the same catagorey as a way of calling her a terrorist - the point is that she claims the rediscovering the concept of "ijtihad", (interpretation) as though no one else has done so. The point is, that Islamists from Khomeni to bin Laden have also discovered "ijtihad" and use it to justify their own "interpretations". So this does undermine Manji's arguement that the "trouble with Islam" is "not enough ijtiahd".

Anonymous said...

I guess we can't stop repeating the myth that bin Laden was a creation of the US, no matter how many scholars point out this is bunk. Peter Bergen's work is a good starting point for tracing the origin of this myth.

Once again we refuse to look at our own sins and take responsibility for thuggish behavior by some in the Ummah and instead project the blame everywhere except where it belongs - at our own apathy. This apathy is very apparent in that few writers other than yourself have bothered to point out the idiocy of Ulema calling for suicide bombings as a form of literary criticism.

Having been subjected to Rushdie's book as mandatory reading in a college class, I suspect that if no one had issued a fatwa against it, almost no one would have read it because it is tedious, repetitious, and wordy.

Akhi, for those of us who are Muslim, the aptness of your comparison of Manji and bin Laden is clear; but it might be good to explain the analogy in a future column for the benefit of non-Muslim readers.

Rhys said...

OK, so maybe Manji is a publicity-hungry journalist who doesn't really understand ijtihad (she's not Robinson Crusoe there, I suspect).

And maybe she's projecting her experiences of her tyrannical father onto the religion that he used as an excuse to abuse his family.

But I still like her writing. And I still like yours, too. :-)

Can't say what I think of Sir Salman's, though, because I've never read any of his books!


Peter said...

"Haven’t enough Muslim families mourned their loved ones killed in such attacks?"

Why would they mourn when, dying in the cause of Islam, they get first place on the golden escalator to Heaven?