Irshad Manji discovers Muslim love

I would probably not like this book; in fact, from reading the summaries and reviews, I would probably actively detest Irshad Manji’s Allah, Liberty, and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom — there might be much to admire in her work, as she’s another theist who has taken a step away from the dogma and tribalism of fundamentalism, but she hasn’t yet had the courage or intellectual integrity to take another step and free herself of the folly of faith. I could imagine writing a review of the book that was negative or mixed.

But you know what I could not do? I could not imagine instigating a riot over it, or demanding that she be executed for writing it. I would not demand that the book be banned. But that’s exactly what she got at her book launch in Amsterdam.

Next time you see an atheist accused of militancy or stridency, show the accuser this video. That’s what militant, strident fundamentalists look like.


  1. julietdefarge says

    I probably won’t read it either, because I’m sure our local library will consider yet another book on quilting more important, but I’m curious- What part are they protesting, the love or the liberty?

  2. Matt Penfold says

    What part are they protesting, the love or the liberty?

    It could be because someone in possession of a vagina dared to express an opinion. That really upsets some Muslims.

  3. captainchaos says

    Wow. I’m deeply embarrassed that this happened in my country. These “people” are from Sharia4Belgium, but they have been expanding their activities to the Netherlands lately. They are deeply scary fuckers who recently threatened to destroy the Atomium in Brussels. Part of me secretly hopes they try to actually do it, so they can all be rounded up and locked away for the rest of their lives.

  4. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I’m especially impressed by that brave, brave man with a covered face shouting in the camera. I’m guessing he was protesting the part of her message about courage.

  5. nmcc says

    That Nazi-like salute at the end was just about spot on for that crowd of vicious bastards.

  6. Dick the Damned says

    Islam is the religion of peace, so, obviously, those folk aren’t ‘true Moslems’.

  7. pentatomid says

    Oh hell no, not the Sharia4Belgium lot. These guys actually threatened to blow up the Atomium here in Belgium. What bugs me especially, besides the obvious religious fundamentalism itself of course, is how this provides some right wing politicians, like Geert Wilders and, here in Belgium, Filip de Winter with an excuse for their racist bullshit.

  8. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    It’s really terrible that Irshad Manji should be harassed and threatened like that. It’s also terrible that she can’t let go of her religion and continues to work herself into pretzels attempting to reconcile it with the fact that she’s an educated, liberal, lesbian Canadian.

    I feel bad for her, in more ways than one. It’s not just that she’s fighting the battle that she’s chosen to despite the consequences, it’s also that she’s chosen to fight this particular battle at all.

    Ayan Hirsi Ali is also a brave woman fighting a similar battle against fundamentalist Islam and I consider her braver than Irshad Manji if only because she doesn’t stop at fundamentalist Islam and is an apostate. I might have more respect for Irshad Manji if she could drop her insipid attempts at reconciling herself with Islam. While I appreciate that she’s a vocal, moderate Muslim, I think she’s missing something key, something that Ayan Hirsi Ali has.

    As it is, however, I can’t help but to view most of what Irshad Manji does as a form of Hoggling. It’s sad to see a person try so hard when it’s certain that they’ll fail and when the goal they strive for is not at all noble or good. It’s sad that she wants a tolerant Islam for herself (for everyone, I suppose) when she could free herself from it entirely and still try to accomplish a similar goal, both more achievable and ultimately better.

  9. steve oberski says

    I doubt that Muslim “love” is a recent discovery for Irshad Manji.

    I attended a talk by her last year (part of the Women of Distinction series at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto) and she recounted her days as a host on QT: QueerTelevision for the Toronto based Citytv in the late 1990s, where she got acquainted with Muslim hatred and the more ecumenical version expressed by the bigots united by their loathing for her sexual preferences.

    If raw courage and determination can play a part in attaining the goal of detoxifying Islam then Irshad may well have an effect.

    During her talk she made reference to “grumpy atheists” so after the talk I got her to autograph my copy of “The Trouble With Islam Today” to a grumpy atheist.

  10. Moggie says

    I enjoyed The Trouble with Islam Today, but while reading it I kept wishing she would take the obvious step and renounce religion. Still, liberal voices within Islam opposing contemporary Islam’s misogyny and anti-intellectualism aren’t a bad thing.

  11. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    Are the threads always that awful? It’s not just xenophobia, it’s racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and blind privilege. The worst part is that I think that stuff is coming from the regulars. That place is a toxic dump!

  12. Gregory Greenwood says

    So, could someone remind me how Islam is the ‘religion of peace’ again? Because all I am seeing here is a few inadequate excuses for human beings oh so bravely threatening a woman who has had the temerity to have a few thoughts of her own* from behind their masks – as is rather common among the… ahem … fearless warriors of the various flavours of imaginary sky-fairy.

    Still, this kind of behaviour is hardly limited to Islam. One need look no further than the nearest planned parenthood clinic to realise that. There really is precious little to choose between islamic fanatics and xian fanatics – godbots the world over seem cut from pretty much the same cloth.


    And, lest we forget, be openly lesbian – nothing like the possibility of teh ghey secks to get fundies of all stripes in a lather.

  13. Irene Delse says

    there might be much to admire in her work, as she’s another theist who has taken a step away from the dogma and tribalism of fundamentalism, but she hasn’t yet had the courage or intellectual integrity to take another step and free herself of the folly of faith

    I love you, PZ, but here you’re confusing a personal preference with non-faith as an absolute moral compass, and that’s as irrational as believing in unicorns. Courage has nothing to do with faith or unfaith. If you had just written “she hasn’t yet the intellectual integrity” or “isn’t yet rational enough”, OK, that would be fair. Because it is a question of rational thinking and being consistent in intellectual matters.

    But courage? That’s another thing entirely, operating at gut level, that you can’t routinely deny to theists just because their ideas are not the same as yours.

    Because after that video, and after seeing the brave, brave commentators who jeer at Manji from behind their computer screens because she still believes in God, who could deny where the real courage is? And why wouldn’t someone harassed like that, and not for the first time, by violent hateful religious bigots, just be frightened out of publishing altogether and just retreat in their private home? Or even associate religion with hate? Would “letting go” of faith by that route be an act of courage or of human frailty, comprehensible as it would be?

    No wonder people like Manji receive blows from every side: the Islamist hate her because she dares to be who she is and criticise them; the Islamophobes can’t reconcile her with their own vision of a totally evil Islam. And now, there’s the lazy Western atheist who sneer at her for trying to convince other Muslims to not be bigots and open Islam to modernity!

    I can’t fathom the kind of atheists who’d rather recognise the extremists as the mainstream or even “true” form of religion, and dismiss or despise the humanistic theists. Sorry, ot’s too close to intolerance to be any kind of “courage” or “intellectual integrity”.

  14. SallyStrange (Bigger on the Inside), Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Note how the guy in the first few seconds goes right up to the woman (I can only guess it’s Irshad Manji) and puts his hand directly on her breast.

  15. shalashar says

    @26 I think they were switching languages as much as having thick accents.

    All I could pick out from the video were the words lesbian, homo, apostate and Bill Oreily.

    Can’t really see the words in between being all that flattering tbh.

    Yes, a lot of the far right like the BNP over here do use Islamaphobia as a shield to justify their own brand of bull, but I do wonder sometimes if these people are on some level trying to provoke the persecution that they claim to be suffering by inflicting it on what they perceive as soft targets.

  16. Duckbilled Platypus says

    Living in Amsterdam I have to admit that I barely looked into what happened in that incident, last December. Maybe it was because when religious people get into an argument about their beliefs, I prefer to stand back for a bit. I should have paid more attention.

    What is slightly comforting to me is that despite the large and diverse Muslim community in the city (and in fact, in the country), the shouting obnoxious hateful bullies had to be brought in all the way from Belgium. Apparently they haven’t even tried, or were unable to, mobilize a local angry mob among their peer believers.

  17. Chris Booth says

    I could not imagine instigating a riot over it, or demanding that she be executed for writing it.

    Really, PZ, this bespeaks a deplorable lack of imagination.

    Or might it bespeak a higher standard of behavior? Hmm….

    Imagine a world in which the standard of discourse is…discourse.

    (But she might be a witch; someone turned all those men into swine.)

  18. DLC says

    Islam is a religion of PEACE! screams the mullah, as he shoots his clenched fist into the air.

  19. demonhype says

    Irene Delse:

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone sneering at her here. I’ve seen a lot of contempt toward the bigoted fundies who attack her and I’ve seen lots of people who wish her success and appreciate the difficulty of her position (that is, speaking up as a moderate non-hater version of her faith and being true to herself directly in the face of a crowd of haters of the sort who have been known to get out of hand, to say the least). I’ve even seen some expressions of appreciation that we’re hearing from an open and outspoken moderate/liberal Muslim, which actual haters on our side insist time and time again don’t exist. Some people simply expressing their own personal preference that it would be great, now that she’s seen the warts and tumors of religion, if she could just keep going from there and take that final plunge does not equate to sneering. Even the people who have directly expressed that they wish she could just go apostate like Hirsi Ali haven’t denied her overall courage or sneered at her in any way.

    I think it would be great too, but at the same time having more open and outspoken moderate/liberal Muslims might be a lot more effective than having them all turn atheist–though certainly some will. If they all turn atheist then it turns the conversation into “atheist vs believer” and immediately tilts the argument in favor of the haters because “at least they BELIEVE in SOMETHING!!!!1!!” Also, it gives the racists on the other side more ammo. Whereas a more vocal moderate and liberal contingent changes the meat of the debate from belief vs. nonbelief to violent, dehumanizing hatred vs. actual peace and love–and the latter is the more pressing issue at the moment, and the former is more likely to get otherwise nice people to side with violent haters just because they feel they have to be loyal to the religious one.

    Least, that’s my take on it.

  20. catnip67 says

    I’m not sure the usefulness of having moderate Moslems or any other particular faith is really relevant. An individuals personal journey is up to them. Why would it be useful to have people moderately espousing a nonsense?

  21. A. R says

    Saw this a day or two ago, and it seemed rather depressingly unsurprising. Fundamentalists of all faiths (though lately it seems like the Islamist brand of fundamentalism has been more active, or, at least, more visible) are despicable monsters, but when they target freedom of expression, as in this case and the case of Salman Rushdie, they seem, if possible, more deplorable. Of course what else might one expect from the followers of violent Middle Eastern religions that grant their deities the power to convict people of thought crimes.

  22. duphrane says

    Irene Delse:

    I saw, and to some extent liked, where you were going until this:

    “And now, there’s the lazy Western atheist who sneer at her for trying to convince other Muslims to not be bigots and open Islam to modernity!”

    Frankly, a lot of “lazy Western atheist(s)” have stood up to convince Christians (and even some Muslims!), and have been shouted down for it in public, and yes, received death threats.

    And then I hit this part, and my eyes started to bleed:

    “I can’t fathom the kind of atheists who’d rather recognise the extremists as the mainstream or even “true” form of religion, and dismiss or despise the humanistic theists.”

    I’m not sure we’ve been reading the same post and comments. I think we all recognize that there are a broad diversity of views among theists, and that not all of them have horns. That being said, in my view, which is sure to be both seconded and disputed, it’s better to have another atheist than another liberal theist. There’s a continuum, but while we should be willing to work with moderate and liberal theists, we are still obliged to point out that they are wrong.

  23. duphrane says

    Bah, I need to proofread better. Second try:

    “Frankly, a lot of “lazy Western atheist(s)” have stood up to convince Christians (and even some Muslims!) [to not be bigots and open up to modernity], and have been shouted down for it in public, and yes, received death threats.”

  24. Ichthyic says

    Why would it be useful to have people moderately espousing a nonsense?

    pure tactical pragmatics:

    if they are moderate, they are much less likely to want to hang you, or burn you alive for disagreeing with them.

    of course, I suppose that all depends on your definition of “moderate”.

    personally, I understand and agree with your sentiment, and it would be lovely if we could simply bypass the “moderate” stage, and move right on to “forgotten myth” stage, and apply the same to all the other Abrahamic religions, and all their spinoff sects.

    But if it’s a choice only between the lesser of two evils, I gotta choose the moderates, I suppose.

    *kicks rock*

    damn idjut, cognitive dissonant, brainwashed sheep.


    It’s a lot like having to choose a democrat vs a republican these days, I suppose.

    glad I at least don’t have to make THAT choice any more.

  25. McCthulhu's new upbeat 2012 nym. says

    I guess Hitchens was right…religion does poison everything. Can’t a muslim lesbian have a book release party in peace?

  26. says

    When I was an agnostic, I was a big fan of these Euro-Islam type of ideas (I haven’t read her book so I don’t know what she is proposing). I still am supportive of such ideas, but I also like to point out that irrespective of labels, moderate Muslims exist, and even “purely cultural” Muslims. There are Muslimas who only wear the veil if they go to the mosque during Ramadan etc.

    But after I decided to come down from the agnostic fence, I admittedly care less about these things. Intra-religious quarrels seem to be going on in many religions, like the stuff that’s been going on in Israel, for instance. More fundamentalist Christians also are often disgusted at more liberal Christians, this can get political as well, for instance look at the Anglican split.

    Whether it is useful to seek out religious moderates as allies to the atheist movement, I don’t know, the opinions seem to be split here, and for gnu atheists probably the majority does not seem to find that useful.

    Radicals of all religious stripes need to be opposed, but some groups seem to have agendas of their own focusing on the radical elements among migrants in European countries, trying to paint all the migrants with one broad brush (the famous “what about the moderates, why don’t they speak out against incident X/Y/Z” spiel). One has to be careful about not falling into the same trap.

  27. almulhida says


    Yeah they’re switching languages. First part goes:

    In the name of Islam, Ya munafiq, ya kuffar, ya murtad ya murtad ya murtad (crowd : takbir, allahu akbar)

    Munafiq=hypocrite, a person who claims to be Muslim but isn’t
    Kuffar = infidels
    Mutrad = someone who has left Islam

    The guy then quotes the first half of the first Aya of surat almunafiqun which goes like: “When the hypocrites come to you, [O Muhammad], they say, “We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah .”

    So they’re basically fulfilling their Muslim duty of testifying before a Munafiqa that she’s not a real Muslim.

    Takbir is glorification.

    I don’t understand the first half of what the dude yelling at the camera says but the second part is “salla allahu ‘aleyhi wa salam

  28. says

    Irene Delse:

    I’m with you on this. A privileged white hetero dude (as much as I admire him) impugning the courage of a liberal Muslim lesbian really rubs me the wrong way. And yeah, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is really brave, too. Nobody said she wasn’t, and I’m pretty sure she and Irshad Manji aren’t about to get into a pissing contest over who is braver. Both are subjected to angry men screaming death threats at them for being who they are. Every. Damn. Day. Both get up and continue to be who they are and to speak publicly about it in spite of that. Every. Damn. Day. There can be no quantification of their courage here, except to say that they are more courageous than most people on this forum, including myself.

    Manji is awesome, and I admire her bravery as I do anyone who speaks out against theocracy and injustice.

  29. catnip67 says


    I was really referring to the comment by demonhype, which seemed to suggest that a moderate theist is more useful (to be allies with) than another deconverted atheist.

    I agree 100% that a moderate theist is better than a fundy any day – less likely to become violent & not completely impossible to potentially reach with rational discussion.