I found myself agreeing with a lot of what she had to say. I also found myself disagreeing with a lot of what she had to say. The most important point, however, was that I listened to what she had to say. My initial urge to dismiss Irshad Manji out of hand, simply because of the title of her book, was very wrong indeed.
I agree with her that some aspects of critical thinking were utterly abandoned by Muslim legal scholars for many centuries, to utter detriment and decay of Islamic civilization. I disagree, however, that critical thinking is completely absent among Muslims today. I agree with her that scriptural literalism among Muslims is a serious problem. I disagree, however, that literalism is the mainstream of modern Muslim thought. I agree with her that sometimes Arab cultural traditions are confused for Islamic doctrine. I also agree with her that conversations with God do not have to be only in Arabic--heck, I pray to God in English all the time. I disagree, however, if she advocates saying the five daily Muslim prayers in English. Although she never said it explicitly, I agree with her that many Muslims have fallen way short of the ideals of their faith. I disagree, however, that the "trouble" is with Islam itself.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said that Muslims should seek to gain wisdom from wherever it may lie, and that includes Lesbian, Feminist, Israel-loving, Muslim Refuseniks. That also includes the state of Israel. Yes, the state of Israel is the only country of the Arab Middle East that currently occupies Arab land. I pray for that occupation to end and for peace between Arabs and Israelis to come swiftly. Nevertheless, Israel is also the only country of the Arab Middle East whose Prime Minister has been questioned by police in connection with a bribery scandal that may end up in his indictment on corruption charges. Come meet me in my grave--an old Egyptian expression--when any Arab leader is ever questioned by his country's law enforcement authorities on alleged charges of corruption.
I am grateful to have read Manji's interview and learned some of what she has to say. There was a time in my life when I would dismiss people out of hand because of the views they purportedly had with which I disagreed. This only made me all the poorer, because I arrogantly denied myself an opportunity to learn something new or see things from a different perspective. In addition, this practice ran counter to the guiding principles of Islam, which demands of its adherents to think and have open minds. Thank God I have changed. It may not always be easy to hear oneself be criticized, but it is vitally important to hear that criticism nonetheless. Otherwise, change for the better will be as elusive as the appearance of Mr. Godot.