Irshad Manji er ute med en ny bok – Allah, Liberty and Love, som skal utkomme i det minste på svensk. Manji er den mist frilynte muslimen i Vesten og har en helt egen appell.

Fra utdraget som ligger ute på amazon.com

On a chilly afternoon in February 2007, I arrived in Texas for the first time ever. Houston’s Rice University had invited me to speak about my book The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call For Reform in Her Faith. En route to the interfaith center, my host and I discussed (what else?) science. We marveled at the theory that physicists have come up with to explore a world beyond the material, and we exulted in the fact that “superstring theory,” like a spiritual quest marinated in mystery, has its doubters as well as its defenders. A short while later, in a state-of-the-art auditorium named for Shell Oil, I stood before rows of people who reflected a Bible Belt throbbing with diversity: Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, polytheists, atheists and—Lord love us all— misfits.

Jazzed by what he witnessed, my host pushed the envelope of diversity and introduced me as the Muslim to whom Oprah Winfrey, an African American, had given her Chutzpah Award— chutzpah being the Yiddish word for courage bordering on craziness. The audience laughed. Timidly. Everyone could feel the apprehension. Writing about the need for change in Islam doesn’t win you points for diplomacy, not even in Texas. I consider myself a truth-teller, but many in the crowd feared a flamethrower.

“I’m here to have a conversation,” I assured them—a conversation “about a very different story of Islam.” We all knew the Islam that jumped out of our headlines: an unholy trinity of bombings, beheadings and blood. We also knew that, according to moderate Muslims, Islam means “peace.” Anybody could have given this audience more of the same, but that’s never been my mission. The story I would tell, I promised, “revolves around a really big idea that I believe has the capacity to change the world for good.”

That idea is ijtihad—Islam’s own tradition of dissenting, reasoning and reinterpreting. For non-Muslims in my audience, I pronounced it carefully: ij-tee-had. It comes from the same root as jihad, “to struggle,” but unlike violent struggle, ijtihad is about struggling to understand our world by using our minds. Which implies exercising the freedom to ask questions—sometimes uncomfortable ones. I spoke about why all of us, Muslim and not, need ijtihad. Burning a hole in my back pocket was an email from Jim, one of my American readers. “The message of ijtihad, of questioning, speaks to more than just Muslims,” he enthused. “Throw away the confines of political correctness and discuss, debate, challenge and learn. A brown Muslim woman inspiring a white Christian man. Isn’t freedom great?”

I was about to be reminded just how great freedom is. The evening saw its share of questions for me: What about the ills of the West? Will it be women who kick-start reform in Islam? How do you use ijtihad to beat the terrorists? At the end of the night a Muslim student quietly made his way over and told me that only when he attended university in the United States did he hear about ijtihad. “Why,” he wondered, “aren’t we taught about this Islamic tradition in our madrassas?” I directed him to the part of my book in which I addressed his question. He thanked me and turned away. In mid-motion, the young Muslim stopped to ask me another question: “How do I get your chutzpah?”

Over the past eight years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations like this. They’ve taken me on a surreal journey that’s culminated in the book you’re holding now. Let me back up.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in Toronto, conducting my first meeting as the executive producer of a TV channel dedicated to spirituality. I had no idea about the World Trade Center attacks until the meeting wrapped up and I returned to an office of stunned colleagues hunched over TV sets. Soon after, I wrote a newspaper editorial about why we Muslims can no longer point fingers at non-Muslims to explain away our dysfunction. For too long we’d broken faith with chapter 13, verse 11, of the Qur’an: “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is inside themselves.” It’s a 13:11 solution to a 9/11 abomination.

My editorial, “A Muslim Plea for Introspection,” triggered such a flood of response that publishers wanted to make it a full-fledged book. I had to decide if I’d give up my dream job to pour my heart into something that Muslims might not be ready to hear: questions. As I had asked my madrassa teacher in Vancouver twenty years earlier, Why can’t I take Christians and Jews as friends? Why can’t a woman lead prayer? Why should I avoid examining the Qur’an and understanding it? Isn’t this all a recipe for corruption? Before 9/11, not a single person seemed to care.

I followed my conscience, writing The Trouble with Islam Today as an open letter to fellow Muslims. The trouble, I argued, is more than the militants; even mainstream Muslims have curdled Islamic faith into an ideology of fear. Evidently, the questions I posed touched a raw nerve. When the book came out in September 2003 in my country of Canada, it hit number one, and within months it also became a bestseller in the United States. One by one, European countries released their translations, followed by the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia.

Despite the glamour of international attention, I’d actually embarked on what the Qur’an calls “the uphill path.” I found myself confronting a vice president of Iran about the atrocity of stoning women to death. Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf instructed me to “Sit down!” because he didn’t appreciate my inquiry about his human rights record. The political leader of a terrorist group, Islamic Jihad, ran me out of Gaza when he couldn’t locate any justification in the Qur’an for the violent tactics that he insisted were “everywhere” in Islam’s scripture.

Truth is, though, my most memorable exchanges have been with everyday people. The book tour evolved into a global conversation, taking me to all the countries of North America and western Europe, many in eastern Europe and some in the Middle East, as well as India, Australia and Indonesia, where stern Muslim puritans and a spunky Muslim transsexual showed up at my book party. (More about that later.)

In the United States alone, I visited forty-four states, engaging with fans and foes in libraries, restaurants, theaters, classrooms, gymnasiums, chapels and temples. No mosques, however. All invitations by Muslims hit the roadblock of mosque leaders who regarded me as a rabble-rouser. Still, Muslims attended each of my public events. Many came to jeer, but many others came to find solace in the fact that someone was saying what they wanted to say, yet felt they couldn’t. A reader named Ayesha summed it up when she emailed, “Millions think like you but are afraid to go public with their views for fear of persecution.” I heard her: Some days I received so much hate mail that I had to dance like Muhammad Ali to take the pounding and sustain the meaning.

Ayesha’s email is featured on my website, irshadmanji.com. Every couple of weeks I posted several new messages, along with my replies. My site burgeoned into a hub of debate, connecting me to what people of vastly different beliefs thought and felt about reform in Islam—and about why I couldn’t take the backlash too personally. “I’ve been reading the postings on your website,” Jonathan wrote. “Even if you are everything your critics say you are—an infidel, blaspheming, self-hating, mind-poisoning, money-grubbing, Zionist dyke (have I omitted anything?), it would still not follow that your ideas have no merit.” He quoted the twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, who was himself influenced by free-thinking Muslims: “Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, or less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.” My reply to Jonathan? “Yeah, but you’re just a self-hating, mind-poisoning, money-grubbing, dyke-loving Jew. Enough said.”

I took the death threats seriously when they contained specifics, proving that my opponents had planned out their execution fantasies. Those emails I forwarded to the police. Counterterrorism experts advised me against using a cell phone because ill-wishers could easily exploit the technology to track me down. And for a time I had a bodyguard. He was cute, to boot. But I let him go early on because young Muslims would be watching how I handled the consequences of going public with my questions, and I didn’t want them assuming that the only way to survive is to hire round-the-clock protection.

The decision to drop 24-hour security opened up communication with young Muslims—and opportunities for change. My inbox overflowed with messages from the Middle East, asking me when I’d be getting the book translated into Arabic so a new generation of reformers could share it with their friends. I’d love to, I replied, but name one Arab publisher that will distribute a book like this. A lot of the kids wrote back, “So what?” They encouraged me to post an Arabic translation on my website, which they could download free of charge. (They were young but they weren’t born yesterday.) I thought, “How sassy. How subversive. How can I not go for it?”

In 2005, I uploaded the Arabic translation to my site at no cost to readers. The following year a number of democracy activists waved me down in the streets of Cairo. “Are you Irshad?” they asked. In most cases—security still being an issue—I said yes