Monday, November 16, 2015

Faith Without Fear

After my not so flattering posts about Irshad Manji, I thought I should take a closer look. I ordered her episode from PBS series “America at a Crossroads”, titled “Faith Without Fear”. It was a very personal documentary, featuring some intimate moments with her mother. Through that she helps you explore the ideas of faith and tribalism. I can't find it for free anywhere, but it was only $9 and had lots of extras.

Here are her closing thoughts. Although this was done in 2006, they are very timely.
I began my mission wanting to learn how we Muslims can change for the 21st century. Here's what I've discovered. We can no longer live by 7th century tribal culture. It distorts Islam today. I've also discovered that being offended is not the same as being oppressed. In a diverse world, offense is to be expected, so is debate. And we've got a tradition of debate, ijtihad. By honoring it, more Muslims could speak their minds and bust out of tribal conformity. My fellow Muslims, I have faith in our potential to change.

One of the extras is her doing a Q & A after a screening in a very Muslim neighborhood in Detroit. As I mentioned in the earlier blogs, she talks about something called ijtihad, a philosophy of exploration and learning and acceptance of the ideas of other cultures. Someone questions that if this becomes a new ideology of the Islamic world, couldn't it be misused in the same way Osama bin Laden has misused other teachings of Islam.

She completely agrees. But she says, let's do it anyway. Let's let those ideas flower and see what comes of it. I can't know what else she said since I wasn't there and it could be that she was very aware of the somewhat hostile environment she was in at the time. I hope she would have a more subtle or even more critical response to that question if she were in a different environment. 

A tribal and cultural ideology that is open to interpretation and can be used to manipulate is one thing. An idea that can be expressed in different cultures but carries with it universal values of love, peace, tolerance and the promotion of human flourishing and the understanding of the needs of all creatures and the whole planet is something else entirely. I think ijtihad is intended to promote the latter.

Ideas like this address not only religious fundamentalism, they address any oppressor or aggressor. They address the guy in Montana with guns in his basement waiting for the infrastructure to collapse. They address Pol Pot who answered to no god. They address any form of empiralism, no matter what ideological claims of righteous are behind it. 

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