Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  IDENTITY

A Different Take on Irshad Manji
by Yasmin Nair
2007-04-01

This article shared 6501 times since Sun Apr 1, 2007
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


At the University of Illinois at Chicago on Feb. 13, Muslim lesbian Irshad Manji delivered the ideas for which she's well known and criticized: Muslims are mindless drones who perpetuate Islam's most repressive aspects, like homophobia and sexism; the way out of this 'asylum logic' is to revive 'ijtihad,' a 'lost' tradition of Islamic critical thinking and resistance; and reviving this tradition is best done through her Web site ( Muslim-refusenik.com ) . Her speech was replete with binaries, including 'the West' against 'Islam,' good Muslims ( like Manji ) against bad Muslims ( fundamentalists who can't stand her ) . I was reminded of what Manji had described as a 'kerfuffle' between the UIC Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns ( OGLBTC, a sponsor of the event ) and UIC's Muslim Student Association ( MSA ) . The MSA had supposedly attempted to shut down the event. Curious, I interviewed Dr. Patrick Finnessy, the director of OGLBTC, and Mohammed Hussain, the student president of the MSA.

Finnessy had tried to get in touch with the MSA over previous months to see if it would co-sponsor the event. Eventually, the MSA wrote a letter to the chancellor a few days before Feb. 13, stating its objection to the university inviting Manji. Meanwhile, Hussain, hearing of possible protests, sent out a mass e-mail asking MSA members to respect Manji's right to freedom of speech and not disrupt the event.

Rumors about the MSA's objections subtly reaffirmed Manji's assertions: that Muslims who oppose her emerge from a primordial swamp, oozing the bigotry and hatred that Islam has taught them. A different picture emerged when Hussain told me what students' objections had been: Manji was no scholar of Islam; her presence offered no possibility of dialogue; progressive Muslims disagreed with her; and she was wrong to think that lesbianism was incompatible with Islam. Why did it take the MSA so long to decide what to do? The lack of any unified Muslim voice of opposition to Manji, and the ensuing internal debates and discussions, made it difficult to decide until the last minute.

Both Finnessy and Hussain demonstrated exemplary leadership, and their organizations are now collaborating on bringing in speakers for the fall. It might seem that Manji's presence on campus brought them together in an unprecedented way; that's certainly the impression she sought to convey. That assumption only perpetuates the notion that Manji's presence inevitably brings together opposing forces into dialogue where there had been none. It makes the MSA's internal debate and dialogue invisible. Regardless of whether they objected to her on progressive grounds or not, the fact is they acted upon their right to dissent from her, and adopted official University channels to do so.

For more perspective on a progressive Muslim critique of Manji, I interviewed two academics: Saadia Toor, at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York; and Daniel Drennan, at the American University of Beirut, who also runs the Web site Inquisitor.com . Both are troubled by Manji's depiction of a universal Islam. As Toor put it, there are few commonalities between the billion adherents of Islam. She refutes Manji's notion that there has been no dissent against fundamentalist Islam. Toor was 8 in 1978 when the Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia Ul-Haq came to power; her formative years were influenced by women in progressive feminist groups like the Women's Action Forum, among Ul-Haq's loudest critics. Toor finds that Manji's binaries make it difficult for progressive Muslims to articulate nuanced critiques of Islamophobia. Or, as Drennan wrote, they ' [ frame ] the question in such a way tactically to put the 'other side' always on the defensive, such that we never get to any true discussion.'

Manji's critics take issue with what they see as her extreme pro-Israel stance and her approval of U.S.-led invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. While she professes pain at such criticisms, Manji continues to write New York Times op-eds like 'How I learned to Love the Wall.' Here, she acknowledges that Israel's barrier might be painful for Palestinians, but notes approvingly that the Israeli army is kind enough to let people slip ( dangerously and uncomfortably ) through holes and gaps.

Such leaps in logic cause her critics to highlight Manji's blindness to historical realities. But Manji is, in fact, not blind to history. She fully understands that history is made by those in power. She consistently opposes those who don't defer to power. In The Trouble with Islam Today ( TWT ) , she writes about a three-hour visit to the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta. Shocked to find no African Americans there, she goes to the Martin Luther King memorial. It's filled with African Americans.

She demands to know why these 'privileged victims' aren't at the Carter Center to honor a man 'who made civil rights the cornerstone of his domestic agenda' ( failing to note that African Americans had something to do with said agenda ) . A terse response—'Why should we waste our time at the shrine of a white man?'—leads her to conclude that African Americans are at the MLK memorial to 'strut [ their ] 'free-at-last' swag.' She doesn't, of course, ask the white people at the Carter Center why they aren't at the MLK memorial.

Back at UIC, I watched Manji as she continually exhorted people to visit her Web site. I realized that, in effect, she's selling something akin to a 12-step program: Just click for freedom from repressive Islam. She spoke of a young UK jihadi who has seen the error of his ways through her—and who will be featured in an upcoming 60 Minutes episode. Such individualized stories, cast in the media drama of the West vs. Islam, deny the forms of collective dissent that occur within groups like the MSA where competing opinions are aired. And despite her purported concern with gender, Manji makes no mention of groups like RAWA ( Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan, Rawa.org/index.php ) , whose resistance to the Taliban included setting up underground schools for girls.

Manji's identities—lesbian, feminist, Islamic—allow some liberals and queers to echo an otherwise politically incorrect disdain for 'Islam' while assured that she's one of them. And without needing to understand the complicated histories of resistance and dissent that occur outside of her media box. Struggles like those of RAWA occur silently at the dangerous crossfire between Western-led dominance and fundamentalist Islam. In 2003, Manji's message about Islam vs. the West was more attractive to some. Today, she finds herself slipping towards the wrong side of history and tries to have it both ways. In TWT, she praises Bush and entitles a chapter 'Thank God for the West,' but at UIC joked about evangelicals in the White House. Few seemed impressed, and one non-Muslim queer student described her as 'bland.' On her Web site, Manji still offers the sexy spectacle of commodified dissent. The question is: Who's watching?

Contact Yasmin Nair at welshzen@yahoo.com .


This article shared 6501 times since Sun Apr 1, 2007
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

NATIONAL Women's college, banned books, military initiative, Oregon 2023-12-29
- After backlash regarding a decision to update its anti-discrimination policy and open enrollment to some transgender applicants, a Catholic women's college in Indiana will return to its previous admission policy, per The National Catholic Reporter. In ...


Gay News

NATIONAL School items, Miami attack, Elliot Page, Fire Island 2023-12-22
- In Virginia, new and returning members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County School Board were inaugurated—with some school board members opting to use banned books on the topics of slavery and LGBTQ+ ...


Gay News

Chicago author's new guide leads lesbian fiction authors toward inspiration and publication 2023-12-07
- From a press release: Award-winning and bestselling lesbian fiction author Elizabeth Andre—the pen name for a Chicago-based interracial lesbian couple—has published her latest book, titled Self-Publishing Lesbian Fiction, Write Your ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Tenn. law, banned books, rainbow complex, journalists quit 2023-12-01
- Under pressure from a lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance, officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee removed language that banned homosexuality in public, MSNBC noted. Passed in June, Murfreesboro's "public decency" ordinance ...


Gay News

BOOKS Lucas Hilderbrand reflects on gay history in 'The Bars Are Ours' 2023-11-29
- In The Bars Are Ours (via Duke University Press), Lucas Hilderbrand, a professor of film and media studies at the University of California-Irvine, takes readers on a historical journey of gay bars, showing how the venues ...


Gay News

BOOKS Owen Keehnen takes readers to an 'oasis of pleasure' in 'Man's Country' 2023-11-27
- In the book Man's Country: More Than a Bathhouse, Chicago historian Owen Keehnen takes a literary microscope to the venue that the late local icon Chuck Renslow opened in 1973. Over decades, until it was demolished ...


Gay News

Photographer Irene Young launches book with stellar concerts 2023-11-20
- "Something About the Women" was appropriately the closing song for two sold-out, stellar concerts at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage November 19, in celebration of the new book of the same name by Irene Young, the legendary ...


Gay News

Rustin film puts a gay pioneer into the spotlight 2023-11-16
- The story of activist Bayard Rustin is one that should be told in classrooms everywhere. Instead, because Rustin was an openly same-gender-loving man, his legacy has gone relatively unnoticed outside of LGBTQ+-focused history books. Netflix hopes ...


Gay News

Billy Masters: The times Streisand failed to make a splash 2023-11-13
- "Fame is a hollow trophy. No matter who you are, you can only eat one pastrami sandwich at a time."—Wise words from Barbra Streisand. You all know that Barbra Streisand's book is out. And I ...


Gay News

Charles Busch dishes on life as a storyteller 2023-11-09
- Performer/writer Charles Busch, who recently penned his autobiography, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy, said that collecting his most precious and salient memories in a book felt "inevitable." "Storytelling is such an essential ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY PROJECT: Exploring 70 years of lesbian publications, from 1940s zines to modern glossy magazines 2023-11-02
- Since the '40s, lesbians have created a vibrant history of publications. From the exploration of daily lesbian life to literary and feminist pursuits, to the modern age of glossy magazines, for over 70 years, lesbians have ...


Gay News

Banning the Banning of Books: Illinois and California lead the way 2023-10-26
- In June, at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation banning book bans in Illinois public libraries. This legislation, initiated by Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, passed the Illinois House and ...


Gay News

BOOKS Writer/HIV survivor Mark S. King talks about 'My Fabulous Disease' 2023-10-20
- For decades, HIV survivor and GLAAD Award-winning writer Mark S. King has penned the blog "My Fabulous Disease"—a warts-and-all look at his life covering everything from an encounter with an armed crystal-meth addict to a major ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart holds Fall benefit, This Archive is Queer 2023-10-16
- On the evening of October 13, Gerber/Hart Library and Archive held its fall benefit titled This Archive is Queer, with an aim to raise money for the continued expansion of the organization and the purchase of ...


Gay News

BOOKS Rachel Maddow talks 'Prequel,' fascism and gay vampire fiction 2023-10-14
- In Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism, New York Times best-selling author and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow traces the fight to preserve U.S. democracy to the early days of World War II, when a clandestine network ...


 


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.