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Manji, Irshad 1971(?)-

MANJI, Irshad 1971(?)-

PERSONAL:

Born c. 1971, in Uganda; immigrated to Canada c. 1973, became naturalized citizen. Education: Graduated from University of British Columbia (with honors), 1990. Religion: Islam.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Toronto, Canada. Agent—Soapbox, Inc., 201 East Second St., No. 5D, New York, NY 10009. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Author, journalist, television commentator, and lecturer. Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, national affairs editorialist; VERB TV, president; Citytv, Queer Television, Toronto, Ontario, host and executive producer; TVOntario, Big Ideas, Toronto, host. University of Toronto, writer-in-residence; Project Ijtihad, founder. Has worked as a legislative aid to member of parliament; press secretary to Ontario Minister for Women's Issues; and speechwriter for first female leader of a Canadian political party. Has appeared as a guest on television and radio programs.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Named Feminist for the Twenty-first Century, Ms. magazine; Saints Alive Award, Metropolitan Church of San Francisco; Named Leader for Tomorrow, "Dreamer" category, Maclean's; Gemini award for best-edited information show, for Queer Television; Chutzpah Award, Oprah; Simon Wiesenthal Award of Valor.

WRITINGS:

Risking Utopia: On the Edge of a New Democracy, Douglas & McIntyre (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change, Random House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003, published as The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Out, Time, and Glamour.

SIDELIGHTS:

Irshad Manji's controversial book, The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change—also published as The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith—received widespread praise as well as widespread criticism and resulted in serious security concerns for Manji, her mother, her home, and her publisher. The book was first released in Germany, then in Canada where it became a best seller, and subsequently in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Quebec, Greece, Bulgaria, and Italy, among other countries. As of 2004, an Arabic version was being prepared.

Manji's family—of South Asian extraction—fled Uganda, when dictator Idi Amin's regime expelled more than 70,000 South Asians. The once-prosperous family—her father ran a Mercedes Benz dealership—settled in British Columbia, Canada, in 1972. As a young girl, Manji was strong willed, questioning, and an original thinker. She found her religious education unsatisfactory and unfulfilling and, although expelled from her Arabic school, her belief in God and Islam remained strong. She became intrigued with the lost Islamic concept of ijtihad, or independent thinking and spent the next twenty years in a self-study questioning of standard interpretations of the Islamic faith.

As a result, Manji—a lesbian, a Muslim, and a follower of Islam—calls herself a "Muslim refusenik," a term used by antiestablishment Soviet Jews. When asked during an interview by Sheila M. Poole for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about her self-adopted title, Manji commented: "Let me tell you first what it does not mean. It does not mean I refuse to be a Muslim. I [do] refuse to join any army of robots in the name of God. Anybody's God, including my own. This really gets us to what I consider to be the trouble with Islam today." Manji unabashedly expresses her views in what Matthew Hays described in the Advocate as a "rabble-rousing book written in a down-to-earth style." Manji addresses what Carly Steinman of Tikkun called "the difficulty of dealing with troublesome passages in holy scriptures, and the need for open and honest questioning of such texts." Manji's statements prompted death threats from Muslim extremists.

Michael Potemra, in his National Review critique, described Manji's book as "compelling—and deeply heartening." A critic for Tikkun commented that Manji "isn't always balanced in her approach," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer called Manji's writing energetic but "unfocused." Steinman acknowledged the angry voice and "denigrating tone" of the work, but also commented that the book "has a conversational style that is very accessible. She adeptly exposes critical issues to be addressed in contemporary Islam."

In an interview with Rich Barlow for the Boston Globe, Manji commented: "We Muslims, even in the West, are raised to believe that because the Koran comes after the Torah and the Bible chronologically, it is the final and therefore perfect manifesto of God's will." Manji went on to note that, because of this, "When abuse happens under the banner of my faith—as it does under the banner of everybody's faith—most Muslims, even those with Ph.D.s, still have no clue how to debate, dissent, revise, or reform." Manji's book is an attempt to do so, and Paula Adamick, writing in Catholic Insight, feels that Manji's "views are bravely and brilliantly articulated."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change, Random House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Advocate, March 2, 2004, Matthew Hays, review of The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, p. 27.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 14, 2004, Sheila M. Poole, "Q&A/Irshad Manji, Author: 'I Refuse to Join Army of Robots'" (interview), section F, p. 1.

Booklist, January 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 793.

Boston Globe, February 21, 2004, Rich Barlow, "A Muslim Woman's 'Call for Reform'" (interview), section B, p. 2.

Catholic Insight, June, 2004, Paula Adamick, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 9.

Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2004, Nancy Traver, "Talking about Islam; Author Challenges Muslims to End Human Rights Abuses against Women, Minorities" (interview), p. 3.

Denver Post, February 8, 2004, Dylan Foley, "Woman's Plea to Fellow Muslims: Reform Islam" (interview), section F, p. 13.

Entertainment Weekly, January 23, 2004, Michelle Kung, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 103.

Guardian (Manchester, England), July 28, 2004, Matt Keating, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 24.

Herizons, summer 2000, Leslie Stojsic, "Queen of Queer TV," pp. 24-26.

Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Naomi Hafter, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 98.

National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2003, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 6.

National Review, January 26, 2004, Michael Potemra, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 56.

Newsweek International, February 9, 2004, Malcolm Beith, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 52.

New York Times Book Review, January 25, 2004, Andrew Sullivan, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, November 24, 2003, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 60.

Report Newsmagazine, June 10, 2002, Peter Stock, "The God of Tolerance: A Self-described Moderate Muslim 'Reformer' Is Revealed to Be Anything But."

Tikkun, March-April 2004, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 10; May-June 2004, Carly Steinman, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 78.

Toronto Life, January, 2004, review of The Trouble with Islam, p. 8; May 2004, Geraldine Sherman, "Truth and Consequences," p. 98.

Utopian Studies, spring, 1999, Erin McKenna, review of Risking Utopia: On the Edge of a New Democracy, p. 279.

ONLINE

Harry Walker Agency Web site,http://www.harrywalker.com/ (October 14, 2004).

Irshad Manji Home Page,http://www.muslimrefusenik.com (October 14, 2004).*

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