This is a comment I had posted a while ago on a blog I visit:

“I have been thinking of this a lot as well – how as soon as something comes out of someone’s mouth or pen – something that’s substantial – we freeze them in time as though this is who they are – statically. I hope to become the type of person who sees others, including those who dehumanize me as a Muslim, as fluid in their own journeys through life – fluid in their abilities to grow as I believe I am. I hope to be this generous one day, Insha’Allah.”

This is a struggle I face in a world where it is easy to draw lines and brand this person and that person. Where people’s reputations walk into a room before them. Especially individuals with a media face who are on our screens often with their stories or versions of the world we share. Individuals such as Ayan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji. Those in silenced groups who can only watch and suffer in silence begin to ferment their thoughts and voices and soon their commentary – now snowballed amidst solely themselves – rise from the mist to be posited as the opposition, the detractors, the “death-threateners”.

In attempting to give credence to the silenced, or in trying to give ourselves credibility, believing ourselves poles apart, and in the safety of our corners, clutching these poles, we engage boldly in polemics. Words sharp enough to wound unfurl so easily from our wit. We barely struggle against our own judgment.

“I hope to become the type of person who sees others, including those who dehumanize me as a Muslim, as fluid in their own journeys through life – fluid in their abilities to grow as I believe I am.”

And yet this is a struggle I must face if I proclaim to follow the gentle path exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I often ask myself how he would respond to all the current Islamophobia or Islamanalysis or Islamtrospection that is so painful to see for someone who loves this religion.

And just as often, I’m brought crashing down as I recall over and over that he, the living Qur’an as Aisha referred to him, responded to harshness with the beauty of his resilience, the beauty of his gentle actions, the beauty of his impressive words. The grievances Muslims suffer now would wilt in comparison to what the Prophet and the early Muslims suffered, yet we find it so easy, so justifiable to dip low to avenge our wounds. And when we do this, we make it seem as though it is inherent in our historical make-up to turn to the ugly to pull ourselves up to the heights of dignity as a religious community.

Inherent? We tarnish the reputation of the Prophet when we dip so low. And how could we dip so low when we’ve read, when we’ve heard and when we know that is within our history that a man walked who exemplified the civilized and “democratic” response to dissent?

“I hope to be this generous one day, Insha’Allah.”

I write this now especially in reference to Irshad Manji. I wrote a negative review of her film Faith Without Fear (which aired 9 p.m. Eastern, April 19, PBS) back in January. She recently linked to my review on her website with the title “I am biased against her”- Muslim-Canadian Blogger. Naturally, with a title like that, I received many hits from people clutching the opposite pole. And they had a few choice comments to make.

Now, long, long before this hullabaloo, I had been feeling uneasy about the last paragraph of my review – which accused Ms. Manji of profiting from fanning Islamophobia. More specifically, I had felt I had dipped low with that last point (more of a jab). I was on a roll, clutching my own pole, and barely struggled against my own judgment.

To begin to be that generous, I state now that I cannot say with certainty that Ms. Manji was bend on profiting from Islamophobia.  That’s a hard judgment to make and I withdraw that last bit because I do not want dip so low. I do not want to stray from the history and example of the Prophet Muhammad.

However, I do not withdraw my critique of her film.  When one struggles to write a book or make a film, with each step of the way, we either strengthen our stances and see the book or film to completion or grow in understanding away from our original thesis and sometimes, some brave-times, acknowledge this growth by visibly changing our stances.

Ms. Manji’s stance is too evident in her film and it doesn’t : the Islam she “wants” in no way resembles the Islam most Muslims believe in and practice – and her contempt for “this” Islam is palpable.

At Salon.com, in his profile of the PBS series which hosted Ms. Manji’s documentary, America at a Crossroads,  Gary Kamiya states,

Then there is “Faith Without Fear,” airing Thursday, about Irshad Manji, an outspoken Canadian critic of Islam. This film is riveting to watch, but it’s about a figure too eccentric to speak for anyone except herself, and its inclusion in the series is highly dubious. Manji is a peculiar figure. She makes some good points about the need for Islam to once again embrace ijtihad, or intellectual openness — a position also espoused by the religious scholar Karen Armstrong. But Manji’s attitude toward her religion seems so perversely critical that it’s hard to believe she really believes either in Islam or any institutional religion at all.

Her attacks on Islam seem oddly gratuitous…Her appearance in “Crossroads,” unbalanced by a corresponding film about, say, Hanan Ashrawi or Sari Nusseibeh or Tarik Ramadan or some Arab or Muslim whose views are actually representative, is all too predictable: The American media just loves Muslims like her.

Still, on this pole over here, I struggle as I wonder how to be balanced myself in a just and truthful way.


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