Irshad Manji is a Muslima reformist and gender equality activist. She published titles like “The trouble with Islam today” and, recently, “” Allah, Liberty and Love”. No wonder she is controversial in Muslim communities because of her liberal opinions and her being openly lesbian.
Irshad pleads renewal of mainstream Islam. At the same time the belligerent orthodox fellow believers ardently stick to what they claim to to be pure Islam. By all means. If necessary literally by all means, that is.
Last December she and Dutch member of Parliament Tofik Dibi had a discussion in an Amsterdam center for culture and dialogue, “De Balie”. In an effective move to degrade their religion in the eyes of Dutch public opinion and at the same time win a few extra votes for Geert Wilders, a small group calling themselves “Shariah4Belgium”, choose their own peculiar way to participate in the debate. A pretty aggressive way. Shouting, insulting, threatening, spitting. The author literally had to be protected by her audience. Even the Police had to intervene and arrested two of the thugs.
At the late night news of Wednesday the 7th of December Dutch audiences could see their nasty scenes of insults and threats on TV:
Discarding all logic kindred (radical) spirits elsewhere in the world also seem to defend their own distorted message of peace by adopting intimidation, bullying and violence as the best way to exchange views with dissidents and non-believers.
Last week Irshad Mani had arrived in Jakarta to promote her book. She did so in that wonderful pocket of culture and reason Salihara, Jakarta. And once more, just like it happened in Amsterdam, fanatics disturbed the book launch. Several hundreds of inglorious heroes of FBR, FPI and Forkabi gathered at the center. The Police, giving in to the attackers, disbanded the meeting. On Facebook Irshad wrote “Things got so serious that organizers had to pull me to another floor as cops blocked the elevators“.
One of the reasons to protest the presence of Irshad Manji is her homosexuality. Which the thugs called absolutely incompatible with Islam. Yet that view is and should be open to discussion. Because others have diametrically opposing interpretations. The Conference of Religion and Peace for instance asserts “all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation”.
You can agree or disagree with the contents of “Allah, Liberty and Love”. Like Omar Sultan Haque’s review shows. But in an open, pluralist society like Indonesia is or claims to be, those differences of opinion are allowed. Tolerance is a prerequisite. Freedom of speech should be protected. There should be room for deviant views, unwelcome opinions. Dialogue should be encouraged.
Unfortunately “Jihadists ” obviously don’t understand. They speak a language of intolerance and violence. These radicals still have a long way to go before they will see the light.
In meantime all decent citizens should stand firm. While the state and it’s institutions should rediscover their duty to protect the gems of human rights. So, come on!