• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

My Favourite Muslim: Irshad Manji

If you don’t know about Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam Today, then you probably should. Her website is here.

Irshad is a rare bird indeed: Islamic, liberal, reformist, feminist, lesbian. The New York Times calls her “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.” She is articulate, passionate, vivacious, sweet, and almost unbelievably courageous. (One of the first photos on her website is a shot of her with Salman Rushdie, not everyone’s favourite Muslim in, say, Iran.)

She also happens to be Canadian, a Vancouverite, and a graduate of the University of British Columbia where she majored in exactly the same field as the present writer did at Queen’s: intellectual history.

Irshad and I were introduced by the producer of the popular national radio show, “Cross-Country Checkup.” She was a guest on a live, public broadcast at Carleton University, Ottawa, and I had been on the show a few weeks before. The producer knew that Irshad had wanted to meet me (I had no idea why) and when we did meet after the show at Carleton (I was attending a conference there the next day), she astonished me by pulling out of her bag a copy of my Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil–and asked me to autograph it.

She told me she was halfway through reading it with a friend and was enjoying it. I warned her that it would become “distressingly Christian” by the end, but she just smiled back and said, “Well, maybe you’ll convert me!”

I obviously did not, and neither has she converted me to her full agenda of gay & lesbian concerns, sympathetic as I am to her passion to protect our neighbours from discrimination.

Indeed, we are not exactly peas on a pod, as discerning readers will have noticed by now. But I admire her greatly and you will, too. The Islamic world badly needs its moderate and liberal elements to speak up, and we Christians–indeed, all people who resist fanaticism and terrorism–must support them as best we can.

Of course we don’t agree on crucial matters. But we agree on others, and especially since Irshad has been willing to consider my point of view and encourage me in what I do, I am delighted to reciprocate.

One more thing: I look forward to watching her new television project, “Faith without Fear,” to be broadcast in the U.S. on PBS in April and in Canada on Global TV shortly thereafter.