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A Conversation With Irshad Manji

What a wonderful tool these soc-med (social media) websites are. They enable us to communicate to people far away with speed & ease never imagined before.
A few days ago I’ve had the pleasure of getting connected to Irshad Manji – a well-known activist on Islam & freedom; via Twitter.

I found her following quote :

Hadith is heresay. Ignore it. I accept that Quran is divinely inspired but even Islamic history shows that it’s been tampered with.

So I retweeted it on my Twitter account as follows :

This is the real @IrshadManjiHadith is heresay. Ignore it… Quran is divinely inspired but.. it’s been tampered with

It’s mostly for my own note, since my Twitter account is also recorded in my Lifestream website

To my surprise, I got the following reply from Irshad :

“@sufehmi This is the real @IrshadManji: How about sending it out to your tweeps? ;)”

Thanks to the link, I ended up reading a LOT of stuff on her website 🙂

It gives me a lot more information about her. Some people are angry with her for her writings & books.
I think, looking at her past and the abuse she (and her family) endured from her father – the response (eg: what she is now) is understandable.
Also I found notes & photos on her journey to Indonesia, including her visit to a madrassa. Remembering her previous quote (, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people there knew her stance on Quran & Hadits (Islam’s foundations) and if they’d still be that friendly to her. Some madrassa in Indonesia can be pretty orthodox.
Anyway, looks like the visit went without any incident, and I’m happy for it.

Of course I also read her article about Indonesia, since it’s the she send in her previous tweet.
After reading it, and finding several inaccuracies, I wrote her back :

“@IrshadManji – The article still need loads of editing 🙂 example: it’s not “islamists”, but “extremists”, etc etc :)”

Then I got the following reply :

“@sufehmi You’re an Islamist, are u? Then u choose dogma over faith. Dogma is insecure & weak, thus needing orthodoxy. Sad 4 u.”

Err…. no, that’s a wrong assumption 🙂

But it’s understandable – with Twitter’s limitation of 140 characters per post, it’s very easy to misunderstood others. And her concern is genuinely touching me.

Looks like I owe some explanation to Irshad.
So, here goes nothing :

On the term “Islamist”

I’ve been opposed to the term “Islam fundamentalist” because it gave negative perception to something that’s supposed to be done by anyone claiming to be muslims.
In my opinion, being a fundamentalist is good since :

  1. you don’t just accept what people said to you – instead, you try (struggle) to go back to the original “source”, and find out the real thing, and
  2. by utilizing the source, you can avoid later deviations / mistakes done by other people. You get the real stuff.

Instead of “fundamentalist”, we should label the troublemakers as what they really is – “extremists”. Or, “zealots”

Anyway, along with the passage of time, the use of this term started to fade away. But, then another term rose to popularity, “Islamist”

This is even worse.

Since I’m a Muslim, of course I consider myself as an “Islamist”.
But instead, these people uses this label (islamist) on the extremists.

Thus placing me, and other innocent Muslims, in the same league as those criminals.

Hopefully this explains my tweet much clearly.

On “Dogma

I used to despise dogma, and people who cling to & do it blindly.
The topic is even one of my favourite movie 🙂

I prefer to evaluate things rationally. My religion, my action, my situation, and so on.
Gradually, I’ve been able to act less emotionally, and more rationally.

I even tested it by plunging myself into various atheists / islamophobic forum 🙂
I came out badly scarred & wounded, but alive – and with stronger logic & faith than ever. It was an experience that I shall cherish until the end of my time.

However, I began to realize that not everyone is capable of such thing. This is a fact.

Especially in Indonesia – where even in the secular schools we are taught rote learning.
We’re taught to memorize, not to understand. So naturally, most of the product of Indonesian education system is not capable of critical thinking.

It’s a sad realization. But it’s also a fact.
I’ve witnessed these people firsthand — when you gave them information to analyze, they went berserk / became very confused instead. Their brain is simply not yet capable of doing so. They became bewildered, and ended up very frustrated. It’s a very sad view.

That’s when I began to be able to appreciate dogma.

The enlightened ones formulate various dogma for the others. Others then can live their life happily, spared from the mental anguish of having to analyze information beyond their capability.

Of course this is not an ideal situation. The enlightened ones (or “ulama”, etc) then have the responsibility to enlighten others too.
So along the time, less and less people will need to rely on dogma. They’ll be able to find out & walk on their own path.

Now here comes the problem.
Many of the so-called ulama are actually bad people. They act like the enlightened ones – spoke ambiguously, acting high & mighty, and so on. But, they are actually some of the worst people on earth.

I’ve seen many of these so-called ulama actually contradicted Islam’s teachings. In several cases – quite spectacularly too.
However, they managed to keep their charade, and fool a lot of people. This is one of many problems found on various Muslim communities.

Anyway, that’s my view on Dogma. Hope it made some sense.

On things that needs fixing in Islam

My faith is that the foundation of Islam, Quran & Hadith, is sound and good.
Especially when we saw how it was implemented in the time of Muhammad — it transformed the barbaric Arabs into one of the most civilized tribe on Earth, in very little time.
If you know the Arabs, you’ll be able to appreciate this too.

A lot of things needs to be fixed in current implementation of Islam. Make no mistake.
But it’s mostly our own faulty interpretation & implementation. The foundations are still sound.

So it baffles me when people ignore the problems, and rattled the foundations instead. It made no sense to me.

Yet people continue to do similar mistakes, such as :

  1. If you see wrong tafseer / interpretation of Islam – you fix it. Don’t change the Quran instead.
  2. If you see the believer making mistake – you blame him. Don’t blame the religion instead.

And so on, the list of mistakes went on.
It would be hilarious to see so-called intellectuals making these logical-fallacies, if it’s not sad.

Focus & Fix the problems, people.
Don’t waste your time trying to find fault on things which you already knew to be faultless – otherwise you’ll end up deluding yourself.


So far that’s the end of my conversation with Irshad Manji. I’ll update this blog post if it continues later on.

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