Across the Bay

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Manji and Critical Qoranic Scholarship

Irshad Manji wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Muslims' reaction to the Nick Berg slaughter, tackling what I have called the most serious challenge facing Islam today: a historical-critical approach to the Quran.

"Moderate Muslims, like moderate Christians and Jews, shouldn't be afraid to ask: What if our holy script isn't perfect? What if it's inconsistent, even contradictory? What if it's riddled with human biases? As an illiterate trader, Prophet Mohammed relied on scribes to jot down the words he heard from God. Sometimes the Prophet himself had an agonizing go at deciphering what he heard. What's wrong with saying so?

What's wrong with not saying so is this: If we Muslims can't bring ourselves to question the peaceable perfection of the Koran, then we can't effectively question the actions that flow from certain readings of it. All we'll be doing is chanting that the terrorists broke the rules, without coming to terms with where they got their concept of "the rules" in the first place. In which case, we'll only be sanitizing what we don't want to hear.

That's no way to address Islam's intellectual lethargy, or the moral dereliction that goes with it.

Manji should expect Masaad to label her an "Orientalist racist" any day now!