The Trouble with Faith

I’ve been fascinated by Irshad Manji since I first saw her on QueerTV. She is a feminist, proudly lesbian, and also proudly Muslim. But she is also a radical, and thought by many fundamentalist Muslims to be the devil. Her book, The Trouble With Islam Today (originally The Trouble with Islam), details how she feels the Islamic faith is failing women, and, really, all modern Muslims. She says of it: “The Trouble with Islam is an open letter from me, a Muslim voice of reform, to concerned citizens worldwide – Muslim and not. It’s about why my faith community needs to come to terms with the diversity of ideas, beliefs and people in our universe, and why non-Muslims have a pivotal role in helping us get there.” – “That doesn’t mean I refuse to be a Muslim, it simply means I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah.”

Last night I watched Irshad’s documentary Faith Without Fear, which is an extension of her book. She talks further about the tribalistic mentality that she believes is hindering Islam. She also promotes the idea of ijtihad, that is, critical think and debate about the faith.

Since I am not Muslim, I can’t comment directly on Irshad’s arguments. But I can say that I believe that the essence of what she says is true for all faiths. That is, faiths will grow stagnant and become less relevant if we do not allow open debate about the holy teachings. What was true seven hundred or one thousand years ago is no longer true. And, as a Pagan, this is something I know well. My worship of the gods cannot be the same as the worship They received three thousand years ago. I do not live in the same country, have the same lifestyle, or worry about the same things. In many important ways, my life is very different from the lives of the gods’ followers of the past.

This, I believe, is true of other religions and for other Pagans. Christians are no longer an oppressed religion, so they should not function like one. There is also no need to repopulate the Earth, like there was after Noah’s flood. There is no need for burnt offerings to be given to various divinities, because that doesn’t the same sense in our world as it did when the practices were originally established.