The core concept in Manji's thought -- and that of all progressive Muslims -- is "itjihad". It's a simple idea, and devastatingly powerful. Itjihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Koran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Koran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.
"For example, the next time you hear an Islamo-fetishist, an imam of the ninth-century school, wax eloquent that Muslim societies today have their own forms of democracy thank you very much, we don't need to take any lessons, right there, ask him a few questions. What rights do women and religious minorities actually exercise in these democracies? Not in theory, but in actuality. Don't tell me what the Koran says, because the Koran, like every other holy book, is all over the map, OK. No, tell me what is happening on the ground." She continues, her voice hard and rhythmic, "Tell me when your people vote in free elections. Tell me how many free, uncensored newspapers there are in your 'democracy'. There is, I believe, such a thing as the soft racism of low expectations. And I believe that there is more virtue in expecting Muslims like anybody else, to rise above low expectations, because you know what? We're capable of it."
Manji offers a specific solution for undermining Islamic fundamentalism and ushering in a reformation; her plan involves diverting a large chunk of the West's foreign aid and national security budgets to small business loans to Muslim women, which would have the effect of empowering women in Islamic societies, and undermining the culture that created al-Qaeda.
This feminism shouldn't be alien to good Muslims, she adds. "Muhammad's beloved first wife Khadija was a self-made merchant for whom the Prophet worked for many years. I sometimes point out to Muslim men that if they are serious about emulating the Prophet, then they should go work for their wives."
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