Prepared for OxGAPS Forum by a special correspondent.
The Debating Chamber of The Oxford Union Debating Society, was the venue of a lively debate organised by al Jazeera English on the theme “What’s wrong with Islam Today?”, held on Friday, 1 March. The programme is expected to be broadcast globally in the Spring as part of the station’s new series Head to Head. The guest was Irshad Manji, author of several books on Islam who for an hour and half was grilled on her ideas by Mehdi Hasan and by members of the audience, mainly students at Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University, hailing from as far way as Pakistan and Chechnya, Malaysia and Latin America. Also present were several Imams and Islamic scholars.
Manji’s views challenge both the stereotypical image of Islam as well as mainstream views within the Islamic Ummah itself. During the programme she was constantly asked if her views add fuel to those who are trying to demonise Islam and Muslims, but Manji rejected this and insisted that Muslims need to reexamine themselves and their faith. “I don’t see a contradiction between being thoughtful and being faithful”, she said. Manji repeatedly professed her belief and love of Allah, but pretty much everything else was for her open for discussion, a view challenged by both Mehdi Hassan as well as several members of the audience.
Whichever way you look at it, Manji’s views stir controversy, and it will be interesting to see how al Jazeera will deal with the editing of the programme once it is broadcast. For those present at the event in Oxford it did provide much food for thought, and for Muslims and non-Muslims alike an opportunity for self-reflection on issues and views that we take so much foregranted that we do not think about or question anymore.
prepared for OxGAPS Forum by a special correspondent.