War of the CRAPs: Hirsi Ali contra Manji

This NYT piece on the relationship between Courageous Reformist Arab Personalities (CRAP) Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji seizes the non-relevance of these people to the problems of the Islamic world yet, admitting that, continues to find them enthralling.

First there is this paragraph:

Yet though they are allies on one level, their approaches to Islam are strikingly different, with one working outside the religion and one within. Neither one can be considered a spokeswoman for a significant Muslim constituency in the Middle East. (Indeed, their most sympathetic audiences are probably Western.) But their differences have implications for all the big issues the West grapples with in considering the Muslim world. How much popular support do terrorists have? Is a secular Middle East possible, and what’s the best way to promote it? Is Islam itself an enemy of the West?


But then this conclusion:

Clearly, this is a debate of importance not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well, and for a Westerner listening in, the best way to understand it may be to translate it into the language of European history. Irshad Manji sees herself as moving Islam into the 16th century; Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to move it into the 18th. It’s as if Luther and Voltaire were living at the same time.



Is there anything more puerile, more annoying, more navel-gazing, more incredibly stupid than comparisons between modern Islam and European Christianity? This is the New York Times: the best way to understand its approach to the Muslim world may be to translate it into the language of American television: a combination of the faux-earnestness of 1950s family comedy and the fixation on the travails of minor celebrities seen in contemporary reality shows. It's as if "Leave it to Beaver" and "American Idol" were being watched at the same time.

[From Muslim Rebel Sisters: At Odds With Islam and Each Other - New York Times]
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.