Writer attacked on book tour
“Police crackdowns and attacks by religious extremists have attempted to derail the book tour of famed Muslim Canadian author Irshad Manji through Indonesia, a country she previously described as a symbol of ‘meaningful moderation in Islam,’” according to a report in the National Post.
Manji told the Post, “Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism. Things have changed.”
According to the Post report, things went from bad to worse:
…After five tumultuous days of security threats and cancelled events, a book discussion with Ms. Manji was violently attacked by religious extremists believed to be with the Indonesian Mujahidin Council. “As the gangsters shouted, ‘Where is Manji?’ citizens shielded my body with theirs,” said Ms. Manji in a statement she posted to Twitter on Thursday.
A colleague of Ms. Manji, Emily Rees, was rushed to hospital after her arm was struck by a metal bar. Two other attendees suffered head injuries.
Manji was in Indonesia to promote the release of her most recent book, Allah, Liberty and Love, which outlines a plan for Muslim reformation modeled on the U.S. civil rights movement. She came to prominence as a representative for progressive Islam in 2003, with her book The Trouble With Islam Today. Raised in Vancouver, Manji now teaches at New York University, where she directs the Moral Courage Project. She is openly lesbian, which has become a flashpoint for her religious critics.
Manji still has “faith” in Indoniesia, but there is a “crisis in freedom of expression,” she told the Jakarta Post in this report. “[Now] even intellectual discussions were cancelled simply because there was weak leadership in this country, which does not protect the people’s rights to enjoy freedom of expression.”
Manji added, however, that Indonesians are:
[C]apable of more liberty and more love than the weak and corrupt leadership of this country is allowing them to believe.
People of Indonesia have to believe in themselves — as much as they believe in God. The Koran tells us: ‘God does not change the condition of the people until they change what is inside themselves.’ Remember, we must take the first step so God can do the rest.
Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.