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Thanks, but No Thanks:
Irshad Manji's Book Is for Muslim Haters, Not Muslims


By Tarek Fatah

Irshad Manji's The Trouble with Islam is available in Canada and Germany. It is due for US release in January and in the UK in Spring 2004.

It is not often that a person thanked in the acknowledgement of a book turns around and announces publicly, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’

And yet this is precisely what I am about to do. At the receiving end of my rejection is Irshad Manji, the Salman Rushdie wannabe author of the fatwa-shopping, newly released book, “The Trouble with Islam.”

The reason for my rejection? To assuage the souls of the thousands of Muslims from countries and regions as diverse and Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, and yes even Palestine and other Middle Eastern nations.

They laid down their lives in the Second World War in battles as significant as those of Stalingrad, which broken Hitler’s back, and North Africa, which sent Hitler’s Desert Fox, General Rommel, scurrying back to his den in Berlin.

Despite the sacrifices of these men, Ms. Manji in her book refers to the “Muslim complicity in the Holocaust.” I froze as I read this serious accusation. Could I have missed something when I sat at the feet of Muslim veterans from Crete, Burma, Egypt, and Italy, and heard their horror stories? In one fragment of a sentence, “Muslim Complicity in the Holocaust,” Ms. Manji places all these warriors on the wrong side of the trenches.

In writing her diatribe against Muslims, I doubt that Manji had heard of the Palestine Regiment, a unit in which Jew and Muslim fought side-by-side against Hitler’s Afrika Korps in Libya. In the cemeteries of El-Alamein lie the dead Muslims, the Mohammeds, the Alis and the Ismail’s who gave their lives so that Nazism could be defeated. The cemeteries of Stalingrad bear the names of the young Central Asian Muslims who lay buried, unable to refute the falsehoods being spread by fast-food historians. And what about the hundreds of thousands of Indian Muslims who fought shoulder to shoulder with our own Canadians in Italy and France.

So how did Ms. Manji come up with a charge as far reaching as the one by the recent German parliamentarian who said that “Jews were complicit” in the Bolshevik revolution’s atrocities? She bases it on one Haj Amin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who, as she writes, “wound up as Hitler’s special guest in Berlin, presiding over the unveiling of the Islamic Central Institute in December 1942.”

According to Irshad Manji’s rationale, because one Muslim Mufti accepted the hospitality of Hitler, after being expelled from Palestine by the British colonial authorities, all us 1.2 billion Muslims, a quarter of humanity, deserve to be accused of complicity in the Holocaust.

And what about other prominent Palestinians, such as Hazim Khalidi, a London School of Economics grad who volunteered to serve in the Indian army's "Palestine Battalion” and later assigned to the “Palestine Regiment” that included Muslims, Jews, and Christians? Perhaps Irshad Manji may like to visit the cemetery in Mississauga where Sgt. Hannah Hazineh lies buried, unable to come to his defence. This decorated Palestinian veteran of the Second World War was wounded in the El-Alamein battle while fighting the Nazis. Ah! But why let facts get in the way of a good story.

Haj Amin, no doubt, was an influential Muslim cleric in Jerusalem. But so were countless Catholic and Protestant clergy in Europe who supported Hitler, and many looked the other way while their Jewish neighbours were being dragged away. Should we talk of Christian complicity in the Holocaust? Should we, like the German Parliamentarian who talked of a Jewish complicity in the Bolshevik uprising, allow the actions of a few to rub off on an entire people?

The Holocaust charge is not the only example of Manji’s poor scholarship when it comes to Muslim bashing. In an amazing swipe at her co-religionists, Manji writes, “Muslims of East Africa treated blacks like slaves.” The fact that the vast majority of Muslims in East Africa are themselves black is completely lost on her. She continues, “We Muslims made dignity difficult for people darker than us.” A Somali friend bewildered at her accusation asked, “Who is darker than me? Obviously, Irshad Manji does not consider black Muslims as Muslim enough,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Irshad Manji says her book is addressed to fellow Muslims. Had it been written in good faith, I would have understood her reasoning, even if I did not agree with her. However, her book is not addressed to Muslims; it is aimed at making Muslim haters feel secure in their thinking.

And so, I politely tell Ms. Manji: Thank you for thanking my wife Nargis and me for a “spirited discussion” that landed you “important insights.” But the kind of insight you display in your book is troubling. Not quite our recollection of where you said you were coming from. And we would appreciate any mention of us being removed from your second edition … that is, if you do manage to secure a threatening fatwa and have a second edition.

Tarek Fatah is host of the weekly TV show, The Muslim Chronicle and a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

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