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Asra Nomani interviewed about her ‘Qur’an problem’: “I’m a neo-Mu’tazilite”

December 21, 2010

In my previous post I explored Asra Nomani’s views on the Qur’an, arguing that her positions alienate potential Muslim allies because, despite claims to the contrary, she depicts the scripture as oppressive rather than emancipatory. Although I had more than one hundred articles, interviews and media appearances to draw from when writing, I wanted to get Asra’s take in a more direct way. Fortunately she was kind enough to speak with me in a brief but revealing interview. While I disagree with her on many points, I thank and salute Asra for taking the time to share her thoughts and for being so candid. Read more…


Asra Nomani’s Qur’an Problem

November 27, 2010

I believe that both conservative and progressive Muslims share a similarly reductive view of the Qur’an as patriarchal: both of them.

~ Asma Barlas

*         *        *

Social change in Muslim communities can be a tough sell for would-be reformers. With differences in language, age, gender, ethnicity and class adding barriers to persuasion, religious knowledge is the great equalizer. As in other spiritual circles, one of the keys to shaping opinion and building consensus among Muslims is the ability to speak with spiritual confidence and authority. Nothing communicates this better than the ability to quote from scripture.

Author and journalist Asra Nomani has become well known as an advocate for Muslim women, and not surprisingly, the Qur’an is a core concern for her. But instead of bolstering her arguments for change, her treatment of the scripture is undermining her credibility as a Muslim voice.

Read more…

Eat Pray Love: An Orientalist Joyride in the World of Enlightened Consumerism

August 18, 2010

Dearest friends, I have a confession to make: I just watched Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts.

*needle screeches off record*

Look – I saw it as part of a family outing, OK?


I know, I know. I should have just picked up a knife and ended my misery early. No George Strait song – no matter how catchy – should last 140 minutes. I don’t care how many sitar solos and gamelan synths you toss in.

And that’s really all the film is: an extended theatrical adaptation of “She Let Herself Go” – but with Italy, India and Indonesia replacing Las Vegas, Honolulu and New York City. Sound far-fetched? The film’s website is

Just sayin’…

Self-absorbed spending sprees aside, the worst thing about Eat, Pray, Love is the film’s portrayal of its Asian characters. Read more…

The cover TIME magazine wouldn’t dare print

August 2, 2010

There’s been a fair amount of discussion over TIME magazine’s August 2010 cover, and for good reason: it features an arresting photograph of a young Afghan woman with a mutilated face and the headline, “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan”.

The cover epitomizes the war-perpetuating fantasy that America’s military must not abandon its beneficent, merciful mission to destroy Al-Qaeda/Taliban militants fundamentally redevelop an utterly war-torn society (and in the process empower Afghan women) with its patented “government in a box” (nuts and bolts not included).

So in other words: we can’t leave Afghanistan because if we leave, we won’t be able to accomplish.. what we haven’t been able to accomplish. A quite compelling argument, I admit.

Anyway, this morning I was reading an interesting discussion about all this at Muslimah Media Watch which ended with the thought:

I wonder what the reaction would be if the image was of a woman mutilated in a U.S. raid or drone attack, with the headline “what happens if we stay.”

I thought that was a brilliant idea, and it inspired me to put this together (click to enlarge):

The image on the cover shows a young victim of a US airstrike in Azizabad, Afghanistan in 2008 which killed between 70 and 90 civilians (source).

I only hope that more people can be exposed to the truth of what we do in the context of our wars, so that they might help bring an end to the current occupation in Afghanistan and also be less easily persuaded into supporting other wars in the future.

Feel free to circulate/repost this image.


Burqas and Banlieues: disguising France’s integration problems

July 26, 2010

In this life, few things are more banal to me than the discussion about burqas. Even critiques of the burqa craze are beginning to seem passé. With everyone from Oprah to Deepak Chopra weighing in, one wonders what is left to be said and whether it is worth adding to the already-monstrous heap of commentary. Yet Muslims are endlessly challenged to explain the burqa and clarify what they think about it. This is largely thanks to the French government.

Read more…

Why Asra Nomani polarizes Muslims

July 17, 2010

If you’ve followed the news about Muslims much during the last seven or eight years, it would be hard not to know who Asra Nomani is. Serving as a Wall Street Journal correspondent in her early career,  she has more recently worked to position herself as a leading Muslim voice in the mainstream American press, publishing articles in Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, (among other places) and writing three books. Focusing on women’s rights in Islam, Nomani has for many become the face of Islamic feminism in the US.

Despite her widespread fame and enormous influence as a South Asian and Muslim journalist, Asra Nomani polarizes a lot of people, particularly Muslims. Some would point to her “immoral” personal background (she had a child out of wedlock) or her feminist outlook to account for the negative reactions she gets. For sure, many of her detractors do go after her personal life, which is perhaps the easiest (cheapest) line of attack. This fact, though, doesn’t explain the poor reception she receives from a number of Muslims who share her general goals and ideals. Read more…

Things you may have missed on youtube pt.2: Jacqueline Kennedy’s visit to Pakistan

July 13, 2010

Hey world, let’s take a trip back in time to the year 1962!

It was the year John Glenn completed the first US earth orbit, “the twist” was taking the country’s dance floors by storm, “The Jetsons” made its TV debut, and the Beach Boys had their first hit. Ah… those were the days.

That same year, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy made a visit to Pakistan. She visited Lahore, Peshawar, and even the Khyber Pass in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (now called “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa“). Notice how warmly she is received by the public, and how easily she is able to travel without fear of being blown up into a thousand pieces.

I wonder, what has changed since then to make extremism blossom in the region and lead most Pakistanis to view the US as the greatest threat to their country? Hmmm…

Update: I was thinking at first that the answer must be: a) they got more Muslim or b) we got more freedumses, but my research assistant has indicated otherwise. Back to the drawing board..