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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.

Looking at more than 80 articles, interviews and media appearances by Ms. Nomani spanning the last ten years, I’ve tried to highlight the main complaints that Muslims might have with her ideas and methods. A lot of the nasty ad hominem swipes she receives ultimately stem from some of these core grievances.

While I somehow sort of doubt Asra reads this blog, I do hope she might swing by for a look and perhaps take some ideas from it on how to more effectively convey her messages and accomplish her goals. Her work is often frustrating to me, but I believe she’s a good person with good intentions and I agree with a lot of her main ideas.

I just wish she would express them better.

I’ll be posting my analysis and commentary shortly, which is divided by topic for the sake of simplicity. In the meantime, feel free to comment if you have any input or suggestions 🙂

السلام عليكم

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Abdullah permalink
    July 18, 2010 3:37 am

    I reviewed Asra’s book here – I think you may find it interesting.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any comments or suggestions about this book review.

    BarakAllah fiikum

  2. ImadK permalink
    July 18, 2010 1:27 pm

    I don’t think that i’m the only one, but it’s somewhat laughable to me that Asra Nomani would be considered polarizing. I find her to be a but tepid and lukewarm, I don’t see how she can be a polarizing figure. If there’s anyone who disagrees with her, they’re way, way out on the fringes.

    Since “polarizing” could be associated with “controversial”, a couple of polarizing Muslim figures would include the more notorious Irshad Manji and one of the most fascinating bloggers that I have ever come across Syed Akbar Ali on his blog OutSyed the Box.

    Seriously, you all should check out his blog here:
    He’s got one of the most unorthodox opinions among Muslims concerning Islam and the Muslim community, he’s just fantastic!

    Oh, back on topic. in conclusion, Asra Nomani is way too reasonable to be polarizing for me.

  3. July 18, 2010 2:25 pm


    Thanks for that – I actually just read your review recently and was planning on linking to it 🙂


    I think we may be looking at Nomani in different ways. But in any case I put forth the assertion and will have to elaborate on why I came to that conclusion in my coming posts. Thanks for the link by the way – I’ll be sure to give that a read. Sounds interesting!

  4. Asra Nomani permalink
    July 18, 2010 6:54 pm

    Dear durkadurkistan,

    My warmest greetings to you. By way of Google Alerts, I had the pleasure of reading your blog entry.

    I wanted to write to you and invite you to be able to ask me whatever questions you would like, if that would help your analysis. I appreciate that you are attempting to look at my work and my intentions analytically, rather than being distracted by so many of the issues that, as you put it so well, can become “nasty ad hominem swipes.”

    More than anything, I appreciate that you see my work with some humanity. I understand that what I say can polarize many because it is threatening to the normative that we so assume to be true and untouchable.

    I sit here on this Sunday afternoon, watching the old school Highlanders movie with my son, as he eats his favorite meal of choice now, as a seven year old: mashed potatos.

    I would be happy to discuss with you any questions that you have for me or any points that you make. In your conversation with me, you don’t have to pull your punches for, as a journalist, part of my style is influenced by my belief that we are better served by candor, than diplomacy, and, thus, I know I won’t win popularity contests in our community.

    I wish to simply thank you for seeing sincerity in my intentions for I am very much guided by an ethos that good intention is vital to good living.

    You can reach me at asra(a), or you can pose your questions to me on your blog.

    With warmest regards and appreciation for that which you are trying to do–guided by good intention,


    • July 19, 2010 4:44 am


      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and make such a generous offer – I really appreciate it!

      You wrote >> “More than anything, I appreciate that you see my work with some humanity. I understand that what I say can polarize many because it is threatening to the normative that we so assume to be true and untouchable.”

      Thanks.. Honestly I think a lot of people don’t feel as negatively toward you as their comments might suggest. Something about the internet brings out an extra viciousness in all of us.. or rather lets us immortalize momentary emotions. I think you may have touched on that in your “Writing While Angry” piece, incidentally.

      I will certainly (iA) send you an email shortly and will happily include your responses in my upcoming posts. That would be wonderful.

      And I agree – good intentions, or “niyyah” as we call it, is always critical. I believe that when we try to look at others in terms of their intentions as well as their outer appearances, we can find common ground with more people than we’d expect.

      Again thanks for stopping by, and talk to you again soon insha’Allah.

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