Irshad Manji

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Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji (born 1969) is a Canadian author, journalist, and activist. A Muslim by birth and faith, she is also an outspoken lesbian, feminist, and critic of Islamic fundamentalism. She was once described by The New York Times as "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare". She is the author of the bestselling book The Trouble with Islam .



Manji was born in Uganda, but moved to Canada at age three, when Idi Amin exiled all South Asians from Uganda. In her book, Manji describes her turbulent youth, including an incident when her father chased her around the house holding a knife. She studied history at the University of British Columbia, and became the first humanities student to win the Governor-General's Gold Medal for the top graduate.

Between 1998 and 2001, she was the host and senior producer of Q Files on Citytv. She was also the host and producer of In The Public Interest on Vision TV, and was involved in the televised debate series Friendly Fire.

Manji is the current President of VERB, a Canadian channel aimed at young people and specializing in diversity. She hosts the Big Ideas program on TVOntario, and is a writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto.

Manji was awarded Oprah Winfrey's first annual Chutzpah Award for "audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction". She is also a recipient of the Simon Wiesenthal Award of Valor. Manji has spoken at a number of forums, including the International Women’s Forum Leadership Conference, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference on Technology, Learning and Culture and the Los Angeles Committee on Foreign Relations. She is also involved in the international public speaking circuit.

Manji's partner is Michelle Douglas, a Canadian activist.

Since May 2005 she's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.


Manji has been a vocal critic of Islam, especially the treatment of women, gays, lesbians and Jews by some Muslims. She does not wear the hijab or chador, interpreting the requirement to apply only to the wives of Muhammad. She has criticized the Palestinian leadership and the attitudes of some Muslims towards Israel.

She questions historical interpretations of the Qur'an and advocates the concept of ijtihad, "the Muslim tradition of independent thinking". Manji is a friend of controversial writer Salman Rushdie and has received numerous death threats. The windows of her apartment are fitted with bullet-proof glass.


Her views on Islam, attitude towards Israel, emphasis on critical thinking and universal human rights represent an extreme minority view according to many Muslims. Her writings on Islam have been criticized for what her critics consider to be lack of scholarly credibility. Among other things, because Arabic is the language of the Qur'an, her lack of Arabic language proficiency has been criticized.

Manji's views are also considered by some to be anti-Arab. She has often decried Arab culture for what she believes to be its extremist interpretations of Islam. She insists Arab power has exercised far too much influence over a religion with such a culturally diverse following.

Many critics question the basis for her critiques of Islam, considering her lifestyle and personal value system, and contend that the attention she receives in the western media is disproportionate to her qualifications. Her critics claim that Manji's popularity derives from saying what the western media want to hear about Islam.

She has been debated on TV programs by Muslim scholars, such as Jamal Badawi.



  • Risking Utopia: On the Edge of a New Democracy (1997)
  • The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith (2002) Bestseller in Canada, sold many copies around the world, and has been translated into Arabic and Urdu.

Articles and other publications

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