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On TV tonight: Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare

When she was 14 years old, Irshad Manji, a Canadian Muslim, asked her madrasa teacher, “Where is the evidence of the ‘Jewish conspiracy’ against Islam?” Her teacher responded by kicking her out of the madrasa. Since then, Manji has been using her own brain to study Islam and launch a campaign to reform her religion. Manji, ...

When she was 14 years old, Irshad Manji, a Canadian Muslim, asked her madrasa teacher, “Where is the evidence of the ‘Jewish conspiracy’ against Islam?”

Her teacher responded by kicking her out of the madrasa.

Since then, Manji has been using her own brain to study Islam and launch a campaign to reform her religion. Manji, who moved to Canada as a child when Idi Amin expelled the East Indian community from Uganda, has written the book The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. Her latest endeavor is the documentary Faith Without Fear, which debuts tonight in the United States on PBS as part of the channel’s series America at a Crossroads.

In 2003, the New York Times described Manji as Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare. She reads the Koran and abstains from pork and alcohol. She’s also a lesbian feminist who admires Israel and supports the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

I’m intrigued by Manji’s current Project Ijtihad (pronounced “ij-tee-had”). On her website, Manji says that ijtihad is Islam’s long-lost tradition of independent thinking that was stomped out at the end of the 11th century. Manji wants to create a network of reform-minded Muslims who engage in critical thinking and bring about a reformation of Islam that updates it for the 21st century. If Christianity could have its Protestant Reformation, it seems possible for Islam to have one too.

Manji has her critics on both the left and the right. She also has supporters ranging from Arianna Huffington to Glenn Beck. I plan to make my own assessment tonight when I watch Faith Without Fear. I encourage you to watch the documentary too.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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