Irshad Manji is having
second thoughts on Indonesia

Having become the center of conservative backlash against her visit to Indonesia, Canadian liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji is having second thoughts over the country’s label as the largest Muslim democracy in the world.

In 2008, author Irshad Manji visited Jakarta and Yogyakarta to discuss her first book entitled Faith without Fear: The Challenge for Muslims Today.

The book catapulted the Ugandan-born woman to the forefront of public attention as an advocate of “reformist and progressive” interpretations of Islamic teachings.

The New York Times described her as the late Osama bin Laden’s “worst nightmare”.

In her newest book, entitled Allah, Liberty and Love, Manji included Indonesia as an example of a place where pluralistic Islam could be upheld in the real world.

“However, at the current time, a lot of things have changed,” she told Tempo on Thursday morning.

“Those people [who attacked the event] are cowards,” she added.

She was referring to the attack of her book discussion at the Institute for Islamic and Social Studies (LKiS) Foundation in Yogyakarta, which occurred late on Wednesday by hundreds of members of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI).

Manji, her assistant and several participants suffered minor injuries as a result of the physical attacks.

Last Friday, the discussion of Manji’s book Allah, Liberty and Love at the Salihara cultural center in Jakarta was disrupted by authorities who questioned the organizer’s permit to invite a foreign national.

Dozens of people claiming to be local residents staged protests during the event, saying they rejected the author because she openly declared that she was a lesbian and that her viewpoint that Islam should accept homosexuality was “unacceptable”.

On Saturday, Manji successfully attended a discussion hosted by the Alliance of Independence Journalists’s (AJI) Jakarta branch under the protection of Banser NU, a youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama.

Before her Salihara speech was interrupted by the police, Manji had mentioned that compared to her last visit in 2008, she felt that there were “more conservative groups in the country this year”. (asa)

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