Irshad Manji is a hard woman to ignore. Rising to global prominence at a time when all aspects of international Islam were called into question in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Manji personifies that breed of commentator looked to particularly by a non-Muslim media keen for an authoritative ‘inside perspective’, whose number also includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan and Ed Husain among others. The tendency to look for Muslim spokespeople who can articulate an already approved position has become a key weapon in the battle to discredit radical Islamist positions. If articulate and reputable Muslims can be shown to have mulled over the weighty issues facing their faith and come to the conclusion that Western versions of modernity and progress must be championed against backwardness and insularity, then this is taken as a way of clinching the argument. Because of this — and quite aside from a general fascination with matters of Muslim motivation prompted by War on Terror framing — the press, media and publishers are always on the look out for fresh Muslim voices prepared to ‘tell it like it is’. Indeed, entire careers and considerable amounts of money can be made on the basis of performing what could almost be described as an important public service. These Muslim spokespeople are essentially in the business of framing themselves (as enlightened, frank and fearless) at the same time as they frame many other Muslims as timid or complicit. Whether the persona promoted is one of clear-sighted rebel who refuses to be cowed by orthodoxy, or prodigal sojourner who once counted himself among the enemy, ‘true stories’ of Muslims who dare to speak out are dependable money-spinners and ratings winners. Closer examination of Manji’s role as one such spokesperson can reveal more about how this framing, sometimes tinged with self-mythologising, takes place.

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