Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moral Courage

Irshad Manji is out to change the world with her Moral Courage Project.  The following images and text are from her website  This is a woman we should learn about, celebrate and emulate.  See what you think:

      Irshad & Christiane Amanpour of CNN

"The New York Times describes Irshad Manji as "Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare." Oprah's magazine has given Irshad the first annual Chutzpah Award for "audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction." She takes both as compliments.

Irshad is Director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University. It aims to develop leaders who will challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship. In the best spirit of liberal education, the Moral Courage Project teaches that rights come with responsibilities, that we are citizens rather than members of mere tribes, and that meaningful diversity embraces different ideas and not just identities.

Through her commitment to Muslim reform, Irshad is putting these principles into practice. She is the internationally best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. Her book has been published in more than 30 countries, including Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Indonesia - the world's largest Muslim nation.

In those countries that have censored The Trouble with Islam Today, Irshad is reaching readers by posting free translations on her website. Collectively, the Arabic, Urdu and Farsi editions have been downloaded more than one million times. The Indonesian edition has become the most popular download on this website since its launch last year.

As a scholar beyond NYU, Irshad is Senior Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy. She has served as a Visiting Fellow at Yale University and Journalist-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, where she wrote The Trouble with Islam Today.

Irshad is creator of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, "Faith Without Fear," which chronicles her journey to reconcile Islam with human rights and freedom. Faith Without Fear is now being screened across Europe and South Asia. It's also circulating in the Muslim underground via digital technologies. To view clips of Faith Without Fear, visit her official YouTube channel, IrshadManjiTV.

As a journalist, Irshad’s columns appear frequently in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Times of London, and other major news sources. She writes a regular feature for Canada’s Globe and Mail. A comprehensive collection of Irshad's columns, as well as articles about her, can be found in the media archives of this website. You can also watch debates and interviews on IrshadManjiTV.

As a social entrepreneur, Irshad has founded Project Ijtihad, a global campaign to popularize Islam’s own tradition of critical thinking. Project Ijtihad is helping to build the world’s most inclusive network of reform-minded Muslims and non-Muslim allies. To recognize the success of this campaign, the World Economic Forum has selected Irshad as a Young Global Leader.

In her continued quest to promote critical thinking, Irshad has created spaces for open dialogue on the World Wide Web. Her Facebook and MySpace pages are home to vigorous debates about Muslim reform and moral courage."


"Put simply, it's the willingness to be original, unique and different from everyone else in your group.

And it's one of the hardest things to do. Because you'll have to take criticism from parents, friends, preachers, teachers and bosses who want you to conform.

Here's what Bobby Kennedy said about moral courage. He was speaking to South African students in 1966 -- the heydey of apartheid:

"Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change."

That's why I've founded the Moral Courage Project at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service. The Moral Courage Project teaches young leaders to break silences for the sake of a greater good."

The Moral Courage Project asks you to complete the following statements:

* I disagree with my community about...

* If I say what I think, the worst that can happen is...

* If I say what I think, the best that can happen is...

* Should I say what I think? I've decided that...

Send me (Irshad Manji) your answers to the questions above at When you do, you're ready to make moral courage a part of your life."


An amazing woman, don't you think?  She is a dynamic, articulate speaker and debater, so I hope one day you get to see her in action in her documentaries, in television interviews, or at a conference.  In the meantime, let's use her example and encouragement to further develop our moral courage and our critical thinking skills.  Here are a few questions that could help: 

How have you exhibited moral courage in your life? 

How are you using critical thinking to examine your values, choices, actions? 

What examples of quiet, everyday moral courage have you witnessed in your lifetime that inspired you? 

If you developed a stronger sense of moral courage, what would you be doing for yourself, your community, or the world right now?


  1. Blown away by this, Bonnie. I have checked the website, downloaded her course reading list, and added my e-mail list to her updates. Unbelievable. You have, once again, wrung me out...


  2. I am proud to acknowledge you as my blogging friend!
    More power to your elbow and to Irshad Manji's elbow.
    Should I say what I think? You know the answer to that, Bonnie; there'd have to a qualifying clause, of course (no hurt to anyone, no danger for anyone, etc.) but it must yes, yes and yes.

  3. "The Moral Courage Project teaches young leaders to break silences for the sake of a greater good."

    Bonnie, a deeply humanistic post. As an advocate and an activist, I most certainly identify with all that is here presented. When in 1960, I started my career as an educator, I walked passed the picket lines at the school I was assigned to because I did not believe that children were to be the pawns in a union battle. That marked the beginning of what is soon to be a 50 year track record in support of programs, supports, and legislation for the special needs learner. As I reflect on the many campaigns, the presentations, the petitioning, it was my belief that ever child is a learner, if we did not know how to reach that child, we were NOT to blame the child, and hold the child accountable for our failures, gave me the courage to risk all that I did. APOGEE Learning Enhancement Training Systems™ founded in 1983 has served hundreds of students and their families, allowing me to celebrate the courage of each learning child different from the "crowd." You may wish to visit.

    Thank you dear Bonnie for all you bring to so many.

  4. Interesting post Bonnie. I find the idea of moral courage a fascinating one as a retired school teacher. It always seems to me that in the school system we spend all our time getting young people to conform, to run with the herd, so to speak (it makes school life easier for one thing) whereas what is really important is teaching young people to think for themselves and to stand up for what they believe in regardless of what others think. I think this is one of the problems with our society today.

  5. Several comments already touched on what I wanted to say, but I'll just add that I have a huge amount of respect for those who are willing to stand up for what they believe in. That's what I try to teach in my classroom, and I always try my best to live what I teach. I will check out the website later when I have more time - thanks for sharing it.

  6. Tough questions. Sometimes we think we have moral courage until put to the test. Even answering these questions I could stay say I have moral courage...but would I be able to put them all into practice? I hope the answer would be yes.

  7. Sounds important, essential, inspiring.

  8. I think to be an artist takes some moral courage, to swim against the stream of the norm. But to be an artist who speaks from the heart about hard things is even more important. I stepped off the artist cliff years ago, and there's no turning back now. Writers who challenge the 'everyday' assumptions inspire me. But Irshad Manji is a reminder to me that I must never take that place for granted, that I must use what I have to defy the politically correct and explore what is true. She is amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us, Bonnie.

  9. Expat: What a great idea! I am going to follow suit and download her course reading list too.

  10. Friko: The feelings are mutual!! Sometimes a nudge can cause people a twinge or two. Sometimes it hurts to change. Sometimes hurt can produce something new and wonderful - like a baby after difficult labour.

    You have an admirable, exquisitely sensitive threshold for seeing anyone hurt. I am working up my moral courage to say - that often once we tend/heal our own wounds and hurts we are not so overcome or frozen by the hurts around us. I experienced that when training as a therapist. At first as I watched painful sessions, I could not contain my tears and pain. As I did my own required course of personal therapy - the better I got at being able to 'hold' other peoples' pain - because it was not 'tweaking' my own. I could then be really present for the work that had to be done.

    All that said - this is not a criticism - I do admire your compassion and sensitivity.

  11. Rose Marie: How interesting to read about your activism and advocacy. Thank you for the link to your website. I so appreciate your visits and the wisdom you confer.

  12. Weaver: What an excellent point. We are groomed into conformity and it is something we have to unlearn as adults.

    I recall as a child at Jehovah's Witnesses meetings them quoting scripture about how Jesus knew his sheep, and his sheep followed the shepherd and did not stray from the fold. I remember feeling guilty and bad as I thought, 'but I would rather be a goat, climbing up the rocks, gazing out at the view - I don't want to be a sheep caught running whichever way the herd was directed'.

    It took me a long time to work up the moral courage to step out of the flock and forge my own way. But I am SO glad I had the moral courage to do it.

  13. Jeff: I'm glad you find this topic interesting. That's what our children need - to be taught how to think, and how to think critically about ideas presented to us, and above all to have a good example to follow.

  14. You have a very interesting blog.
    Greetings from creativity and imagination photos of Jose Ramon

  15. Thank you for educating me on this astounding woman!

    Julie Magers Soulen Photography
    Blog of Note

  16. What an interesting post! I'll take Expat's tip and do the same. It struck me after reading this that we would be wrong to think that moral courage is the domain of the liberal thinker only - otherwise we risk wielding our conviction against those who hold different views.

  17. You have a very interesting blog. Thanks for visiting Creativity and imagination of Jose Ramon and photos for your feedback

  18. Wowowowow Bonnie - what a wonderful amazing post!! I guess I have never been much for keeping my opinions to myself - odd or otherwise..I love this!! Want to hear so much more!!! You do amaze me you know!!! Hugs, Sarah

  19. Sherry Lee: Excellent points. We all need to examine, now and then, if what we say we are/value/believe actually co-incides with how we behave in real life situations. So do my actions back up my claims of moral courage?

  20. Barbara: So if I hear you correctly you are saying we can't rest on our old moral courage laurels? Such a good point. Do I point to actions of moral courage in the past, while ignoring how I might be failing to show moral courage in the present?

    I so appreciate how all these comments take the topics to other levels!!

  21. Jose: Thank you for visiting here all the way from Spain! Come again.

  22. Deborah: Good point. We do need to examine how we use our moral courage. I think sometimes we do have to stand up against toxic, inhumane views such as those of the nazis, or of Al Quaeda. But, yes there can sometimes be a fine line between moral courage and arrogance.

  23. Sarah: Why thank you! In getting to read a bit about your life, I would say you have not lacked in moral courage - for yourself or others.

  24. Excellent post, Bonnie! I have heard of her before. Thanks for the links, the questions, all of it! Really great! I'm going to check them all out!

    It's so nice to see people in our world willing to stand up for what they believe in!

  25. She is as courageous as she is beautiful and brilliant! Thanks for sharing this! You both inspire us! ~Janine XO

  26. I will certainly read this book. Thank you.

  27. I think if people said what they think we would find it interesting how a lot of the things we think are the same.

    It just takes someone with the Moral Courage to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

    Amazingly wonderful information you have posted and it makes me feel that these is hope for a more peaceful and tolerant world with people like her speaking out.

  28. I also think that she is incredible and brave.

    A real reminder that one person can make a powerful change.

    Love Renee xoxo

  29. Bonnie, Again a thank you. I did connect and availed myself of the newsletter. Her work most certainly reflects a heart felt mission and one to be applauded. As too, you.

  30. Very interesting blog you have
    my compliments !!!
    Lovely written ...

    Greetings from The netherlands
    Kareltje =^.^=
    Anya :)

  31. Aw thanks hon. I have left a special award for you on my blog this morning..please give me the honor of coming by and snagging it! Hugs, Sarah

  32. Wow, Bonnie. I loved this. What an inspiration...especially in light of what I've been writing about lately. You've contributed to my thinking about women and moral courage this week, though I didn't know to call it that. Thank you so much for your courage in writing to me, and for posting this. I have a new post you might find interesting, because you're a part of it...SM

  33. No problem at all hon - thank you..I only mind when I don't get credit for it - thank you how wonderful!!!! Hugs, Sarah

  34. Thank you for posting this. I have heard of her and seen some of her video. She is an incredibly interesting and gifted speaker who is doing tremendous good. What an inspiration, and what a powerful role model she is.

  35. The worst that can happen is that you get killed, which is pretty bad indeed.
    Yes, the is a bold and brilliant speaker and I strongly agree with what she is trying to do,
    Like Nicolas Kristof and his wife Cheryl WuDunn they address one of the terrible problems in the world which is that too many societies marginalize women, and treat them horribly badly.

  36. Hi bonnie! What an inspiring example of moral courage. We as members of the western world are given the rights of liberty and freedom within the confines of respecting the rights of others, but injustices occur here all the time. There are so many people in our countries who need someone to speak up for them. We are not any more exempt from the duty of moral courage as the Jordanian mother-in-law who has her daughter-in-law stoned to death. The questions you pose at your post's closing are a good place to begin. I am giving them some thought today. Thanks, Bonnie

  37. Sniffles & Smiles: You are very kind to include me with Manji.

  38. Liss: Yes, if we take the risk to speak up, we may very well be surprised to see how many others are 'in our court' - longing for the same fundamental human rights.

  39. Renee: Important to remember what you state there because it is so true - it just takes one.

  40. Rose Marie: You are a fine example of one who speaks up and follows through. Thank you.

  41. Anya: I'm so glad you dropped in all the way from The Netherlands. I have a very good friend who lives in Ulst. Come again!

  42. Sarah: I snagged it. I'm blushing. Thank you.

  43. sallymandy: It's true that what you have been posting could come under the rubrique of moral courage, isn't it. If you want to read some powerful posts people, visit sallymandy's blog.
    I'm glad you enjoyed hearing about this joyful, strong woman.

  44. Angela: She is doing a lot of good - and exponentially it could have a global impact.

  45. Elizabeth: Yes, imagine purposefully holding back half of the world's population! So absurd.

  46. Margaret: Thank you for the good points and comparisons you make!

  47. Hi Bonnie

    We don't have to be an activist or a lobbyist or an advocate to exercise our moral courage, although of course all of those are admirable and necessary roles in the world.

    We can exert our moral courage each day when we refuse to follow the crowd and behave like sheep...through tiny acts of fortitude and strength...independent thinking and integrity...

    Happy days

  48. That's why I love your blog. Irshad Manji came to my attention when I was still a project manager at the arts organisation when I worked for five years. I contacted her and spoke to her PRperson to look into the possibility of showing her documentary at our centre. Financial costs put paid to the project but they did not deter me from finding out more about this fantastic woman. Many thanks for this post. It is very timely.

    Greetings from London.


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