Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"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, Al-Arabiya.net 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."
WHAT IS 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 http://www.irshadmanji.com/. 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?