I had no idea about the World Trade Center attacks until the meeting wrapped up and I returned to an office of stunned colleagues hunched over TV sets. Soon after, I wrote a newspaper editorial about why we Muslims can no longer point fingers at non-Muslims to explain away our dysfunction. The trouble, I argued, is more than the militants; even mainstream Muslims have curdled Islamic faith into an ideology of fear.
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Evidently, the questions I posed touched a raw nerve. When the book came out in September in my country of Canada, it hit number one, and within months it also became a bestseller in the United States. Truth is, though, my most memorable exchanges have been with everyday people. The book tour evolved into a global conversation, taking me to all the countries of North America and western Europe, many in eastern Europe and some in the Middle East, as well as India, Australia and Indonesia, where stern Muslim puritans and a spunky Muslim transsexual showed up at my book party.
More about that later.
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In the United States alone, I visited forty-four states, engaging with fans and foes in libraries, restaurants, theaters, classrooms, gymnasiums, chapels and temples. No mosques, however. All invitations by Muslims hit the roadblock of mosque leaders who regarded me as a rabble-rouser. Still, Muslims attended each of my public events. Every couple of weeks I posted several new messages, along with my replies. Enough said. Those emails I forwarded to the police. Counterterrorism experts advised me against using a cell phone because ill-wishers could easily exploit the technology to track me down.
And for a time I had a bodyguard. He was cute, to boot. The decision to drop hour security opened up communication with young Muslims—and opportunities for change. How subversive. How can I not go for it? The following year a number of democracy activists waved me down in the streets of Cairo.
In most cases—security still being an issue—I said yes. So far, the multiple online translations have been downloaded more than two million times. Inside the trenches, something was happening inside me. As I witnessed an intense thirst for reform among Muslims, I felt myself maturing from anger to aspiration.
Perhaps you could endorse the open-minded, forward-looking Islam more. Among other places, my crew and I filmed in Yemen. I was yanked back into dismay. Faith Without Fear, my documentary, premiered in April I took it on the road, meeting yet more people who told me that they struggle with the cultures, traditions and power structures that fence in their own religious experiences. Those discussions compelled me to think more about the difference between faith and dogma.
Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can handle them. Robert F. Kennedy described moral courage as the willingness to speak truth to power within your community for the sake of a greater good. Moral courage allows each of us to tap our consciences, to replace conformity with individuality and to draw closer to the Source that created us by coming to know ourselves. It dawned on me how necessary moral courage is for anybody who wants to live with wholeness—integrity—whether within a religious tradition or outside of religion altogether.
Scholars at New York University picked up on the point about integrity. After my film screening at the Robert F.
We would teach individuals how to speak up in a world that often wants to shut us up. In , I became founding director of the Moral Courage Project. Once I settled into New York, led my first class and caught my breath, I turned to the next chapter of this journey: linking my mission of reform among Muslims with the universal message of moral courage for us all.
Patterns surfaced. Muslims feared dishonoring their families and God if they honestly admitted what they believed. The result was a collective, culturally sensitive muteness in the face of heinous crimes. But in a multicultural world, culture has become something of a god—even among secular people. Out of misplaced reverence for multiculturalism, too many of us perpetuate deadly silences.
Such injustices ate away at me. How can we be indifferent to flagrant abuses of power while defining that indifference as sensitivity? Messages from my readers helped me connect the dots. I will now be able to speak my opinions without that huge amount of guilt about feeling intolerant, knowing that I have weighed the sides carefully and thoughtfully. We can all be instruments of change. Ask the Iranian youth how they feel about that. On the campuses of Western universities, good-hearted non-Muslims whispered that they wanted to support my mission but felt they had no right to get involved.
How can the rest of us let them get away with it? Muslims and non-Muslims who live in democracies have to develop the spine to expand individual liberty, not stunt it, because without the freedom to think and express there can be no integrity of the self or integration of society. I threw myself into research about how previous movements for freedom had succeeded. Martin Luther King, Jr. South, the source of long-standing racial segregation. Yes, there is one! How do I deal with community disapproval?
Even our failing economy reinforced the new direction of this journey.
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After all, insiders seek to preserve their status. How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?
How can people ditch dogma while keeping faith? Above all, how can each of us embark on a personal journey toward moral courage—the willingness to speak up when everybody else wants to shut you up? Allah, Liberty and Love is the ultimate guide to becoming a gutsy global citizen. Irshad Manji believes profoundly not just in Allah, but also in her fellow human beings. Format Poche. Publication Date. Internal Code. Product Number. In-store availability.
Allah, Liberty, and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom
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