Ishrad Manji: Asking Questions and Speaking Truth

The closing session of the conference featured Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. She is a muslim who believes that there is room for debate and critical thinking in all things. She challenges fundamentalist thinking which uses fear rather than dialogue. She encourages girls throughout the Islamic world to speak out, be curious and critical, and most of all, ask questions. Irshad Manji is the director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU and is frequently featured in the New York Times, BBC, CNN, PBS and other prominent media sources. You can read more about her at her website. With continued death threats, she continues to speak about how meaningful diversity embraces different ideas and not just identities.

Regardless of your beliefs or position on this issue, the main message was for us as individuals as well as independent schools to continue to ask the hard questions and, with respect, get over the political correctness and speak up.

Unfortunately, the message I got from her presentation about finding the courage to speak your truth seemed to be lost on some. During an informal Q and A at the end of the presentation, most who went to the microphone focused on her political message rather than the idea of courage. I cringed as one educator attacked Manji’s mission. This teacher who was coming from an emotional place, entered an intellectual debate with a very polished scholar. Unfortunately, the match was one sided and I felt like this poor woman was tackled by a 250 pound football player in front of an audience of thousands. Ouch!

Whatever our beliefs or convictions, she urged us to start with ourselves and find the courage to ask questions and engage in intellectual curiosity. My school’s mission wants to challenge every child to be a confident, curious, and courageous learner. Manji says we can’t really do that if we don’t start with ourselves.

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