INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

March 09, 2019 at 4:45 am

Outspoken author and activist Irshad Manji takes on labels, gender roles and our divided nation.

Aired on March 8, 2019. 

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>> IRSHAD MONJI'S GROUNDBREAKING
BOOK "THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM"
MADE HER ONE OF THE MOST
RESPECTED AND REVILED THINKERS
AROUND THE WORLD.
HER STRENGTH LIES IN HER SEEMING
MASTERY OF MORAL COURAGE.
SHE'S HAD MANY LABELS THROWN AT
HER AND SHE REFUSES TO WEAR JUST
ONE.
REFUGEE, MUSLIM, LESBIAN,
PROFESSOR AND ALSO FOR SOME, HER
ETHIC.
SHE JOINS US WITH HER NEW BOOK
"DON'T LABEL ME" A CONVERSATION
FOR DIVIDED TIMES.HERETIC.
SHE JOINS US WITH HER NEW BOOK
"DON'T LABEL ME" A CONVERSATION
FOR DIVIDED TIMES.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WE AS A
SOCIETY FIND LABELS SO
SEDUCTIVE.
>> IT'S NOT JUST WE AS A
SOCIETY, IT'S HUMANITY.
WE THINK FIRST AND FOREMOST
EMOTIONALLY.
AND BIOLOGICALLY SPEAKING THE
EASIEST EMOTION TO HAVE IS FEAR.
NOW PROP THAT UP WITH THE FACT
THAT WE ARE ALL IMMERSED IN
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE
DELIBERATELY DESIGNED TO AMP UP
OUR EMOTIONS.
AND THEN FINISH IT ALL OFF WITH
THE FACT THAT VERY FEW OF US
HAVE EVER BEEN TAUGHT TO SORT OF
BE AWARE OF OUR EMOTIONS, LET
ALONE EXPRESS THEM
CONSTRUCTIVELY.
SO IN THIS TOXIC CAULDRON,
LABELS BECOME CONVENIENT TOOLS.
WITH WHICH TO SORT OF INDULGE
OUR EMOTIONS AND AVOID
REFLECTION.
>> YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THESE.
I'M GOING TO GET TO THEM IN A
MOMENT.
WE TALK ABOUT AN INCREDIBLE
CONVERSATION, IT'S A UNIQUE
CONVERSATION.
THAT YOU'RE HAVING, SOMETHING
THAT WAS VERY SPECIAL TO YOU,
YOUR DOG NO LONGER WITH US.
>> NO.
>> BUT A CONVERSATION THROUGHOUT
THIS, AND I HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT
THE FACT THAT IT'S WHAT HELPED
TO STIMULATE THE IDEA BEHIND
THAT.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
YOU KNOW I JUST MENTIONED THE
MOST DANGEROUS FOUR-LETTER
F-WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
AND THAT'S FEAR.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I GREW UP
WITH A VERY UNHEALTHY FEAR OF
DOGS.
ONE YEAR I WAS HAVING
PARTICULARLY TOUGH TIME WITH MY
HEALTH AND MY THEN-PARTNER,
NOW-WIFE, LAURA, SAID IRSHAD,
YOU HAVE GOT TO EVOLVE.
YOU'VE GOT TO GET PAST YOUR
FEAR.
LET'S ADOPT A RESCUE DOG AND
YOU'LL SEE WHAT A HEALER THAT
DOG CAN BE.
WELL, HOW CAN I POSSIBLY TEACH
MORAL COURAGE, IF I'M NOT
WILLING TO GO FIRST?
SO WE BROUGHT LILY HOME AND
JACK, ALL I CAN TELL YOU IS THAT
FOR THE TWO PRECIOUS YEARS THAT
I HAD WITH HER, I LEARNED NOT
ONLY WHERE MY OWN FEARS OF DOGS
BEGGING TO BE OVERCOME, BUT WHAT
I DID OVERCOME THOSE FEARS, I
LEARNED SO MUCH FROM LILY.
THE VALUE FOR EXAMPLE OF JUST
GETTING OUT OF OUR DEVICES,
CLOSING UP THE LAPTOP AND
GETTING INTO THE GRASS AND
PLAYING.
YES, I KNOW, FOR ANIMAL LOVERS,
THAT'S A NO-BRAINER.
BUT UNDERSTAND THAT TODAY, WE
ARE ALL DOING THIS.
AND YOU KNOW, IF WE CAN JUST
REALIZE THAT BY SLOWING DOWN,
TAKING A DEEP BREATH, ACTUALLY
WHAT WE WIND UP DOING IS
TRANSCENDING THE FEAR-BASED PART
OF THE BREAK.
SO THAT EVEN WHEN WE'RE ENGAGING
SOMEBODY WE DISAGREE WITH, THE
FIRST THING TO DO AND THE BEST
THING TO DO, IS TO JUST BREATHE.
TRUE, SO SIMPLE.
>> WE TALKED ABOUT THE NOTION OF
LABELS.
YOU MENTIONED THAT THE CONCEPT
OF TRIBALISM.
WE'RE KIND OF HARD-WIRED FOR
THAT.
AND YOU LOOK AT THAT IN WAYS
THAT MANIFEST ITSELF.
YOU AND I HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS
BEFORE.
TALK ABOUT HOW PEOPLE DON'T HAVE
CONVERSATIONS ANY MORE.
IT'S AS IF FEAR, WE'RE FEARFUL
OF SOMEONE REJECTING OUR
OPINIONS.
WE DON'T WANT TO ACCEPT THEIR
OPINIONS.
>> RIGHT.
>> HOW MUCH OF THIS DO YOU THINK
FLOWS FROM WHAT WE SEE AND I'M
GOING TO TALK ABOUT BOTH PARTIES
IN WASHINGTON.
>> YOU BET.
>> YOU CANNOT HAVE NOW A
DISAGREEMENT POLITICAL WITHOUT
VILIFYING THE PERSON YOU'RE
DISAGREEING WITH.
IT'S BEEN DESCRIBED OFTEN AS THE
POLITICS OF PERSONAL
DESTRUCTION.
>> RIGHT, RIGHT.
>> HAS THAT ALWAYS BEEN OR HAS
IT BECOME MORE ENHANCED LATELY?
>> WELL I'M GOING TO GUESS THAT
YOU WOULD AGREE WITH ME THAT IT
HAS BECOME MORE ENHANCED LATELY.
WE'VE BEEN LIVING WITH THE
POLITICS OF PERSONAL DESTRUCTION
AND I BELIEVE THAT WAS BILL
CLINTON'S PHRASE FROM WAY BACK
WHEN.
WE'VE BEEN LIVING WITH THAT FOR
A LONG TIME.
BUT IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHY IT'S
BECOME EVEN WORSE NOW, I WOULD
SAY THAT SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE
IMPULSIVE SORT OF TRIGGERS THAT
IT FEEDS TO US, HAS MADE THINGS
THAT MUCH WORSE.
WHICH IS WHY AND I THINK THIS IS
WHERE YOU WERE GOING, LET'S GET
OUR HEADS OUT OF THAT MONITOR OR
THAT SCREEN.
AND ACTUALLY SPEAK WITH ONE
ANOTHER FACE TO FACE.
YOU KNOW WHAT, JACK?
I TELL A STORY IN THIS BOOK
ABOUT TWO YOUNG PEOPLE, ONE, A
BIRACIAL HIP HOP ARTIST.
THE OTHER, A WHITE GUY.
BOTH OF THEM COMPLETELY
MISSISSIPPI STATE.
SEEING SOME --
>> IN THE CORNER HAS THE
CONFEDERATE FLAG.
>> SHE WANTS IT TO CHANGE.
HE DOESN'T.
SOMETHING THAT SHE SAYS AND DOES
GOES VIRAL.
HE GETS IN TOUCH WITH HER.
SHE INVITES HIM TO THE BACK
YARD.
TO SIT DOWN AND TALK.
LET'S DISCUSS THIS.
BY THE END OF THAT EXPERIENCE,
IT'S NOT THAT HE CHANGES HIS
MIND THAT WOULD BE TOO EASY A
CONCLUSION.
IT'S THAT HE REALIZES THAT HE
CARES MORE ABOUT HER THAN HE
DOES ABOUT THE FLAG.
THAT IS WHAT HUMAN-TO-HUMAN
RELATIONSHIPS OR HUMAN-TO-LILY
RELATIONSHIPS CAN DO FOR US.
>> HOW DO WE GET OURSELVES AWAY
FROM -- I THINK THIS IS
SOMETHING YOU SAY IS SORT OF --
WE LIKE TO BE SURROUNDED BY
LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE.
WE LIKE TO BE SURROUNDED BY
PEOPLE WHO SOUND LIKE US.
WHO THINK LIKE US.
>> WHO LOOK LIKE US.
>> SO HOW DO WE GET OURSELVES TO
A DIFFERENT PLACE?
EVEN THOUGH THAT IS ALL
REINFORCED BY YOU KNOW YOU LOOK
AT THE NEWS AND PEOPLE TALK
ABOUT THERE ARE A LOT OF VENUES
THAT JUST HAVE AN AGENDA AND
THEY'RE BEATING THE DRUM.
OPINION HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN
INTEGRAL PART OF JOURNALISTS.
WHAT TROUBLES ME IS WE'RE SEEING
MORE OPINION AND LESS OF FACT,
LESS OF DISCUSSION.
HOW DO WE GET PEOPLE TO REMOVE
THEMSELVES FROM THE ECHO
CHAMBERS AND TO BE WILLING TO
SIT AND LISTEN?
IT MIGHT NOT CHANGE THEIR MIND.
>> AT LEAST BE WILLING TO
LISTEN.
>> EXACTLY.
>> HOW DO WE DO THAT?
>> FIRST OF ALL IT BEGINS WITH
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
IN OTHER WORDS, INSTEAD OF
POINTING FINGERS, AT SO-AND-SO
BECAUSE HE DOESN'T LISTEN TO ME,
ASK YOURSELF -- HOW AM I
CONTRIBUTING TO THIS PROBLEM?
MEANING IF I'M EYE-ROLLING.
IF I'M BERATING INSTEAD OF
RELATING, IF I'M LABELLING THIS
PERSON, THEN I HAVE FIXED HIM IN
PLACE.
I HAVE FROZEN HIM IN TIME.
WHAT MOTIVATION HAVE I GIVEN
THAT OTHER PERSON TO THEN LOWER
HIS EMOTIONAL DEFENSES SO THAT
HE CAN HEAR ME?
SO HERE'S WHAT I SAY.
WHEN YOU ARE ENTERING A
CONVERSATION OR WORKING TO ENTER
INTO A CONVERSATION, WITH
SOMEBODY WHO PROFOUNDLY
DISAGREES WITH YOU ON SOMETHING
YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT, ASK
THEM -- TELL ME, WHAT AM I
MISSING ABOUT YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
DON'T GO INTO MAKING STATEMENTS,
ASK SINCERE QUESTIONS.
AND THEN LISTEN.
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND, NOT TO
WIN.
>> ONCE AGAIN, A VERY
PROVOCATIVE, THOUGHTFUL AND I
THINK EXTRAORDINARILY HELPFUL
BOOK.
OUR THANKS TO YOU AND TO LILY.
>> I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY, I
JUST HEARD FROM LILY, SHE GIVES
HER THANKS RIGHT BACK.
>> THANKS VERY MUCH.
YOU BE WELL.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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