INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

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

Aired on March 8, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

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.

Funders

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

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