Getting to Yes, And

Irshad Manji: Don't Label Me


Irshad Manji

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Kelly talks to prize-winning professor Irshad Manji about her new book: Don’t Label Me: How To Do Diversity Without Inflaming The Culture Wars.

During this pandemic, we start the podcast with a quick check in. How are you?

“You want to know the honest answer to how am I? Yeah. My family lost a very close member to COVID-19 about a month ago. And one of the things I learned during this time is that there is absolutely no consolation or comfort in trying to cheer somebody up when the reality is hitting them. There was no escaping suffering in this pandemic. And I teach courage and I'm forever learning about it. And one of the things I learned is that my comfort, my trying to be useful does not become more important than the real feelings of somebody else. And so, I've had to be disciplined enough to shut up and listen, listen sincerely. And that has been a life lesson that I hope to take forward in my teaching.”

You write early in the book that ‘the combat zone had long been my comfort zone.’ How so?

“Well, what your audience may be interested to know is that, you know, prior to writing a book about how to do diversity without inflaming the culture wars, I was a reformist Muslim, which meant that, my previous book, “The Trouble With Islam Today,” was the first after 9/11 to be written by a Muslim calling for reform in the face of Islam. And I spoke as somebody who comes from within the faith, not somebody who has left the faith, which meant that I made nobody happy. I didn’t make the atheists happy, because I continued to be a person of faith and still am. And I made a very devout Muslims miserable, because I was pointing out that we need to introspect, we need to look at what it is that we are doing in the name of God to contribute to the terrorism that is afflicting this world.”

But in your new book you’re calling for a broader, all-encompassing kind of diversity.

“And what's so fascinating, and this comes from a deeply neuroscientific perspective, is that when we take time to get to know our other, whoever that other may be, we lower their emotional defenses. And in that sense, we give them what they need: the psychic brain space to also hear where we are coming from. The point being this: there is an ironclad rule of human psychology that if you want to be heard, you must first be willing to hear. So my argument doesn't come from a place of wanting to be nice or simply wanting to be civil for the sake of civility. This is in fact enlightened self interest that is served when we slow down and open up our minds enough to listen to people with whom we disagree - only then do we have the wherewithal to potentially bring them on our side, down the road.”

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