Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Video: Irshad’s interview with young Pakistani journalist Imran Siddiqui
When I first heard about Irshad Manji, I said to myself: “this is one person I’d like to sit down and just have a conversation with”. I feel that she has every right to present her perspective – just like every other person on this planet. It was funny- as soon as I started to work on lining up an interview with Irshad, I faced a lot of criticism from a few friends and colleagues. Surprisingly, many of my critics were journalists. Many people asked why I wanted to talk to her. They passed judgments on her from top to bottom. They also emphasized that radicals will come after my life -just as they go after hers- simply because I wanted to understand her views.
Amazed and astonished that a Pakistani journalist in America would still want to talk to Irshad, the woman who only wants to remind people to think and reflect before they act, critics tried their best in different ways to remind me to keep the balance. I reminded them that in her film, “Faith without Fear”, Irshad kept the balance by keeping her critics alive- and engaging with them. In journalism, we call this ‘impartial reporting’.
I asked a few of my peers if they’d ever met Irshad Manji. The answer was NO. Had they ever spoken with her? The answer was NO. I further asked– have you ever read Irshad’s work? The answer again was NO. My final question was:
“If you have never met her, never spoken with her, and have never even read her work- then how can you dislike her – and even hate her?”. How can we jump to such a conclusion without even trying to understand someone and their views?
Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of tribalism Islam came about to change- but which we as an ummah have only adopted. Many of us have been brought up in such a way where asking questions, finding the truth or accepting a different point of view – the basis of “ijtihad”, Islam’s own tradition of critical thinking, debate and dissent- is simply off limits. We have allowed a select few to dictate the rights of people all over the world- living and breathing in so many different circumstances, cultures and traditions.
When we don’t have the strength to condemn a Muslim killing another Muslim, or a Muslim taking any innocent life, then how can we despise someone who talks about stopping the senseless bloodshed?
Irshad speaks her mind- and her mind speaks ijtihad- something that’s native to every human spirit- the power to think, reflect and reason. All you have to do is develop it- just like any other thing you work on personally. We work hard to pass an exam but the biggest most imperative exam of all- the one to take action- too many of us are simply ignoring, every second of the day.
READ, my friends, then listen- and finally, talk.