Author Irshad Manji on Tracking Labels & “Honest Diversity”

Islamic reform campaigner Irshad Manji first rose to prominence after 9/11 with her book “The Trouble with Islam Today.” She joins the program to discuss her latest work tackling labels and how they can undermine what she calls “honest diversity.”

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: But what was it that brought you therefore to this phase of your, you know, cultural and social analysis? What did you feel was not being recognized or listened to when you wrote Don’t Label Me?

MANJI: Well, Christiane, you know, I write in the book at that the label Muslim, it leaves many people to all sorts of conclusions about who I actually am. For example, there are some people who have decided that because she’s a Muslim, she must be a stealth Jihadist. There are others who say because she is gay and a Muslim, she must be corrupting the faith of Islam. And still, others who say because she is a reformer who is also rather gay and Muslim, she must be giving the other haters of Islam a cover. Because now they can say, “Who, us, we’re haters of Islam?” No, no, no, we love this gay Muslim.” So in other words, there are all kinds of people from across the ideological spectrum who take labels that are assigned to me and to you and to anybody else and decide based on those labels alone, I know who she is. And frankly, that only leads to distorting humanity.

AMANPOUR: So I was — I’m really interested by a lot of this and I want to dig down into it, particularly the Islam part of this because it is still such a hot button issue. All these year or years after 9/11, it’s still resonating but also the emotional way that you’ve identified people making so many decisions based on emotions. And you do talk about that. So give us some examples because you’ve talked about the research which shows for instance that like-minded people who validate their own opinions, you know if you’re surrounded by them, you’ll feel this chemical high a victory. So there’s that. And then there’s the sort of broader emotional component to all of this.

MANJI: Right. Christiane, this may be actually the most important point about the politics, not just in the United States but in so many parts of the world that are ripping our societies apart. You see, we human beings think — and I use that word in quotes, “think” first and foremost emotionally. And from a biological perspective, the easiest emotion to have is fear. Now, put that on top of the fact that we are all these days immersed in digital technologies that are deliberately designed to amp up our emotions.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Paul Romer, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics, about sustainable economic growth; and author Irshad Manji about “honest diversity.” Michel Martin speaks with American Studies professor Davarian Baldwin about why racist practices from the past continue to haunt U.S. politics today.