Today’s Guest Post is an Excerpt from Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom, by Irshad Manji, courtesy of Free Press. This is a book about Moral Courage – “the willingness to speak up when everyone else wants you to shut up.”
The excerpt I’ve chosen is not actually her words. Rather, it’s a “manifesto” written by Akbar Ladak, a Muslim from India, in 2008. Manji features it, and many other quotes, in her excellent book.
I will not shrink from the fight against Islamic fanaticism.
I live in a secular, democratic country, where I have the freedom to practice my faith, Islam. I value being a Muslim because it gives me the moral framework by which to live my life. While I find the framework given by my religion to be the most appropriate one for me, I know that my fellow citizens and fellow human beings find other religions or philosophies more appropriate frameworks for their lives.
I am indebted to my country’s democracy, however imperfect it may be, for letting me choose the faith that I practice. I also value the opportunity afforded in my society to disagree, debate and befriend people whose views are different from mine. I would be a poorer person had I not been born in such a country.
To whom much is given much is expected.
Today, our relatively free, increasingly multicultural societies are under threat, first and foremost by Muslim extremists who have declared their intent to bring about a global caliphate. Theirs is a hateful and misogynist philosophy, financed by oil-rich dictators. That it twists my beloved faith to justify a simplistic ideology gives it a powerful allure for Muslims who haven’t had the exposure to varied ideas and strains within Islam.
We, Muslims living in free societies, need to be in the forefront of this fight. We fight not only for the security and integrity of the societies we live in, but also for the soul of our faith. Only we can present an alternative interpretation of Islam which promotes the vision of peace, progress and equality.
So let us make our faith, our countries and ourselves a promise today. We will not sit silent when someone uses our religion to legitimize bigotry, misogyny, or violence. We will counter it loudly. We will not be bullied by the self-appointed guardians of faith who say the Islam they know is more pure than the Islam we know. Muslims define Islam, and we are all its guardians.
We must defend our democratic societies despite some people in them who suspect and doubt our motives because of our faith. Our faith and our countries need us today. We can not, we dare not, shrink from the fight.
Irshad is founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s school of public service. This leadership program equips students to challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship — within their families, communities and organizations.
As a reformist Muslim, Irshad strives to put moral courage into practice. Her latest book, Allah, Liberty and Love, is a guide to reconciling faith and freedom in a world raging with repressive dogmas.