I’m here in Jordan and, because of Ramadan, I tend to be up all night and then sleep until the early afternoon. While waiting for sundown, there really isn’t much to do except watch the Arabic satellite channels in both Arabic and English to get caught up on world events. How fortunate I was to catch a rebroadcast of a 2013 debate between outspoken Muslim reformer Irshad Manji and Mehdi Hassan, Al Jazeera’s well-prepared and able moderator, who also brought in interventions from a range of audience members. The whole segment is here and well worth watching. Manji handles herself well and presents an impassioned defense of free thought, free interpretation, and individual liberty.
On Independence Day weekend back home, and remembering that the United States was founded in part because of a desire for religious freedom, Manji’s debate, her defense of her writings, and her response to those who make the tired argument about not sharing podiums with those with whom they disagree is well worth watching. How sad it is that the points Manji makes are so often ignored by those in the White House who pride themselves on cross-cultural and religious dialogue, and diplomats who tip-toe around religious radicalism rather than confront it head on.