Transcript: Naomi Klein on her book Fences and Windows | Jan 22, 2005

The screen shows two women on stage as part of a conference in a crowded venue. A caption reads “Irshad Manji. Author of the book The trouble with Islam.”

She’s in her thirties. She has short brown spunky hair and wears a red jacket over a black blouse and glasses.

Irshad says IT IS A
SINCERE PRIVILEGE TO BE
PARTICIPATING IN A SYMPOSIUM
WHOSE PROCEEDS ARE GOING TO
SUPPORT PEN CANADA, AN
ORGANISATION WHOSE MANDATE I
THOROUGHLY RESPECT.
AND I RESPECT IT, BECAUSE I'VE
LEARNED THAT IN THIS OFFICIALLY
MULTICULTURAL COUNTRY OF OURS,
IF DIVERSITY IS TO HAVE THAT
MUCH MORE MEANING, WE'VE GOT TO
MOVE BEYOND DIVERSITY OF
APPEARANCE, AND RISK DIVERSITY
OF EXPRESSION.

The caption changes to “Navigating a New World Symposium. University of Toronto. November 6, 2004.”

Irshad continues AND DIVERSITY
OF EXPRESSION INCLUDES BEING
WILLING TO LAUGH AT OURSELVES.
I HAD A MINOR CHUCKLE WHEN, A
COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, I CAUGHT
THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR TODAY'S
SYMPOSIUM IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL,
AND SAW THE WORDS, “SOLD OUT,”
SPLASHED ACROSS THE AD.
AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, “WELL,
I'M GETTING USED TO BEING CALLED
A SELL-OUT,” SO--
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
SO, IT'S OKAY, IT'S OKAY, IT'S
VERY COMFORTABLE, ACTUALLY.
I CAN DEAL.
IN A WAY, THAT IS THE THEME I
WANT TO EXPLORE WITH YOU TODAY.
CAROL MENTIONED WHAT HAPPENED ON
TUESDAY, MANY OF YOU PROBABLY
THOUGHT THE U.S. ELECTION, YOU
KNOW WHAT I THOUGHT, THAT A
DUTCH FILMMAKER NAMED THEO VAN
GOGH, ON THE SAME DAY, WAS
MURDERED IN AMSTERDAM, BY AN
INCENSED MUSLIM.
YOU SEE, MISTER VAN GOGH HAS DARED
TO CAUSTICALLY CRITICISE ISLAMIC
PRACTICES TOWARD WOMEN, AND ON
HIS BODY, POLICE FOUND A NOTE,
ALLEGEDLY WRITTEN BY THE
MURDERER, A NOTE THREATENING
BOTH DUTCH SOCIETY, AND
SPECIFICALLY THREATENING THE
DUTCH PARLIAMENTARIAN, AN EX-
MUSLIM, WHO HELPED MISTER VAN GOGH
WITH HIS LATEST PROJECT.
THE NEWS OF THIS MURDER REMINDED
ME WHY MY URDU LANGUAGE
PUBLISHER INSISTS ON ANONYMITY
UNTIL MY BOOK IS FORMALLY
RELEASED IN PAKISTAN LATER THIS
YEAR.
AND THIS MURDER REMINDED ME OF
WHY MY ARABIC LANGUAGE
TRANSLATOR ALSO EMPHASISES HIS
NEED TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS --
FOREVER.
SO MUCH SO, THAT OUR CONTRACT
STIPULATES I'LL NOT REVEAL HIS
IDENTITY, EVER.
HE TOLD ME THAT HE CHERISHES HIS
CHILDREN, AND FOR THEM, IF FOR
NOBODY ELSE, HE CAN'T BE ON THE
RECEIVING END OF WHAT SOME OF
RUSHDIE'S TRANSLATORS HAVE HAD
TO FACE.
NOW I WISH I COULD INSERT
ANOTHER JOKE HERE, BUT INSTEAD
I'M GOING TO INSERT SOME HOPE.
THE ABSOLUTISM THAT KILLS, AND
THE FEAR IT INCITES, A FEAR THAT
ITSELF KILLS OPEN DISSENT, THESE
ARE NOT THE FUTURE OF ISLAM, AT
LEAST NOT IN THE WEST.
NOW I WON'T PREDICT HOW LONG IT
WILL TAKE FOR THE LIBERAL
REFORMATION OF ISLAM TO BE
REALISED, BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT
THE LIBERAL REFORMATION OF ISLAM
IS ALREADY UNDERWAY.
LET ME SHARE WITH YOU SOME OF
THE EXPERIENCES I'VE HAD, AND
INSIGHTS I'VE BEEN PRIVY TO
SINCE THE PUBLICATION OF, “THE
TROUBLE WITH ISLAM.”
CONSIDER THIS, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, AN INTERIM REPORT
FROM THE FIELD.
FOR ALL OF THE ANGER, VENOM, AND
YES, DEATH THREATS I RECEIVE,
WHAT I'M ACTUALLY ASTOUNDED BY,
IS THE SUPPORT, AFFECTION AND
EVEN LOVE I'M HEARING FROM SELF-
IDENTIFIED MUSLIMS AROUND THE
WORLD, ESPECIALLY YOUNG MUSLIMS,
AND PARTICULARLY YOUNG MUSLIM
WOMEN.
ONE QUICK EXAMPLE OUT OF MANY I
COULD GIVE YOU.
I RECENTLY RETURNED FROM A TOUR,
STARTING IN THE U.K., MIDPOINT
WAS GERMANY, FINAL DESTINATION,
AUSTRALIA.
AND AT EACH ONE OF THOSE STOPS,
WITHOUT EXCEPTION, IT WAS YOUNG
MUSLIM WOMEN, SOME DRESSED IN
HIJAB, THE HEADSCARF, OTHERS
DECIDEDLY NOT, WHO PASSIONATELY,
MOST PASSIONATELY EXPRESSED
THEIR DESIRE TO RESUSCITATE
ISLAM'S LOST TRADITION OF
CRITICAL THINKING, A TRADITION
KNOWN AS IJTIHAD.
ULTIMATELY WHAT THEY WERE
CONFIDING WAS A HUNGER TO
RECONCILE THEIR PLURALISTIC
REALITY IN THE WEST, WITH THEIR
MUSLIM IDENTITY.
AND YET A LOT OF THEM ALSO MADE
IT CLEAR TO ME, THIS
RECONCILIATION, IT AIN'T EASY.
IT'S A STRUGGLE, OFTEN A
PROFOUNDLY AGONISING ONE.
TO GIVE YOU A
GLIMPSE INTO JUST HOW AGONISING
THAT STRUGGLE CAN BE, I'M GOING
TO READ YOU AN EXCERPT FROM AN
E-MAIL I GOT.
NOW IF ANY OF YOU HAS IN FACT,
GOOGLED ME, AND THEREFORE BEEN
TO MY WEBSITE, YOU KNOW THAT I
GET A LOT OF EMAILS, AND YOU
ALSO KNOW I RESPOND TO A LOT OF
E-MAILS. THIS ONE LEFT
ME NEARLY SPEECHLESS -- NEARLY.
I SHALL CALL THE WRITER OF THIS
E-MAIL IMAN, WHICH IS ARABIC FOR
FAITH.
IMAN STARTS BY TELLING ME ABOUT
A 17 YEAR OLD MUSLIM GIRL, A
GIRL WHO MADE THE FOLLOWING
COMMENT IN A MUSLIM-AMERICAN
NEWSLETTER, AND I QUOTE,
“WESTERNERS HAVE SUCCESSFULLY
ATTEMPTED TO ENLIGHTEN MUSLIM
WOMEN ON THE DRUDGERIES OF
HOMEMAKING AND CHILDBEARING, AND
HAVE TRIED TO AWAKEN OUR
ATTENTION TO THE FEMINIST
MOVEMENT, SO THAT, LIKE WOMEN OF
THE WEST, WE WOULD ABANDON OUR
FAMILIES AND BECOME EMANCIPATED.
IT IS PATHETIC HOW MODERATE
MUSLIMS HAVE COMPROMISED
THEMSELVES TO EARN ACCEPTANCE
INTO WESTERN SOCIETY.
IT MAKES ME SICK EVERY TIME I
HEAR THE MUSLIMS COMPARE
THEMSELVES TO THE FINANCIALLY
SUCCESSFUL JEWS, WHO HAVE SOLD
THEIR SOULS TO THE DEVIL TO GET
WHERE THEY ARE.
THE KAFIR, OR THE INFIDEL WILL
NOT BE OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE TO
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ISLAMIC
STATE, NO, IT WILL BE THE
MODERATE MUSLIM, THE ONE WHO HAS
BECOME INTEGRATED, THE ONE WHO
HAS FINALLY PUT UP HIS WHITE
PICKET FENCE, AND IS EXCITED
ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF VOTING FOR
THE FIRST TIME.”
THEY WILL BE OUR STRONGEST
CRITICS AS WE MAKE OUR WAY BACK
TO THE PATH OF ALLAH.
IMAN GOES ON TO SAY “THE GIRL
WHO PENNED THOSE WORDS OVER A
DECADE AGO, WAS ME, IMAN.
AT 17, I TOOK ALL THE POTENTIAL
I HAD FOR EXPRESSION, AND FOR
LACK OF A BETTER OPTION, I USED
IT TO ALLY MYSELF WITH THE
STATUS QUO, A STATUS QUO WHICH
PROMISED TO GIVE ME A BREAK FROM
THE PERPETUAL QUESTIONING THAT
PLAGUED MY MIND, AND SOLD ME A
SUPPOSEDLY GOD-SANCTIONED
REQUIREMENT TO LIVE ON
AUTOPILOT.
SO, NATURALLY,” SHE SAYS, “I
DID, AND AT 17, I GOT MARRIED.
FOR MANY YEARS SINCE THEN, I
ATTACHED MYSELF TO THE MADRASSA
TYPES,” MADRASSAS BEING ISLAMIC
RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS.
I, TOO, BY THE WAY, WAS A
MADRASSA TYPE, UNTIL I GOT
KICKED OUT.
IMAN SAYS, “WITHOUT BORING YOU
WITH THE DETAILS, IRSHAD, IT
BASICALLY TOOK TEN YEARS OF
ACTIVE, CALCULATED EFFORTS ON MY
PART TO DAMPEN THE SONG IN MY
HEART, TO CENSOR AN ARTISTIC
TEMPERAMENT, AND DENY MY SOUL
ITS PASSION FOR LIFE, LOVE AND
ALL THE SACRED ARTS WHICH HAVE
BEEN SPOILED BY THE MAINSTREAM
LITERALIST MENTALITY OF FAMILY
AND PEERS.
THE WORLD OF LITERALISM HAS NO
ROOM FOR THE RICH SYMBOLISM
INHERENT IN THE MOST SACRED OF
HUMAN EXPRESSIONS, SINCE EVERY
BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION HAS THE
POTENTIAL FOR DEPRAVITY,
LITERALISTS HAVE DONE AWAY WITH
ALL THAT IS BEAUTIFUL, AND SINCE
THE WORLD I LIVED IN, WAS AN ALL
OR NOTHING WORLD, I FELT
COMPELLED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ONE
OR THE OTHER EXTREME.
I BECAME APOLOGETIC FOR MY LOVE
OF MUSIC, ART, FREEDOM AND ALL
THE OTHER IDEALS WHERE THE
POSSIBILITY OF DEVIANCE EXISTS.
DON'T GET ME WRONG,” SHE
CLARIFIED, “I WAS NOT STIFLED BY
MY ENVIRONMENT, WHICH WAS
RELATIVELY PERMISSIVE, AS MUCH
AS I WAS STIFLED BY THE SELF
IMPOSED MINDSET THAT JUDGED
HARSHLY.
I WAS PERCEIVED BY MY SILENT,
SUFFERING PEERS AND MORE
IMPORTANTLY, BY MY OWN SELF, AS
WEAK, AND NOT UNIQUE.
I DEVELOPED A SELF-HATRED FOR MY
INABILITY TO LOVE GOD ENOUGH TO
DO WITHOUT THE SIMPLEST OF
FEMALE PREOCCUPATIONS, LIKE NAIL
POLISH, SINCE IT PREVENTED WATER
FROM TOUCHING THE NAIL BED
DURING THE RITUAL WASHING OF OUR
BODIES BEFORE PRAYER, AS IF,”
SHE SAYS, “THE VALIDITY OF MY
PRAYERS WAS CONTINGENT ON THE
PERMEABILITY OF MY NAIL POLISH.
AFTER SEPTEMBER 11th, COUPLED
WITH A FEW PERSONAL TRAGEDIES, I
EMBARKED ON A HUMBLE ATTEMPT AT
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL, AND
CONSEQUENTLY EXHAUSTED EVERY
CONVENTIONAL ROUTE TO ATTAINING
PEACE OF MIND.
AFTER THE PRAYER RUG PROVED A
FUTILE EXERCISE, I RELUCTANTLY
FORCED MYSELF INTO AN ORGY OF
FREE THOUGHT, AND WITH THAT, THE
DOORS OF IJTIHAD WERE OPENED,
AND THE FLOODGATES OF
REVELATIONS AND REALISATIONS
WHICH HAVE FOLLOWED HAVE NOT
ALLOWED ME TO CLOSE THEM EVER
SINCE. NOW I LIVE AN
INTERNAL REALITY WHICH SEEMS
DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO THE
EXTERNAL LIFE I HAVE BUILT.
I AM FRUSTRATED BY MY APPETITE
FOR DIALOGUE IN A WORLD WHERE
THE SEXES ARE STILL SEGREGATED,
A WORLD WHERE I CANNOT
RATIONALISE THE PRIORITY THAT
MEN ARE GIVEN TO EXPRESS THEIR
ARCHAIC POSITIONS, A WORLD WHERE
MY CHOICE TO BE A MOTHER AND
WIFE IS PERCEIVED AS A RELIGIOUS
REQUIREMENT, AND NOT A
MONUMENTALLY SACRIFICIAL CHOICE.
I AM, IRSHAD,
MORE THAN A LITTLE PISSED,
PARDON MY FRENCH.”
GLAD SHE COULD SAY THAT TO A
CANADIAN.
SHE GOES ON, “THIS LICENSE TO
THINK FREELY HAS RESULTED IN
SCHIZOPHRENIC GRAVITATIONS FROM
BEING A DIE HARD OBJECTIVIST, TO
BEING A MYSTIC AND ATHEIST AND,
WELL THE LIST GOES ON.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT, MY MIND
STILL UNSETTLED.
I AM PAINED, STRAINED, AND
FRANKLY, I CANNOT IMAGINE MY
LIFE WITHOUT FAITH.
FOR ME, IT WOULD BE A LIFE, NOT
WORTH LIVING.”
NOW HERE'S THE KICKER, LADIES
AND GENTLEMEN.
“AND SO I CONTINUE TO ADHERE TO
EVERYTHING, YET I BELIEVE IN
NOTHING.
HOWEVER, I AM NOT FEARFUL.
IF I MUST DABBLE IN THE GUTTER
OF UNCERTAINTIES BEFORE I EVOLVE
A FAITH BASED ON CONVICTION AND
NOT SUPERSTITION, THEN SO BE IT.
IT IS A RISK WORTH TAKING.
AND THE LONELINESS WHICH RESULTS
IS A SMALL PRICE TO PAY.
WHAT I AM FEARFUL OF, IS THAT
I'LL BECOME AS STEEPED IN MY
LIBERALISM AS MY BRETHREN ARE IN
THEIR FUNDAMENTALISM.
STILL THE IDEA OF A REFORMATION
IS A REFRESHING ALTERNATIVE TO
ABDICATING LOVE FOR A GOD WHOM I
DO FEEL EXISTS.
I HAVE MADE AT LEAST ONE
COMMITMENT, AND ON I THINK WOULD
SERVE A GOOD MANTRA FOR THE
MISSION TOWARD REFORM.
I HAVE DECIDED TO ATTACH MYSELF
TO IDEAS REGARDLESS OF WHETHER
THEY ARE ESPOUSED BY THOSE
WEARING TURBANS, OR YARMULKES OR
HIJABS.
MY LOYALTIES WILL BE TO IDEAS,
AND NEVER TO A NATION, A DOGMA
OR A CULTURE.
I HAVE NOT LEFT THE FOLD.
I STILL WEAR MY HIJAB, MAYBE
MOTIVATED MORE BY A DESIRE TO
MAINTAIN SOME CREDIBILITY WITH
THE MAINSTREAM MUSLIM COMMUNITY
THAN FOR ANY IDEAL OF MODESTY.
I THINK IF I WERE IN SAUDI
ARABIA, I WOULD REFUSE TO WEAR
IT, FOR THE IDEAL OF FREEDOM,
FREEDOM OF CHOICE, WOULD TAKE
PRECEDENCE OVER THE RULE OF
MODESTY.
NOT TO SAY THAT FREEDOM IS
IMMUNE TO CORRUPTION.
A FREE SOCIETY WILL FOSTER THE
MOST BRILLIANT OF MINDS AND
SOULS, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY
ALLOWING FOR THE MOST DEPRAVED
AMONG THEM TO EXIST.
BUT USING THAT AS AN ARGUMENT
AGAINST FREEDOM OF CHOICE WORKS
ONLY TO SUSTAIN THE LOWEST
COMMON HUMAN DENOMINATOR.
THE PRESENCE OF AN EXPLICIT
IMMORALITY IS PREFERABLE TO THEY
HYPOCRITICAL DEPRAVITY WHICH
RESULTS WHEN HUMAN BEINGS ARE
DEPRIVED OF THEIR GOD GIVEN
RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
I AM NOW ARMED,” SHE SAID, “WITH
A LITTLE MORE COURAGE AND A LOT
MORE RESOLVE AS A RESULT OF YOUR
BOOK.”
AND I HEAR THIS NEXT PART A LOT.
“ALTHOUGH I DO NOT AGREE WITH
EVERYTHING YOU SAY, I WELCOME
THE INVITATION TO DIALOGUE, AND
MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE INITIATING
OF DIVERSE AND COMPETING POINTS
OF VIEW.
WITHOUT THEM, NO SOCIETY CAN
THRIVE AND FLOURISH.”
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IMAN'S LETTER
IS THAT IT ILLUSTRATES THE
COURAGE OF HER CONFUSIONS, AND
NOT JUST THE COURAGE OF HER
CONVICTIONS.
AND AT THIS TIME OF VAST AND
DEEP POLARISATION, I THINK THERE
IS WORTH IN EXPRESSING ONE'S
CONFUSIONS AS I KNOW MANY WOULD
HAVE LIKED PRESIDENT BUSH TO DO.
NOW, MY REPLY TO IMAN, WHICH IS
UTTERLY INADEQUATE, BUT BEAR
WITH ME.
“DEAREST IMAN, I WILL FORGIVE
YOUR FRENCH, IF YOU FORGIVE MY
INABILITY TO MUSTER THE WORDS TO
EXPRESS WHAT YOUR MESSAGE MEANS
TO ME.
THE BEST I CAN SAY IS, THANK
YOU, ALLAH FOR GIVING THIS WOMAN
THE CONSCIENCE TO STRUGGLE SO
LONG AND SO HONESTLY.
BUT IMAN, LET
ME ASK YOU A QUESTION.
WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO SPEAK UP
PUBLICLY FOR THE NEED FOR
MAINSTREAM ISLAM TO RESPECT
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE.
A PRIVATE DESIRE IS ONE THING,
THE CHALLENGE FOR PEOPLE LIKE
YOU AND ME, IS TO GO PUBLIC.
WHAT SAY YOU?”
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT SHE SAID IN
JUST A SECOND, BUT YOU KNOW WHY
I ASKED HER THAT QUESTION?
BECAUSE THOSE MUSLIMS WHO WRITE
TO ME IN SUPPORT, OR WHO
APPROACH ME AFTER MY PUBLIC
EVENTS AND WHISPER THANK YOU IN
MY EAR, MOST OF THEM STILL TELL
ME THAT THEY CAN'T BE PUBLIC
ABOUT THEIR SUPPORT OF THESE
IDEAS, THAT THEY CAN'T EVEN BE
PUBLIC ABOUT THEIR OWN STRUGGLES
WITH THE FAITH TODAY, BECAUSE
THEY FEAR, AND I'M GOING TO USE
A WORD THAT IS CITED TO ME
CONSTANTLY, THEY FEAR
PERSECUTION.
AND I'VE ENGAGED ENOUGH OF THE
PEOPLE WHO USE THIS WORD, TO BE
ABLE TO TELL YOU WHAT THEY MEAN
BY THAT.
THEY MEAN PHYSICAL VIOLENCE
AGAINST THEMSELVES AND THEIR
FAMILIES, BY FELLOW MUSLIMS.
AND THIS, IN RELATIVELY OPEN
SOCIETIES, NOT STRICTLY CLOSED
ONES.
IMAN'S OWN REPLY TO ME,
REFLECTED AS MUCH.
YOU'RE RECALL, I ASKED HER, ARE
YOU WILLING TO GO PUBLIC WITH
YOUR DESIRE TO SEE MAINSTREAM
ISLAM TODAY REFLECT FREEDOM OF
CONSCIENCE?
“YES,” SHE SAID, “I'M WILLING TO
GO PUBLIC WITH THAT DESIRE, AS
LONG AS YOU CAN MAKE IT SAFE FOR
ME TO DO THAT.”
“NO, IMAN,” I REPLIED, “I CAN'T
MAKE IT SAFE FOR YOU TO DO THAT.
I CAN SHOW YOU THAT IT'S
POSSIBLE.
I CAN REMIND YOU THAT YOU HAVE
THE PERMISSION TO DO SO, BUT
THIS IS GOING TO TAKE RISK,
INTELLECTUAL RISK, AND
THEREFORE, TODAY, PHYSICAL RISK
AS WELL.”
BUT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I'M
NOT ASKING ANYONE TO BECOME A
MARTYR FOR THE CAUSE.
YOU KNOW, IN SOME CIRCLES,
THAT'S A METAPHOR, BEING A
MARTYR FOR THE CAUSE.
I LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY WHEN
IN ISLAM THAT'S THE CASE AS
WELL.
BUT I CAN TELL YOU, THAT RISK
CAN BE TEMPERED, AND IT CAN BE
TEMPERED BY TECHNOLOGY AS WELL
AS BY NUMBERS.
I GAINED INSIGHT INTO THE
TECHNOLOGY PART FROM INTERNET
USERS IN THE ARAB WORLD.
YOU SEE FOR MONTHS, I HAD BEEN
HEARING FROM YOUNG ARABS WHO HAD
GOTTEN A COPY OF MY BOOK FROM
FRIENDS OR RELATIVES IN NORTH
AMERICA, OR IN EUROPE WHERE THE
BOOK HAD ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED,
AND I KEPT GETTING ASKED, “WHEN
ARE YOU GOING TO TRANSLATE THE
BOOK INTO ARABIC, SO THAT WE CAN
SHARE THESE IDEAS WITH OUR
FRIENDS.
MY STANDARD RESPONSE WAS, “NAME
ME ONE ARAB PUBLISHER THAT WOULD
HAVE THE GUTS TO TOUCH A BOOK
LIKE THIS WITH A BARGE POLE.”
AND MOST OF THEM SAID, “YOU'RE
RIGHT, FORGET IT, NEVER GOING TO
HAPPEN, DREAM ON.”
BUT YOU KNOW, THE MORE
IMAGINATIVE AMONG THEM SAID,
“HOLD ON, WAIT A MINUTE, WHY ARE
YOU MAKING THE FATE OF THESE
IDEAS CONTINGENT ON THE
PUBLISHING POWERS THAT BE?
NO, YOU GET THE BOOK TRANSLATED
INTO ARABIC, IRSHAD, YOU POST
THE TRANSLATION ON YOUR WEBSITE,
AS A FREE OF CHARGE,
DOWNLOADABLE PDF.”
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
AND IN A DELICIOUS TWIST, MANY
INSTRUCTED ME TO TAKE A PAGE
FROM MARTIN LUTHER, WHOSE
HERETICAL, YET TRADITIONAL IDEAS
ABOUT CHRISTIANITY, CAME TO THE
ATTENTION OF LAY CHRISTIANS IN
EUROPE, THANKS TO THE CUTTING
EDGE TECHNOLOGY OF THE PRINTING
PRESS.
THOUGH, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IN
THE INTEREST OF STAYING REAL, I
HAVE TO CONFESS THAT ONE VERY
CONCERNED YOUNG MUSLIM SAID,
“I'VE DONE MY HOMEWORK, IRSHAD,
AND ACCORDING TO MY RESEARCH,
WHEN MARTIN LUTHER NAILED HIS 95
THESES TO THE DOOR OF THE
WITTENBERG CHURCH, HE WAS DRUNK.
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
SHE THEN WENT ON TO REMIND ME,
“WE DON'T HAVE THAT CHOICE.”
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
AND I REASSURED HER THAT HISTORY
HAS SHOWN, ONE CAN BE DEFIANT
AND SOBER SIMULTANEOUSLY.
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
BUT THAT WAS A DETOUR.
THE THING ABOUT POSTING THE
ARABIC TRANSLATION ON YOUR
WEBSITE, THEY TAUGHT ME, IS THAT
WHEN WE DON'T HAVE TO CARRY THE
BOOK AROUND IN OUR HANDS, THAT
IS, WHEN WE CAN READ IT IN
RELATIVE PRIVACY, THAT IS, ON
THE WEBSITE, THAT MEANS WE CAN
READ IT IN RELATIVE SAFETY.
AND THAT, IN TURN MEANS, THAT WE
HAVE THE CHOICE OF SHARING THESE
IDEAS WITH OUR FRIENDS.
I TOOK THEIR ADVICE, THE ARABIC
TRANSLATION HAS BEEN UP ON THE
SITE.
I KNOW I'M BEING TOLD THAT MY
TIME IS ALMOST UP -- THAT'S
RIGHT, MULLAHS DRESSED AS
MODERATORS, WHAT ARE YOU GOING
TO DO WITH THEM?
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
I REMAIN SOBERLY DEFIANT.
(The audience laughs)

Irshad continues
BUT CAROL, I AM WRAPPING UP, I
PROMISE YOU THAT.
I TOOK THEIR ADVICE.
THE ARABIC TRANSLATION HAS BEEN
UP ON THE SITE FOR A COUPLE OF
WEEKS, AND I'VE ALREADY HEARD
FROM A TEENAGER--
(Applause)

Irshad says
THANK YOU.
I KNOW THAT WAS APPLAUSE FOR
THEM.
AND I'VE ALREADY HEARD FROM A
TEENAGER IN JORDAN WHO'S
STARTING AN UNDERGROUND
DISCUSSION GROUP AS A RESULT.
THE HOPE, OF COURSE, IS TO
TRANSFORM THAT UNDERGROUND
FERMENT INTO A VISIBLE ABOVE THE
GROUND SENTIMENT.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO NUMBERS, VERY
QUICKLY, AND HOW TO ACHIEVE
ENOUGH OF THEM TO TEMPER RISK.
NOW I'M PART OF A MOTLEY GROUP
OF FEMINISTS AND MUSLIMS THAT'S
EXPLORING THE CREATION OF A
LEADERSHIP CENTRE THAT WILL
ATTRACT YOUNG MUSLIMS, FIRST IN
NORTH AMERICA, AND THEN
EVENTUALLY AROUND THE WORLD, TO
COME AND GET STEEPED IN THE ART
AND PERMISSION OF DISSENT.
IN MANY WAYS, WE'RE DRAWING
LESSONS, NOT JUST FROM MARTIN
LUTHER, BUT FROM MARTIN LUTHER
KING JUNIOR, WHO WAS SEVERELY
CRITICISED BY HIS FELLOW
CLERGYMEN FOR FOMENTING NEEDLESS
TENSION.
BUT RATHER THAN SCURRY AWAY FROM
THAT ACCUSATION, MARTIN LUTHER
KING JUNIOR, CONFRONTED IT.
IN HIS NOW FAMOUS LETTER FROM A
BIRMINGHAM JAIL, HE WROTE, “I
MUST CONFESS, I AM NOT AFRAID OF
THE WORD TENSION.
I HAVE FERVENTLY OPPOSED VIOLENT
TENSION, BUT THERE IS A TYPE OF
CONSTRUCTIVE, NON-VIOLENT
TENSION WHICH IS NECESSARY FOR
GROWTH. JUST AS
SOCRATES FELT THAT IT WAS
NECESSARY TO CREATE A TENSION IN
THE MIND, SO THAT INDIVIDUALS
COULD RISE ABOVE THE MYTHS OF
HALF TRUTHS AND THE BONDAGE OF
MYTHS, TO THE UNFETTERED REALM
OF CREATIVE ANALYSIS, SO WE MUST
SEE THE NEED FOR NON-VIOLENT
GADFLIES TO CREATE THE KIND OF
TENSION IN SOCIETY THAT WILL
HELP MEN RISE FROM THE DARK
DEPTHS OF PREJUDICE, TO THE
MAJESTIC HEIGHTS OF
UNDERSTANDING AND BROTHERHOOD.”
THAT OPENNESS
TO INTROSPECTION AND THAT
INSISTENCE ON MAKING SOCIETY
ACCOUNTABLE FOR INTROSPECTION IS
ECHOED IN THE PASSAGE OF THE
KORAN, WHICH STATES, “BELIEVERS,
CONDUCT YOURSELVES WITH JUSTICE
AND BEAR TRUE WITNESS, EVEN IF
IT BE AGAINST YOURSELVES, YOUR
PARENTS OR YOUR KIN.”
IN THAT SENSE, IF IN NO OTHER,
I'M KEEPING THE FAITH.
THANK YOU.
(Applause)

Irshad appears now sitting down next to Carol for a round of questions.

Carol is in her late forties. She has short wavy brown hair down to the shoulders and wears black shoes and a fitted red suit.

She says YOU MENTIONED THAT
THIS VERY, VERY OMINOUS
COMBINATION OF THINGS ON
TUESDAY, NOT JUST THAT THE U.S.
ELECTION RE-ELECTED GEORGE W.
BUSH, BUT YOU MENTIONED THE
STORY THEO VAN GOGH, OR THEO VAN
GOGH AS THEY CALL HIM IN
HOLLAND, WHO WAS STABBED TO
DEATH.
AT THE VERY SAME TIME, WE WERE
HEARING THE STORIES THAT YASSER
ARAFAT WAS ON HIS DEATHBED.
AND AS ALL THESE EVENTS CAME
TOGETHER THIS WEEK, I WAS
THINKING A LOT ABOUT YOUR BOOK.
I KEPT GOING BACK TO IT,
THINKING, WHAT DO THESE MUSLIMS
THAT YOU'VE DESCRIBED IN THIS
BOOK, WHO ARE GOING THROUGH
THIS-- WHO ARE HAVING THIS
APPETITE FOR DIALOGUE, WHO ARE
LOOKING FOR RECONCILIATION, ALL
THE THINGS YOU JUST MENTIONED,
WHAT CAN THEY TURN TO AT THIS
POINT, WHAT, IN THE CONFUSION OF
THIS WEEK, AND SINCE YOU HAVE
THE COURAGE OF YOUR CONFUSION,
WHAT CAN THEY TURN TO IN THE
MIDST OF ALL THIS?

Irshad says THEY CAN TURN
TO THE FACT THAT, AT LEAST IN
NORTH AMERICA, THERE IS AN
EMERGING MOVEMENT OF YOUNG
PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS, AND WHEN I
SAY PROGRESSIVE, I DON'T SIMPLY
MEAN POLITICALLY AND SOCIALLY
PROGRESSIVE, I MEAN PROGRESSIVE
ENOUGH THAT THEY WANT TO TAKE
LESSONS FROM ELIE WIESEL, FROM
MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR, IN OTHER
WORDS, ECUMENICAL IN THEIR
APPROACH.
THEY CAN TAKE HOPE AND STRENGTH
FROM THE FACT THAT EVEN A GROUP
CALLED THE PROGRESSIVE MUSLIM
UNION WILL BE ANNOUNCING ITS
FORMATION AT THE END OF RAMADAN,
THE MUSLIM MONTH OF FASTING,
WHICH WILL BE ABOUT MID-NOVEMBER
THIS YEAR, AND THAT THIS
PROGRESSIVE MUSLIM GROUP
WELCOMES PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE
WORLD WHO ARE ALSO NON-MUSLIMS
TO JOIN THEM IN AFFIRMING THE
UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL OF
US, INCLUDING UNDER ISLAM.
SO THE POINT IS, YOU KNOW, THE
KIND OF LEADERSHIP CENTRE THAT I
EVER SO BRIEFLY DESCRIBED, I
WOULD HAVE SAID MORE, BUT MY
TIME WAS UP.

Carol says YOUR TIME WAS UP.

Irshad continues YEAH -- IS THAT
THE POINT IS, IS THAT THERE ARE
PROJECTS BEGINNING NOW,
PARTICULARLY IN THE WEST.
I KNOW, BY THE WAY, THAT THERE
ARE MANY, MANY LIBERAL REFORMERS
OF ISLAM, EVEN IN THE ARAB
WORLD, AND THAT THEY MOSTLY WORK
UNDERGROUND.
THE STRENGTH THAT MUSLIMS, YOUNG
MUSLIMS CAN TAKE TODAY IS THAT
AT LEAST IN THE WEST, WE HERE
HAVE THE FREEDOMS, STILL, TO
EXPRESS, TO THINK AND CHALLENGE
AND BE CHALLENGED WITHOUT THE
FEAR OF STATE REPRISAL FOR DOING
SO.
AND I AM BY NO MEANS, THE FIRST
PERSON TO BE MAKING THIS POINT.
ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THIS
PROGRESSIVE MUSLIM UNION WAS
QUOTED IN TIME MAGAZINE, NOT TOO
LONG AGO, YOU KNOW, MUSLIM
REFORMERS IN CLOSED SOCIETIES,
DO IN FACT HAVE THE FREE WILL TO
TRANSFORM SOULS.
BUT WE, IN THIS PART OF THE
WORLD, HAVE THE FREEDOM TO
TRANSFORM OUR COMMUNITIES.

Carol says NOW YOU TALK A LOT
ABOUT THE NEED FOR REFORMATION,
THAT CHRISTIANITY HAS GONE
THROUGH THIS, THAT JUDAISM HAS
GONE THROUGH ITS REFORMATION,
THAT ISLAM MUST GO THROUGH IT.
AGAIN I WAS THINKING ABOUT THIS,
AS I SAW THE NUMBERS OF
CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS IN THE
UNITED STATES WHO INFLUENCED THE
AMERICAN ELECTION ON TUESDAY,
AND I'M WONDERING IF THIS IS AN
ISSUE WHICH IS IN THE MUSLIM
WORLD, OR IF WE HAVE TO LOOK AT
FUNDAMENTALISM AND RELIGIOUS
EXTREMISM IN THE MORE GLOBAL AND
PERHAPS MORE ALARMING WAY.

Irshad says WHAT DO YOU
MEAN BY, ALARMING WAY?

Carol explains WELL BECAUSE WE CAN
SEE FROM WHAT YOU'VE DESCRIBED
HOW DANGEROUS IT IS WITHIN THE
MUSLIM SOCIETY.
IS IT IN OTHER SOCIETIES AS WELL
TO THE DEGREE THAT-- HAS THIS
REFORMATION REALLY TAKEN HOLD,
THAT YOU CITED IN CHRISTIANITY?

Irshad says MAYBE NOT.
MAYBE THERE IS A BIT OF A
COUNTER-REFORMATION GOING ON
RIGHT NOW AMONG EVANGELICALS,
FOR EXAMPLE IN THE UNITED
STATES, BUT I THINK IT'S REALLY
IMPORTANT TO REALISE, NO MATTER
HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT GEORGE BUSH
THAT-- AND I CAN WELL IMAGINE
HOW MANY OF YOU DO FEEL ABOUT
HIM -- THAT EVEN WHEN HE WAS
ASKED AT HIS PRESS CONFERENCE, A
COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, “PRESIDENT,
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE
MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF
AMERICANS WHO DO NOT SHARE YOUR
RELIGIOUS FAITH, AND WHO FEEL
THAT THE ELECTION WAS UNDULY
INFLUENCED BY THOSE WHO DO SHARE
YOUR RELIGIOUS FAITH?”
AND FROM WHAT I CAN RECALL,
FORGIVE ME, I WAS IN AN AIRPORT
AT THIS POINT, BUT FROM WHAT I
CAN RECALL, HE SAID, “LOOK, THEY
NEED TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE AS--
OR I CONSIDER THEM TO BE AS
PATRIOTIC AS I CONSIDER MYSELF
TO BE, AND THAT MY AMERICA
INCLUDES THOSE WHO HAVE NO
ORGANISED FAITH.
THE POINT IS, CAROL, THAT WHILE
WE CAN ALL DECRY, AS WE SHOULD,
LITERALISM IN ANY OF OUR
RELIGIONS, AND I COMPLETELY
ACKNOWLEDGE, BOTH IN THE BOOK
AND HERE BEFORE YOU THIS
MORNING, THAT EVERY RELIGION HAS
ITS SHARE OF LITERALISTS, I DO
NOT HEAR TOO MANY MUSLIM
LITERALISTS ACKNOWLEDGING THAT
PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT MUSLIMS, AND
PEOPLE WHO DO NOT SHARE THEIR
LITERALISM, EVEN IF THEY ARE
MUSLIMS, HAVE AN EQUAL STATUS
WITH THEM.

Carol says I'M JUST WORRIED OR
WONDERING, IF THE SEPARATION OF
CHURCH AND STATE, WHICH IS THE
FOUNDATION OF DEMOCRACY, THE
FOUNDATION OF THIS WORLD, IF
WE'RE SEEING THAT MORE
THREATENED, AS YOU TRY AND
SEPARATE THAT IN THE MUSLIM
WORLD, IF WE'RE NOT RETURNING TO
THAT IN THIS WORLD.

Irshad says YEAH, WELL
AGAIN, I MEAN I'M CONCERNED
ABOUT THAT, TOO, AND I HAVE SEEN
THIS HAPPEN IDEOLOGICALLY, NEVER
MIND RELIGIOUSLY, THAT
FUNDAMENTALISMS FEED OFF EACH
OTHER.
YOU KNOW, I'M NOT SO SURE, FOR
EXAMPLE -- I'LL GET TO YOUR
SECULARISM POINT IN A SECOND,
BUT I THINK IT'S REALLY
IMPORTANT TO MENTION RIGHT NOW,
THAT I'M NOT SO SURE THAT
MICHAEL MOORE'S “FAHRENHEIT
911,” YOU KNOW ACTUALLY WAS A
GOOD THING FOR DEMOCRACY.
I LOVE DIVERSITY OF EXPRESSION,
I WELCOME YOU KNOW, THE VAST
SCREENING OF HIS FILM ALL OVER
THE WORLD, BUT I ALSO RECOGNISE
THAT THE KIND OF POLARISATION
THAT THIS HAS LED TO, IS REALLY
THE CRACK COCAINE OF POLITICS,
AND IN OUR CASE, OF RELIGION.

Carol says SO WE'RE NOT SEEING
THIS RECONCILIATION, IN FACT
WE'RE MOVING APART, WE'RE SEEING
MORE WEDGES DRIVEN BETWEEN US--

Irshad says IN ONE WAY,
YES, AND IN ANOTHER WAY, NO, AND
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I MEAN BY IN
ANOTHER WAY.
I CAN ONLY GIVE YOU EXAMPLES OF
WHAT I MEAN, BECAUSE I THINK
IT'S TOO EARLY TO MAKE SWEEPING
GENERALISATIONS.
YOU KNOW, IMMEDIATELY AFTER,
“THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM” CAME
OUT IN CANADA, VARIOUS BROADCAST
JOURNALISTS APPROACHED THE
LEADERS OF THE MUSLIM
COMMUNITIES THERE, AND INVITED
THEM TO DEBATE WITH ME ON
CAMERA.
AND I WAS TOLD THAT ALMOST TO A
PERSON, THEY DECLINED.
THREE WEEKS LATER -- FOUR WEEKS
LATER, I THINK, THE BOOK HIT
NUMBER 1, AND THAT SAME WEEK, I
REMEMBER GETTING PHONE CALL
AFTER PHONE CALL FROM THESE
VARIOUS BROADCAST JOURNALISTS
SAYING, NOW THESE PEOPLE ARE
COMING BACK TO SAY THEY'RE READY
TO DEBATE YOU, NOW WHAT
HAPPENED?

Carol says THEY'RE TAKING YOU
SERIOUSLY.

Irshad continues WELL, WHAT
HAPPENED, AND THIS WILL REALLY
GET TO THE CORE OF WHAT YOU JUST
ASKED, ARE WE MOVING APART OR
ARE WE COMING TOGETHER?
WHAT HAPPENED, I THINK, WAS THAT
MANY OF THESE MUSLIM LEADERS,
FIGURED THAT THE SELF APPOINTED
ARBITERS OF ALL THAT IS
ISLAMICALLY LEGITIMATE, IF THEY
DON'T GIVE THEIR SEAL OF
APPROVAL TO ME, OR TO THIS BOOK,
THEN NEITHER WILL THE GENERAL
PUBLIC.
WHAT THEY DIDN'T BANK ON, IS
THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS SO
HUNGRY FOR HONEST CONVERSATIONS
ABOUT THESE ISSUES, THAT THEY'RE
NOT SEEKING THE PERMISSION OF
THESE MUSLIM LEADERS TO HAVE
THESE CONVERSATIONS.
THESE CONVERSATIONS ARE GOING TO
HAPPEN ANYWAY, AND THAT THESE
MUSLIM LEADERS REALISED THAT IT
WAS IN THEIR ENLIGHTENED SELF
INTEREST TO NOW GET INVOLVED,
BECAUSE THEIR VOICES AT LEAST
WILL AT LEAST BE HEARD THAT WAY.
AND AS A RESULT OF THAT KIND OF
INCENTIVE, IF I CAN PUT IT
POSITIVELY, OR PRESSURE, COMING
FROM OUTSIDE OF THE MUSLIM
COMMUNITY, FOR MUSLIMS TO HAVE
THESE CONVERSATIONS, INSIDE THE
COMMUNITY, I AM HEARING FROM NO
END OF YOUNG MUSLIMS WHO ARE
SAYING TO ME, “I JUST WANT TO
LET YOU KNOW YOUR BOOK IS BEING
DEBATED AT MOSQUE, OR AT OUR
FRIDAY NIGHT DINNERS, OR AT
SATURDAY NIGHT PARTIES, TO WHICH
I'M NEVER INVITED.

(The audience laughs)

The caption changes to “Special thanks to Random House of Canada.”

Irshad continues SO IN MANY
WAYS, CAROL, WHAT I'M GETTING
AT, IS THAT IN THE MOST
PARADOXICAL SENSE, MANY OF US
RECOGNISE THAT WE ARE NOW ALL IN
THIS TOGETHER.

(Applause)

Watch: Naomi Klein on her book Fences and Windows