Learning Moral Courage from Irshad Manji

“The problem here is not ‘us and them’, it’s ‘us against them.’” Irshad Manji is an author, professor and speaker with a mission to teach people the skills of moral courage — doing the right thing in the face of our fears. 

In her May 25 talk to Crescent parents, she spoke about the importance of accepting diversity in viewpoints, something she says is easy in theory but hard to practice. “Young people, in fact, can handle disagreement, can handle viewpoint diversity,” she said. “But they are not being taught how to engage constructively.” When they are faced with opposing viewpoints, young people can shut down and experience scolding and shaming. But, as Manji points out, “They’re going to have to learn the skills of communicating across divides.” What can young people — and anyone — do in these difficult situations?

We can practice reciprocal respect. Manji says that learning how to hear “your other” — the person with whom you’re engaged — is key. Using that concept to guide behaviour and conversation is a constructive approach that can be applied to any conversation or disagreement. The real victory, she says, is in understanding where your “other” is coming from. This skill helps to turn awkward situations into teachable moments.