Friday, July 18, 2008

NOW Conference: A Focus on Global Issues

Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, was one of the featured speakers at this afternoon's plenary session. The Moral Courage Project's goal is to develop leaders who will speak truth to power in their own communities for the sake of a greater good. She is the best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, which has been published in 30 countries, including Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Indonesia.

In Muslim states that have banned her book, Manji is reaching readers by posting free translations on her website. So far, they have been downloaded more than 500,000 times.

Manji is creator of the acclaimed PBS documentary Faith Without Fear, which chronicles her journey to reconcile Islam with human rights. The film won Gold at this year's New York Television Festival. Through digital technologies, it is now being viewed in the Muslim underground worldwide.

For her pioneering efforts, Manji receives death threats and distinctions: The New York Times called her "Osama Bin Laden's worst nightmare"; Oprah Winfrey gave Manji her first annual Chutzpah Award; and Ms. Magazine selected her as a "Feminist for the 21st Century."

One of the topics Manji talked about was honor killings, and how progressive non-Muslims contribute to this injustice in the name of showing "cultural sensitivity." They often "tolerate the intolerable." If you are unfamiliar with honor killings, it involves a woman or girl being killed to reclaim family honor.

The cause of the dishonor can range from a woman or girl appearing in public without a veil, to a the woman or girl being raped.

Manji offers three actions for what you can do to help end honor killings:

1. Support legislation introduced last year by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). Get more information here.

2. Join the International Campaign Against Honor Killings. They're doing terrific work.

3. Stay tuned to this blog. That's because an organization with which I'm a scholar -- the European Foundation for Democracy -- will soon be launching an effort to raise awareness about honor crimes. We also aim to change public policies, foreign and domestic, to promote human rights for all. I'll say more about that effort in the coming weeks.

I'm [in] Washington, DC to speak at the annual conference of the National Organization of Women. Right-wing media love to ask, "When it comes to denouncing the oppression of Muslim women, where are feminists?" Here we are.

No comments: