Sunday, August 11, 2019


Irshad Manji appeared on my television fairly regularly a few decades ago and was admired for her cutting logic and her views.  She has evolved as have I, partly after reading this book.  "Everyone" includes those idiots who don't agree with you (or me).  We live in a polarized world that could end in disaster, but we could go in a more positive direction if we would heed Irshad's advice.

Irshad Manji has a long history of arguing.  She has opted to present her latest thinking in the form of a dialogue with a dog.  That hit a nerve as the Muslims I know think dogs as pets are unholy.  However as a salesmen for pet products I did learn from a Muslim pet store retailer that dogs are acceptable as work animals, most commonly as guard dogs, but they are not kept in the house as other pets would be.  A Muslim niece loves cats and once interpreted for me at a Quebec cat show.

Irshad explains that dogs are not proscribed in the Qur'an, but have been part of Muslim culture and also that good Muslims can question.  I had read years ago that in some war zones Muslims had come to realize that dogs were life savers for among other things detecting bombs.

Irshad's dog, Lily is a pet that she has come to love and respect although both blind and old.  Maybe this is projection, but most pet owners do in fact talk to their dogs and cats and they in reality provide a useful sounding board.  I believe that in sorting out the difficulties in this philosophy she probably did sound off to her dog Lily.   It is also possible to use a familiar sounding board no matter what.

Labels can provide necessary information, but are not reality.  Everyone is unique and have many identities.  Labels are not only used for physical descriptions, but also for viewpoints.  Irshad's goal is to develop honest diversity where each individual can be independent, i.e. not tied to any one label.  The American motto, "e pluribus unum"--from many one.

Some of her focus is on Donald Trump, but is careful to realize that Trump supporters are not at all the same.  Some may have deplorable characteristics, but there is something behind their motivations that we all should try to understand and even respect. The man who introduced her to the woman who became her spouse and encouraged her to love dogs was an adamant Trump supporter but definitely not a homophobe.

Living in Ontario I was surprised to learn she includes Rob and Doug Ford, but notes some significant differences that reinforce her message.  Rob Ford appealed to the suburbs against downtown.  More on Doug Ford

It seems to me that conservatives are dogmatic and uncaring, but I felt a comeuppance after watching Jonathan Haidt on tv and reading his book.  It prepared me to realize those jerks are not thinking that way just to annoy me.  More at:

Instead of attacking someone with what seems like illogical beliefs, do not.   Irshad suggests you might ask "Could you help me understand what I am missing about your perspective?"  It won't work unless you are sincere and follow up.  Not every one will respond but some would welcome an opportunity to explain themselves.  This is not a time to attack their logic, but to delve further.  When people feel degraded it lights a fuse that can lead to a lot of harm.

Another personal jolt came when Irshad explained part of her Canadian history--a part that I had accepted and she twisted it (and shifted my thinking).  As a university student I had adopted Trudeaumania and went onto to help Pierre Trudeau (actually I helped elect Ed Broadbent--you can read about that  at  

I attended a high school in Oshawa with a lot of ethnic diversity and came to admire it.  I had an understanding of the French Canadian concerns similar to Irshad's and thought it a good thing to adopt bilingual policies for the whole nation and further to adopt multiculturalism as government policy.  I did from time to time question that not everything brought over from other cultures was good, but it seemed part of the package.  Later with one job I was shocked to realize western Canadians were very resentful of bilingualism when I sold a promotional product and was told not to bother with the legally required French labeling.  Multiculturalism helped encourage white supremacy.

Obama had urged African Americans to emphasize with white Americans and not label them just as misguided as that would boomerang.  I remember  reading that his white grandmother cringed when confronted with a black person in an unfamiliar setting.  White males are recognizing that their culture and their power is diminishing.  Naturally there is some resentment.

White privilege can be a blessing if it puts one in a position to do good.  Dr Martin Luther King Jr is recalled having admitted that he grew up in a loving and educated family with helpful neighbors.

Cultural appropriation is given some coverage.  Irshad suggests that many cultural items have a mixed history.  One example given was that modern jazz required European instruments and African polyrhythms.  The Statue of Liberty was originally designed with an Arab theme intended to herald the Suez Canal.

A quote from Benjamin Franklin:  "I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present, but Sir I am not sure I shall ever approve it.  For having lived long I have experienced many instances of being oblig'd by better Information or fuller consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise."

This relatively short review is only meant to encourage you to read the book, "Don't Label Me" and get a deeper understanding of the thinking and some practical advice on how to change your life and help change the world.  She is well worth learning more about.

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