Irshad Manji on Allah, Liberty and Love: Why offence is a sign of truly free speech

The director of the Moral Courage Project says so-called ‘respect’ for Muslims is often lined with fear and “low expectations” of those practising the faith.

“Offence is the price of honest diversity,” says Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University. According to Manji, different ideas will inevitably offend different people and we should therefore strive to be pluralists. What does she think the limits to free speech are? Absolutely none when it comes to the publication of content. Putting this idea into practice, Manji asked YouTube to repost a death threat made against her on the video-sharing website. Speaking at the event, Manji also takes issue with some of the responses given by Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, in his interview with Free Speech Debate on the BBC and religion. She describes the “sense of offence” cited by Muslims in controversial religious matters as a “ploy” to shut down dialogue. Furthermore, she adds, so-called “respect” for Muslims often goes hand-in-hand with fear and is “lined with low expectations” of those practising the faith.

(Main image: Professor Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

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  1. Absolutely fascinating dialogue. Manji expresses really key ideas eloquently and succinctly. I completely agree with the point made that individuals in minority groups can be oppressed. We will only be able to live together in harmony, in ‘open liberal pluralism’ when we appreciate that minority groups (or any groups for that matter) are not entirely homogenous. It makes the construction of the ‘other’ a great deal more difficult…

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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