Dalia Mogahed

“I don’t mind questions, it’s the accusations that are tough”

If you’ve a spare 15 minutes, a good use of it is to watch this great TED Talk by Dalia Mogahed.  She’s intelligent, passionate, articulate, forthright and funny.  And she wears a hijab.  The popular stereotype for women who wear hijab is far from being intelligent, passionate, etc.

We may not like it – particularly if we consider ourselves to be liberal-minded and welcoming of diversity – but all of us are shaped by societal stereotypes and prejudices.  We also can’t help it either – prejudice in one form or another will probably always be part of the human condition, and much of it seeps into us without us even being aware.  Sometimes I wince when I catch myself involuntarily thinking assumptions and stereotypes about individuals or groups of people.  I say to myself, “Where on earth did that come from?!”  I’m sure I’m not alone.

Dalia says in this TED Talk that a recent study found that 80% of media coverage (in the US) of Islam and Muslims is negative.  I doubt it is much different here in the UK.  With 24 hour rolling news, we’re “consuming fear 24 hours a day”.  We’re picking up messages whether we like it or not.

I can think of three good antidotes to prejudice, which probably need to be taken together as a combination dose.  First, we need to be more tolerant of our own and other people’s prejudices – they are often put into us by what we see, read and hear.  If we push them away and deny them, we’re not able to work on them.  Second, we need to take responsibility for actively challenging the prejudices we hold.  That’s why I think watching TED Talks like this can do a lot of good.  Third, we need to be less afraid of asking questions for concern of getting it wrong.  Hence the title of this blog post, which is a quote from Dalia in the video: “I don’t mind questions, it’s the accusations that are tough.”

Photo of Tom Franklin

By Tom Franklin, CEO, Think Global

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