Islam & the Future of Tolerance
The fiery debate over the global influence of Islam, and its interaction with pluralist democracy, is explored in a dialogue between two influential public thinkers: Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist turned Muslim reformer, and Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and advocate of mindful atheism.
Maajid Nawaz, a British citizen of Pakistani descent, experienced an identity crisis as a teenager brought on by British racism and became involved with the radical Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), later undertaking missions for the party in Pakistan, Denmark and Egypt. Eventually arrested for his political activities in Egypt, he spent four years in prison before beginning his slow journey out of radical Islamism, inspired in part by Amnesty International's adoption of him as a prisoner of conscience.
Years after publicly clashing in a debate with Sam Harris over the topic of Islamic reform in the Muslim world, Maajid reconnects with Sam in an attempt at civil and honest dialogue. Through the course of their discussions, they tackle troubling passages from the Quran, and illuminate the differences between "literal" and "interpretive" readings of text, as well as the importance of precision in language, particularly with terms such as “Jihadism”, "Islamists", and “radical”. Conflicts between their two points of view emerge on many levels, including a subtextual conflict between philosophical consistency and instrumentality. The idea of toleration within secular, pluralist democracies as well as within Muslim societies is explored in its many contours.
Maajid and Sam's unlikely collaboration ultimately sheds light on the confusions that afflict the public conversation about Islam and emphasizes how the virtues of open dialogue can help foster both understanding and toleration in an increasingly polarized world.
Directed by: Jay Shapiro and Desh Amila
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