The year, 2006. Something did not make sense to me. Utterly massive outrage by Muslims about a Danish cartoon when there was no Muslim outrage about the murder of over 10,000 Muslims by Muslims in Baghdad in just one year. And something else did not make sense: the widespread Western acquiescence to the outrage.
I have so much to say about what I learned between 2006 and 2012. Most of all, I learned how hard it is to reach most people. My students — I long was a college prof teaching Humanities — insisted on seeing Islam as a religion of peace, even in the face of massive Muslim violence, including to other Muslims. I also learned to face inner fears of speaking about what I was learning and figuring out about Islam. Fatwas are real things.
But how to reach people? Over and over I heard words like Islamophobe and racist used for people — including me — who did not accept the official version of Islam as a religion of peace.
But I've had a lifelong concern with human rights. I grew up believing in the equality of women and men, and of people of different races. As a young adult, I learned to also deeply believe in the equality of people of all sexual orientations. Basically, it harms people if we are not given equal rights, an equal chance to flourish.
So where was this name-calling coming from? I remembered the name-calling of feminists — bra-burners, man-haters — when the struggle was for equal rights for women.
But how to get people to see that the name-calling was out of place? That it was a barrier to seeing?
Fast forward to April 2012.
I suddenly had an idea: interviews with people prominent in the struggle to show the facts. Facts about Islamic religious texts (Qu'ran, Sira, Hadiths), about the strands of Islam, and about the wide range of Muslims. Facts about the Western response to Islam and Islamic pressures.
But I wasn't interested in creating one more place for the facts.
My interest: Personal Journeys Toward Difficult Truths: Understanding Islam, Understanding the West. I cared about us as people — people caring and daring, people facing fears, searching and speaking.
I remember how much I loved Uncle Tom's Cabin as a child. I identified with Tom, a slave sold over and over into ever more brutal conditions.
My desire: to make us come alive as people, just as Uncle Tom became alive to me. I've met quite a number of the people who have given so much to spread awareness of Islam, and to present facts. I've listened to and read the works of others. I've been impressed by what caring and courageous people they are.
I set up a website, invited people. So many amazing people agreed to be interviewed. Bat Ye'or, sometimes called the mother of us all. Robert Spencer. Mark Durie.
What do I want from you? Come to the website. Register for the teleseminar series — FREE. Experience us as people. Hear our stories, what we learned, what's happening with us now.
When is the event? It starts September 17, 2012. It will go on for 2 weeks.
What else might I want? Tell others about it.
There's a famous quote — the truth shall set you free. This is the truth about us as people.
Dr Elsa Schieder, PhD
PS. If you'd like to know a bit more about me and my journey, here are a couple of links: