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Maajid Nawaz knows something about differences of opinion: from adolescence to adulthood, his opinions about religion have changed more than most. From the age of 16 until his late 20s, Nawaz was a dedicated advocate of radical Islam, working to impose a fundamentalist sect on comparatively liberal societies. He underwent a conversion, however, away from religion and today he is as dedicated to the liberal cause of secular rights and freedoms as he was to Islam.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Nawaz is better-suited than nearly anyone to help us dialogue over radical Islam and discover a universal form of dialogue that allows us to tackle disagreements in our personal and professional lives. And according to Nawaz, to dialogue is to tolerate. It requires three things from an interlocutor:
+ An emotional connection to the other person is necessary in the form of empathy. Too often our adversaries are dehumanized merely as vehicles for the opinion we disagree with.
+ Find common ground so you can begin the conversation by discussing what you agree on. You can address disagreement later on.
+ Recognize the internal logic to someone's point of view. You've got to understand where someone is coming from in order to have a productive conversation.
As living proof of his ability to dialogue sensitive controversy, Nawaz recently co-wrote Islam and the Future of Tolerance with America's leading critic of Islam, and of religious principles in general, Sam Harris. The work is a testament to the progression of ideas within society and within ourselves: Ideas change who we are and thereby change our world.
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