How Do You Change One Billion Minds?

The only thing we can do in our lifetime—those of us who do want change—is to keep pushing for it.


Change is incremental and I came to realize that particularly when it comes to changing the mindset of over a billion people who hold a tradition that has been around for over 1,400 years, that this not something that you can do in a few days or in a few decades.  

Sometimes we see revolutions, but the revolutions we see are the outcomes of gradual, incremental, long-term struggles where people have died and people have given up in the process and people lived with frustrations. They aren’t even there to see these changes.  I realized this in the Netherlands when I first started to publish after the 11th of September on why we Muslims—at the time I was a believing Muslim—are resistant to change.

Reading European history, the history of the Reformation, the history of the Enlightenment, I realized these are processes that take a very, very, very long time to change and the only thing we can do in our lifetime—those of us who do want change—is to keep pushing for it. I don’t believe in the illusion that I'll be around to see that change.

Once I was asked what is your dream for Muslim women.  I said I wanted them to gather in this public square, whatever the public square is one day, and we could have all these women covered from head to toe in burkas and at a certain moment that we have organized to just pull off the thing and say “Freedom!” I know that that moment will come.  Maybe it will come 50 years from now, 100 years from now, or even 1,000 years from now. I probably won’t be around for that satisfaction and still, I'm no less motivated to carry on doing what I'm doing knowing that one day that will happen.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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