diversity & race | January 06, 2017

The Real Strength of American Diversity: Wajahat Ali on Unity in the Age of Trump

As the Trump era dawns, how can we preserve our welcoming nation? To renowned playwright and journalist Wajahat Ali, we can combat racism and Islamophobia. But we need to think beyond partisanship, he says, and celebrate the differences and commonalities that make our country great.

Modern Islamophobia, Ali argues, is rooted in age-old anxiety—the fear of the “unknowable other.” And post-Trump America—divided and confused, full of tremendous uncertainty—seems like yet another tired remake. From mosque protests to anti-Sharia laws, white supremacy to widening polarization, America can often feel like an intolerant space, where regular Muslims and other diverse communities are the frequent targets of bigotry and far-right ideology.


But Ali imagines an America remade—united over our shared values, not torn apart by racism or hate. Our country can achieve its pluralistic potential, he says. But first, we’ll need to emerge from our partisan cocoons, reach across the aisle, and build lasting partnerships. We need to see religious and cultural difference as the ideas that can bring us together, not rip us apart. And we have to create what he calls a “Multicultural Coalition of the Willing”: a sort of Justice League of diverse Americans who can unite over commonalities. We can resist the forces of bigotry, Ali insists; and in this keynote, he imagines a way to achieve the American Dream for everyone.


Ali is one of the foremost chroniclers of the Muslim American experience today. In his writing for The Washington Post and other outlets, and in his role as video host for The Huffington Post, he works to dispel damaging stereotypes and persistent myths about Islam and Muslim culture. And as a speaker, he’s surprisingly upbeat, witty, and optimistic—in contrast to the serious material his lectures tackle. In the clip below, he helps define terms that have been subject to considerable media distortion—words like sharia, hijab, and jihad—and normalize them as part of the nonthreatening vocabulary of a major American demographic (3+ million and counting). 



The same charm, wit, and clear-eyed poise define Wajahat Ali as a keynote speaker. To book him for your organization or school’s next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.


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