I have been a huge fan of TED talks for many years – for as long as I’ve made my living as a freelance writer in fact. These talks are often my first port of call when writing on some scientific or sociological issue to find out the latest, most important research and then I go on to find the details for myself. I find that TED talks are unfailingly brilliant, helpful and fascinating.
So you’d think, wouldn’t you, that it would be a tough one to choose my favourite talk from the hundreds I’ve seen when I’m such a fan? Well…no. It’s a no-brainer for me. There’s one talk I watched about a year ago which resonated deeply within me more than any other.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a remarkable young Muslim woman from Australia who has won numerous awards and led an astonishing life. She also wears a hijab – but, as she points out in her talk, if you stop at that and look no deeper you will miss the person behind the veil.
Yassmin’s mission to promote diversity in society and her call for us all to look beyond stereotypes and prejudice is challenging yet incredibly uplifting. She manages this very honestly and openly by admitting that we all have biases and that’s okay – but we have to be aware of them and not let our thinking dictate how we treat others. When I hear Yassmin talk I just want to shout “YES!” at the screen (and sometimes I do!).
Yassmin’s story and her message left a big impact on me as I’ve been advocating similar themes for many years since my family and I started working in Bangladesh – one of the poorest, predominantly Muslim countries in the world. Over the last eleven years I know that I’ve had to face – and deal with – many of my own unconscious biases about myself, my culture, history, other people and their cultures. I’ve also come to recognise many more biases in my own society of which most of us are oblivious, most of the time. Tackling these has become something of my life’s mission.
When I see the work Yassmin Abdel-Magied is doing around the world I stand in awe of her; and whenever I feel depressed or think there’s just no hope for understanding and peace between the nations, I go back to this talk and Yassmin fires me up all over again. I can’t help but get excited when I hear her words.
Yeah…you can pretty much say that this woman – who really couldn’t be much more different to me in background – is one of my great heroes. She’s simply inspirational.