Watch “The Risk of a Dying Cosmopolitan Ethic – Kiana Rawji – TEDxDeerfieldAcademy” Video at TEDxTalks
In this riveting talk, Kiana suggests that the classical concept of cosmopolitanism is critical to successful modern society—and she warns of the dangers that lurk beyond an increasing unwillingness to understand others.
“A true cosmopolitan takes a step beyond mere tolerance of and blind coexistence with people who are different and he/she seeks to appreciate difference, to understand and learn from it” asserts Kiana Rawji in her riveting TEDx talk on the risk of a dying cosmopolitan ethic in today’s global community. She addresses intensely divisive trends, and in particular, those surrounding Islamophobia. In her TEDx talk, Kiana explains that the world has branded its 1.6 billion Muslims as potential threats despite the fact that far less than 1% of them are extremists. A profound lack of understanding, Kiana notes, is the underlying problem. She points out, “even in what we call ‘cosmopolitan’ cities, where we are in such close proximity with people of different races, religions, and cultures, we are so appallingly disconnected.”
Kiana, a 16-year- old Calgarian, is indeed the cosmopolite she urges others to be. In 2014, when she was in 8th grade at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School in Calgary, Alberta, Kiana qualified to compete in the Canadian National Speech Competition. There, she spoke on a controversial bill that was being tabled in Quebec, which was, in essence, aimed at Muslim women who wore the niqab. Kiana stated, “as a strong believer in social justice, as well as an Ismaili who does not wear the niqab herself but respects the values and beliefs of other Muslims, I felt that it would be wrong for a province to deny their citizens from expressing their religious and cultural identities, especially in Canada, a nation known to embrace diversity.”
When the inflammatory Charlie Hebdo cartoons triggered worldwide debate, Kiana was in 9th grade at Deerfield Academy, a competitive boarding school in Massachusetts. To stir up discussion at her school, she wrote an opinion piece in the
school newspaper entitled “Liberty is not License” where she emphasized the notion of balancing freedom of speech with social responsibility. She wrote, “just because we have the right to say things about and to others, [that] does not make it right to say those things.”
At Deerfield Academy, Kiana is a page editor for the schools’ newspaper, The Deerfield Scroll, and sits on the editorial board of Deerfield’s literary and art magazine, Albany Road, to which she has contributed her works of poetry and visual art. In the words of her school advisor, Mr. Conrad Pitcher, “she combines a powerful intellect with unbridled determination, while demonstrating a genuine commitment to playing an active role in raising awareness and finding solutions for the social justice issues that face the wider world around her.” To Kiana, speaking and writing are powerful vehicles for change and she hopes to continue to leverage her talent in both to take on some of the most distressing and challenging issues of our time.