Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 05:59 pm est

Wagner professor uses YouTube to inspire students

Posted on April 25, 2013 | by Deborah Lubanga

Courtesy of Moral Courage Project

At just 14 years old, NYU Wagner professor Irshad Manji was expelled from her Islamic religious school in Canada for asking too many questions. But a brief expulsion didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion for inquiry and critical thinking. In 2008, she created the Moral Courage Project, a multimedia platform that helps shape students into global citizens.

Five years later, Manji is taking her project one step further. In 2011, she began preparations to broadcast Moral Courage around the world. On April 16, she launched Moral Courage TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing the stories of morally courageous individuals.

“The intention of this channel is to reach people around the world who wouldn’t necessarily see themselves as university students, who wouldn’t get their news by reading,” Manji said at the event for the channel’s launch. “But [it is for those] who relate to deeply human stories about people who are making the change within themselves to affect change elsewhere.”

The phrase “moral courage,” originally popularized by Robert F. Kennedy, means having the backbone to stand up for things an individual is passionate about. This message has resonated with Manji.

Moral Courage episodes are uploaded every 10 days in five different languages. Previous episodes include a profile of a girl named Shelby, who advocates for sex education reform in a conservative town in Texas, and Omnia, who uses music as a means of self-expression while simultaneously advocating for Islamic reform.

Manji’s hope is to create an online community of people, like Shelby and Omnia, who question themselves and their roles in society.

“You need to stand up when others want you to sit down and that means transcending your fear of social and community disapproval,” she said.

Manji first used the Moral Courage Project with her Wagner students before releasing it onto a television platform.

“I have learned, among other things, that to have the kind of impact that I expect the work to have, you can’t confine it to the classroom,” she said.

Ismail Butera is the head of the Guidance Team, an organization Manji founded in 2011. Butera sees YouTube as an excellent platform for connecting the morally courageous.

“People need to network,” Butera said. “That’s how you bring about change, by [bringing] like minds together with their varied ideas. YouTube and the Internet are a great way to network like that.”

Manji’s message of moral courage has also reached her graduate students, like José Martí, a second-year Wagner graduate student who took a course with Manji last fall. Like Butera, Martí views the channel as a way for the Moral Courage Project to resonate with the world.

“With the creation of the Moral Courage channel, these individuals and stories will finally have a home, where they can be highlighted for viewers everywhere, many of whom are suffering in relative silence and now have a powerful channel for addressing these questions and expressing themselves,” Martí said.

Manji devotes her efforts to building up global viewership and awareness.

“This vision of Moral Courage is universal,” Manji said. “Every human community needs its constructive dissonance, its tender radicals, and so we’ve got to go global with this.”


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.