Foreign Policy Blogs

A Radical Debate

There is a fine line between freedom of expression and obnoxious behavior; which may very well be crossed in the coming weeks in Congress.That said, as a Muslim and as an American – I support the debate.

As upset as we were to witness residents of Orange County yelling obnoxious slurs at Muslims gathering for a fundraiser; it was just as much the constitutional right of Yorba Linda and her colleagues as was the right of hundreds that gathered in Times Square this past weekend to proclaim that “today, I am a Muslim too.” One of the above incidents leaves a sour taste in my mouth, as a Muslim; the other may do the same for Rep. Pete King and his supporters. But democracy has never been about individual tastes.

The “Radicalization of Muslim Americans” hearing that kicks off in Congress today may be walking the wire of political correctness, but the reality of the situation is that it should be inspiring people. The calm with which Rep. King and Rep. Ellison discuss their opposing views and their objectives of attending the debates is the lesson to be learned. Ellison, as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, is reminding us what the Prophet of Islam taught; patience and tolerance. When asked why he was participating in this debate, Rep. Ellison eloquently said; “Because I believe in engaging the process. I think you got to be involved in the conversation. You got to offer an alternative view. And I do plan on saying that I challenge the basic premise of the hearings. That I do agree that we should deal with radicalization and violent radicalization, but singling out one community is the wrong thing to do.”

We can debate how we do not believe the “experts” being used in this hearing are actually experts or how people are saying that Rep. King is “exploiting ethnic misunderstanding (rather) than in trying to heal it” – as long as it is a discussion and not a declaration.

Reports tell us how unpopular King is, even within the ranks of his own party. Again, that is their perspective. I think we can take solace in the fact that a healthy deliberation shall ensue, and pray that nothing accusatory towards one belief system comes of this. But we must stand by the constitutional, and God given, right of everyone to hold their own opinions.

My Lord, give me the capability to tolerate an opposing point of view. My Lord, keep me wise and aware, so that I may not judge someone or some idea right or wrong unless I have understood him/her or it correctly and completely.” – Dr. Ali Shariati



Sahar Said

Sahar, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, has obtained her Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University Law School, and worked with a non-profit in New York. She currently writes from Germany.

Sahar can be followed on Twitter @sahar_said.