Patrick B. McGuigan
Nyla Ali Khan will, in July, present an overview of the opportunities and difficulties within current events. Her comments will be circulated via the Internet, for Oklahoma City’s Mayflower Congregational Church.
Dr. Nyla, whose writings often appear in The City Sentinel print edition and online, and at CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, agreed to share with this writer her prepared notes, the framework from which she spoke for her guest sermon, which is scheduled for July 12.
A citizen of the United States since March of this year, Khan has lived in the United States for 22 years. However, the native of Kashmir has traveled back to the land of her birth many times over the past two decades. She has a uniquely well-informed perspective on developments in both her homeland and her chosen country and state.
Echoing reflections on education and debate she has shared previously, Dr. Nyla asserts, “It is unfortunate that the average US citizen knows very little about how local, state, or federal governments work, which is why it is necessary to begin civic education in early grades, and this should press upon high school seniors the importance of registering to vote.”
In an observation apparently directed at all contending factions here and abroad, she believes,
“It is or, at least, should be inconceivable, in the day and age of a global economy, to spurn the concepts of reason, rationality, and political and moral ethics.”
She worries about the lack of depth in some assertions or demands in the public sphere these days:“Sloganeering, rabble rousing, demanding the incorporation of articles in constitutions, and other theoretical issues are all very well, but the real test is whether these theories have a real impact in institutions, instead of being just hollow words. So, belittling the importance of community and institution building would be highly irresponsible. Our young people need to remember that despite the several letdowns, the process of democratization is an evolutionary one and does not provide instant solutions.”
To be sure, the South Asian Muslim woman explicitly encourages students, and all of us, “to think constructively about change within organizations and institutions. Politics should no longer be an abstract notion for young people, but a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on. In politics, the only viable way is forward, not a constant looking back. And policies and methods must be revisited, revised, and readjusted in order to meet today’s needs.”
Born in India, with ancestral roots in Kashmir (a region divided between the control of India and Pakistan), Professor Khan was previously a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma and an associate professor for the niversity of Nebraska at Kearney. She taught online classes this spring, working for Rose State College, where she has been a professor in recent time.
Dr. Nyla has emerged in recent years as a vital leader for Oklahoma City’s increasingly diverse population (http://city-sentinel.com/2019/06/getting-to-know-nyla-appreciating-rose-states-professor-khan/). She spoke recently at a rally protesting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A highly successful educator and published author whose books and essays are featured around the world by diverse news organizations, she believes the journey to female empowerment must continue far beyond the current advance, observing, “It is important to delve into concrete and viable ways in which women politicians on both sides of the aisle in this country, Republican and Democrat, can reestablish their historic ties with dialogue and peace, instead of blindly advocating militarization and military invasions overseas.”
Dr. Nyla commends thoughtful activism for the lives of people of all ages, and in every region of the country, lifting up writers and leaders in rural areas she has observed in America and elsewhere who are passionate about social progress: “Our young people are beginning to recognize the influence that the local community can exercise, and to think constructively about change within organizations and institutions. Politics should no longer be an abstract notion for young people, but a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on. In politics, the only viable way is forward, not a constant looking back. And policies and methods must be revisited, revised, and readjusted in order to meet today’s needs.”
Near the end of her prepared text, Dr. Nyla issues a heartfelt plea to the contending diverse voices of today’s world: “The truth is that it is time to summon up the courage to initiate a politics of construction. Can we build common ground to lessen polarization? A fragmented society cannot accomplish anything, either politically or socioeconomically. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” So, with faith in the values of the wonderful people here who have made time and a consistent effort to standing up for growth, education, and justice, I know that we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. My mantra is building bridges and communities, not walls.”
Dr. Nyla’s July 12 appearance is part of Mayflower UCC’s 2020 Distinguished Pulpit series. For more information visit here.
Note: Patrick B. McGuigan is an award-winning reporter and a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.