Patrick B. McGuigan, The City Sentinel
Oklahoma City – Professor Nyla Ali Khan delivered a memorable speech at the Oklahoma City headquarters of the Dialogue Institute, with the theme, “Building Community and Engaging Young People in the Process of Democracy.”
The presentation was a thoughtful, considerate and insightful exposition of a personal philosophy rooted in strong standards, and optimism for the long range future of America and the world.
After her June 11 speech at the Institute, Khan and this reporter exchanged views. She believes that “despite the polarizing politics in the United States and other parts of the world, we retain the empathy and compassion to recognize the aspirations of distinct individuals, societies and variations in religious practices and laws from one cultural context to the other. It is more important than ever that we use our privilege to counter voices of rancor and hate that are creating false dichotomies in our society.”
She continued, “Bringing about effective and productive change is a difficult task, but forging a rapport between elected representatives and their constituents creates a stake for the latter in the growth and growth of the state. I cannot emphasize enough the wisdom of manifesting harmony, understanding, and peace in concrete relationships, practical development, and intersectional political alliances.”
A broad review of Khan’s perspectives come in words such as these: “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. For instance, House Bill 3393, which Governor Fallin signed into law, which directs the use of the ‘least restrictive restraints on pregnant inmates’ and bans the practice of shackling pregnant women in labor while in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC), and the recent criminal justice reform measure signed by Governor Stitt must be rigorously implemented.”
There is a notable protective or traditionalist stand point that grows in clarity as discussion continues: “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.
“As I’ve said at other forums, the non-legislative reforms that we require are new efforts and new forums not just in this country but in other parts of the world as well for the birth of new ideas and broad based grassroots politics that transcend organizational divides. And it makes me happy to see such seeds being sown on our college campuses, particularly in rural areas.”
She often references her ancestral homeland. Khan told The City Sentinel, “In the summers of 2016 and 2018, I went to quite a few colleges in the Kashmir Valley. All the institutions I visited are in rural areas. I saw in these areas, even in backwaters, a healthy curiosity and inquisitiveness — a desire to know more about the outside world, to explore, to find parallels between cultural situations that those kids are living in and other parts of the world.
“And I have seen the same healthy curiosity in Seminole, Ponca City, and Guthrie. 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.”
Her professorial manner includes a deft observation: “Our state requires bipartisan politics in order to move forward.”
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 University of Nebraska at Kearney.
In last week’s address, she spoke with deep affection of the Sooner and Cornhusker States, reflecting that “the American midwest has been good to me.” She is now a professor at Rose State College in Midwest City.
Her presentation drew a diverse crowd of pre-existing and new fans, including this writer, Rita Aragon, Verbus Counts and his wife Sandra, Richard White (office of U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn), Linda Haneborg, Kitti Asberry, Joan Korenbelt, Jennifer J. Parker, Sherry Sullivan, Rebecca Thompson, Kuaybe Basturk, Karol Koss, Hanan Debwania, Robn Green, Jimmie Ellen Hardwick Clark, Kris Landusau, Lonney Korder-Agnew, Nadira Choudry and others.
This year, Khan was appointed, by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, to the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women.
Host for the the event was Muhammet Ali Sizer, director of the Dialogue Institute in Oklahoma City. He explained the work of the group, which has offices around the United States. Sizer and his colleagues promote exchanges among diverse religious, ethnic and institutional groups.
The Dialogue Institute’s work promotes tolerance and networking.