Civil Rights vs. Security Debate in Washington
By Jerusha Ghazanfari


Washington, DC: Dr. Akbar S. Ahmed welcomed Daniel Sutherland, Advisor to the US Department of Homeland Security, and Khalid Hasan of Pakistan’s Daily Times to the American University last week for a lively debate over the issue of civil liberties versus security in post-9/11 America.
Mr. Hasan discussed the hardships, mistreatments and racial-profiling that many Muslim-Americans have faced in society today due to misconceptions and stereotypes often reinforced by the American media. The Daily Times journalist spoke frankly of his desire to see the DHS adopt a “kinder face” towards Muslim Americans in the hope of eradicating the “us versus them” mentality that many Muslims have witnessed first-hand since the events of September 11.
While Mr. Sutherland admitted that the DHS was still a work in progress, he politely disagreed with the “us versus them” label by responding that all Americans desire safety in their lives and, thus, are all in this current situation together.
“It was a privilege to be part of an informed discussion of these vital issues. The comments and, at times, criticisms of Khalid Hasan, the distinguished journalist, and Dr. Akbar Ahmed’s class, were very insightful,” Sutherland said. “This type of open and substantive discussion demonstrates the best of America and the best of academia.”
The thought-provoking event was but one of several exciting events Dr. Ahmed has hosted this semester as part of his popular class “Contemporary Islam and International Relations” at the American University.
Dr. Ahmed’s goal in inviting distinguished speakers such as Mr. Hasan and Mr. Sutherland to AU is to better educate his students on the importance and consequences of the civil rights issue in the post-9/11 world. “Civil liberties, democracy and human rights are qualities that separate the United States from everyone else,” Dr. Ahmed said. “If we lose these then we risk losing the ideals valued by so many Americans.” The Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of International Relations at the American University, has been actively involved in inter-faith dialogue for several years. He continues to foster understanding between Islam and the West by inviting distinguished guests such as Daniel Sutherland and Khalid Hasan to speak to his classes. Eminent guest speakers this fall have included Dr. Radwan Masmoudi of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, internationally-renowned Pakistani Rockstar and UN Goodwill Ambassador Salman Ahmad, Imam Muhammad Magid of the Adams Center, John Milewski from C-SPAN’s “Close Up,” Dr. Nisar Chaudhry of the Pakistan American League, American University’s Chaplain Rabbi Kenneth Cohen and other leading scholars. Future speakers include Mohammad Sadiq Khan, The Embassy of Pakistan’s Deputy Chief of Mission as well as Mr. Rafael Harpaz, Director of Public Affairs at the Embassy of Israel.
The students were appreciative of the dialogue between Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Hasan, as evidenced by their numerous questions. “I found this discussion to be stimulating as there were divergent views presented,” said Ryan Pougiales, a senior in the School of International Service program. “By juxtaposing them it allowed me to question my own thoughts on the topic at hand.”

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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