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Out Of Context – Part 6

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Omar Suleiman

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The “All-Terrorists-are-Muslim” Myth – Omar Suleiman

In Part 6 of the interview with Dallas-based Pastor Mike Baughman, Imam Omar Suleiman dispels the myth that all terrorists are Muslim, noting the huge disparity between the amount of media coverage given to the rare cases where perpetrators were actually Muslim and when they were not.

Episode Transcript

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So along that vein, there's also this this statement that that I heard

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during one of the presidential debates and, and I think I've heard in some other settings and kind of popular culture that, that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.

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Now,

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again, like we have Google, so we know this is not real. Yeah. Right. Like,

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terrorists come, unfortunately for our world in all shapes, sizes, religion, gender, or across the board. Terrorism is not no one tradition has a monopoly on that.

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So I think we can clearly dispel that, that myth, again, we have Google, it's pretty clear. And we have a newspaper. And fortunately, we have other politicians who are combating that notion, including the mayor here in Dallas, who has pushed up against that. Right. So I'm curious, like, how,

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where do you think this notion comes from? Why do you think that that is getting like a foothold in popular? Sure? Sure. In 2015, there were over 300 mass shootings in America. Yeah, only two of them were committed by Muslims.

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But the amount of media time that those two shootings got was more than 298 other shootings. Right. And we are quick to assume if we can find a Muslim name, when an attack happens if there's a Mohammed in there, if he looked a little brown, if she she looked like she might have been right away, it's a terrorist attack before the facts are put out there. Right, you know, and even San Bernardino, the terrible tragedy of San Bernardino a lot was lost in that, by the way, number one, there was a Muslim lady that's a board member of a mosque over there. In California, that was shot three times. She didn't die, thankfully, but she was shot three times. So this clearly wasn't about

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Muslims going and killing a bunch of non Muslims.

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Number two, the whole thing about you know, for right away, you had candidates jumping on people jumping on it, this was ISIS, ISIS has come to America, so on so forth. Turns out that the whole thing about the the young lady giving pledge of allegiance to ISIS turned out to be a complete Sham actually never happened. So we don't we completely throw up all the nuances there. Mental health is throwing out workplaces throwing out unstable families are throwing out. Everything that gets afforded to every other killer, is throwing out if you can somehow associate that person with Islam, Islam is to blame. So it's not true historically. I mean, we just exited the most violent century in

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world history. There were almost a quarter billion people killed in the 1900s. They weren't killed in the name of Islam. They weren't killed the name of Christianity, actually, I mean, there's this thought that religion is responsible for violence, right? They were killed in the name of fascism. They were killed in the name of communism, they were killed in the name of democracy. Here in the United States, there was this thought before World War Two, though you and I weren't around, right. But there's this thought that Russia and Germany represented two evil ideologies, let them kill each other off, one of them will kill the other one off, right? Because you had all these ideologies, lo

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and behold, they weren't Islam. They weren't Muslims, historically, if you just search the bloodiest conflicts in history, and the death tolls, the ones that were killed in the name of Islam are very, very, very, very small. Now, here's the response to that, that people give they say, Yeah, well, you know, find Christianity worked out its medicine. In the Middle Ages, it's Islam's turn. But even today, that's not true. Statistically speaking, that's not true.

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When it comes to suicide, terrorism, there was a book written by Robert Pape called dying to win where he traced every suicide bombing, the the origin of suicide, terrorism, Japanese kamikazes, they're not Muslims, or at least I don't think they are the Tamil Tigers, a secular group, not Muslims at all, and basically shows how every single suicide bombing in history, even in the modern history traces the last 100 years was carried out for a clear political goal. It had not it was not carried out for religious goals carried out for a clear political goal, when we look at so I mean, is there is there a religious incentive in Islam for that kind of martyrdom, to go out and just kill

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people and to kill people to sacrifice yourself in the process to to advance the faith? So there are a few things here number one, it says in the Quran that whoever kills a soul, without rights an innocent person without right is as if he has killed all of mankind. And whoever saves the life is that as it is as if he has saved all of mankind. Again, you're not allowed to kill women not allowed to kill civilians, not allowed to kill children, so on so forth, to summarize, you know, there's the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. He did say that latter amendment equality which means don't

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ever wish to meet someone in battle? don't wish to meet anyone in battle. Okay, so you should not look for war you should not look for violence and so on so forth. However once a battle takes place, once there is so the Quran does talk about defending the innocence and defending the oppressed and fighting for just cause just war is not uniquely an Islamic concept. This is a concept that exists in every system. Yes, there there is a lot of there's there's glory for those who die and just war and die. And just I mean here in the United States, right when it comes to the US military and so on so forth. There's glory in defending adjust cause so yes, that is certainly there the reward for

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martyrs and so on so forth. That's, that's there that's talked about, but that doesn't mean going out and killing innocent people. And if we're going to call out every, everything that happens by a Muslim,

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you know, Peter Bergen, who's a national security correspondent, he recently wrote a book called The United States of jihad. And he and he said that since 911,

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the amount of people killed I believe those killed in the name of Islamic terrorism were about 15 years now. We're about 43. Those killed in the name of white supremacy.

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Were almost double that number. Right? Why is that not terrorism? Okay. Why is dylann roof not terrorism? That's I mean, the guy was posing with flags. He clearly had an agenda, political agenda when he went there and shot those people as they were worshiping. Why is that not called terrorism? I grew up in Louisiana. I'm from Louisiana. And so I grew up seeing the Ku Klux Klan, their rallies, they popped up here in Irving recently, right? We didn't even know that they were still around, but they popped up here in Irving.

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I mean, hey, that that's, that's in the name of Christianity is Christianity to blame for that. So statistically speaking, less than 2% of Muslims are radicalized, less than 2%. Now, someone says 10% of Muslims, you know, are radicalized, that's a terrible thing around the world, you're focusing on a very small section of the community because it fits your ideological agenda. So but but part of the recruitment effort

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on the part of ISIS right, is appealing to some of the very things that you talked about, right is appealing to a lack of justice is appealing to, you know, some of these places where the world has treated people unfairly. Right, and the part of the recruitment for ISIS is to stand up for the oppressed. And so in the midst of, you know, this, and if you were to encounter someone who, who is watching ISIS recruitment videos, or has been recruited by ISIS, or is considering, you know, being a part of a radicalized group, you know, and they say back to you, but But look, look at the oppressive systems that are in place. And don't we have a responsibility to fight against that?

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What's your, what's your response to that person? First and foremost, just sort of on the previous point.

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You know, we have to treat these cases with all of its political nuance, we have to look at them with a comprehensive lens and not just associate religion with it. So people are not, people are not in healthy context. It's not like people are sitting in Malaysia or in Turkey or so on so forth. Those are probably bad turkeys probably a bad example. Not because serious next door, right? But it's not people that are coming from healthy backgrounds and healthy countries that are suddenly reading the Koran and getting radicalized. Right. There are Buddhist monks that are killing the Burmese off in the Central African Republic, Christians that have wiped out the Muslim population,

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there are people that claim to be Christian people that claim to be Buddhist. In Kenya, there is the new story that came recently where a terrorist group again, claiming to act in the name of Islam tried to attack a bus full of Christians and Muslims, and they told the Muslims get off the bus so we can attack the Christians. And the Muslims stayed on the bus and protected the Christians against this crazy group. Right? So first, you have to treat it as a political group. It's not religion that's making them do these things that's appealing to them. So then what does that leave us now to with with these extremist groups, and so on, so forth? Well,

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Iraq has been bombed by four consecutive presidents. It's it's a very unstable

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political situation. Syria was left out to dry Bashar Al Assad killed over 200,000 of his own people, and we did nothing about it. So when those countries go to hell, in the political sense, in the economic sense that that becomes a breeding ground because you have frustrated people that have seen their parents killed, they've seen they've seen all types of things happen. And interestingly enough, what more and more when you see what's going on with ISIS. It's a group of mercenaries right there. They're literally taking young people giving them money. Most of them are not even being recruited for ideological reasons. That's it's it's here's your future. There's money to there's

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cash here.

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Offer, right? How do we deal with the situation? Number one, as a country and as a group of people that are trying to fight this, we have to recognize that, that we have to be very, very critical of our foreign policy, we have to look at what our foreign policy goals are, what our involvement in the Middle East is, where it's positive, where it's negative, we have to have those those very uncomfortable discussions. Number two, the young people that are joining ISIS, unstable homes, depressed, you know, look at the Boston bombers, right? isolated from their families having trouble at work, and so on so forth. They're not going to these places for glory for glorious reasons they

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hate life as it is, this is a place to go die a glorious death and to get your revenge, and so on, so forth. And yeah, if I'm depressed in life, and I want to end my life anyway. And then I have this guy over here promising me a glorious death and great things in the afterlife. Yeah, of course, it's a very appealing, it's a very appealing message, isn't it? Even if I don't have a political goal, in that it's a very appealing message, to go in and get all these great things in life. But then the political side of it.

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What I tell young people, you know, that are that are thinking about this, I tell them, you know, what good are you serving? How are you making the cause of the oppressed better? How are you not making things absolutely worse, you know, by by going and committing these heinous acts and doing these things, it's a very small group of people, no doubt. But what are you doing to further these causes? And so we have to meet halfway, there are people that have very legitimate political frustrations. And we could be guilty of a 21st century McCarthyism where you know, just like in the 1950s, the way to silence dissent, the way the government way people would silence dissent was if

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anyone questioned the United States foreign policy. They were communist sympathizers. So now, are we offering a legitimate voice for people to voice their frustrations about US foreign policy, without feeling like they're going to be targeted, and bunched up into, you know, into this group, and their phones are going to be tapped. And they're going to be pursued and so on so forth. Are they having that outlet? or so? Are they are they able to voice their frustrations? Well, we have to do is we have to channel the frustrations that people have with with our foreign policy in a positive direction, and how you can make meaningful change, and how this going overseas and joining ISIS

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actually makes things worse for your community makes things worse for everybody. It's just your own selfish way to escape life, because you find you found a dead end everywhere you went in life. So we have to it's a multi faceted discussion.

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And there's something heartbreaking about that, for me, right? To sit in, you know, because like one of the questions I asked earlier, in part, because of the kind of thing that we hear from time to time is, you know, whether or not someone can be Muslim and also be a patriot, right. And in my understanding of patriotism that I've understood since I was in elementary school, is is a willingness to speak out against the government when you believe that the government is doing doing wrong is doing ill sure that that is a patriotic move.

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And so it's sad for me to know that Muslims, citizens of the United States feel silenced,

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feel like they can't, you know, speak their mind that they can't voice, that patriotic responsibility, which is to hold the government accountable without being labeled, you know, and, and so it's, it's sad for me to hear well, many of them do. And part of it is that Muslims don't feel like they're represented properly in the political arena. I think a lot of the population feels like they're caught between two extremes. Yeah. You don't completely associate with the Democrats, you don't completely associate with the Republicans, but there's no centrist party in the United States. So you just have to always choose the lesser of the two evils. Right? That doesn't resonate

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with everybody, right. So so so patriotism is indeed, you know, that you love your country enough to try to steer it in a direction that you feel like is most beneficial for it? But do people feel ostracized for voicing their opinions? Do do young Muslims feel like they have a voice, a legitimate voice? Or do they just feel like the only voices of Muslims that are being heard? Are the pandering voices, right? The voices that will say exactly what what the government wants to hear. So we have to create that space. And the worst thing that we could possibly do, the absolute worst thing we could possibly do is to confirm ISIS, his message that Islam and America are inherently

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incompatible, that you cannot be a Muslim American, that your value system is cut, you know, your value system religious value system contradicts your your citizen, your citizens responsibilities, and so on so forth, that all of this is contradictory because they want that clash of civilizations. So when politicians get up there and they say that, you know, we're at war with Islam. They're actually confirming ISIS as message ISIS is saying you're at war with Islam.

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And then you're saying you're at war with Islam as a country. You're, you're feeding into that message. And it is a fact. And this has been gone through many times. And you know, and discussions of security, that the that the material that's being pushed out there in media outlets by politicians is used as propaganda recruiting material. For for people. You know, it's it's sad that

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people I've been overseas a few times recently, I promise it wasn't to Syria, I didn't join any group.

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But I've been overseas, I've been to the Muslim world. And you know that people in the Muslim world genuinely think that all Muslims are about to be thrown out of the country. I mean, they actually say, you know, what are you guys going to do if you get banned? How are you going to an American? I've never, I don't have another passport? This is my only, what are you going to do? If you get banned? Where are you going to go? You know, what are you going to do? If Donald Trump becomes president? Are you going to run away? Are you I mean, are you going to leave before they kick you out. So that type of rhetoric is absolutely destructive. And we have to be very, very careful not to

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feed ISIS as machine by saying, indeed, Islam and an America are inherently at war. And that you are a paradox, you can't be a good American and a good Muslim. At the same time, we have to actually make people comfortable with the idea of being great Muslim Americans that can contribute as we have been doing. I mean, millions of Muslims who are very successful, very well integrated, are one of the most integrated communities in this country,

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economically, and politically, and so on, so forth. So it can happen, but we can't feed that message. Just, you know, I'm kind of curious as someone who's a leader of a community that sits in that awkward and difficult in between space.

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When there are times like this past fall, when armed protesters

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showed up at the Islamic Center in Irving,

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right outside of the place of worship in at a time that people were coming in for worship.

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You know, there are all these messages, the they give a sense of like, you don't belong here. And I'm curious, like, what, what spiritual resources? Do you offer your people as they're going through times like that?

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Where do they? Where do they find hope? Where do they, you know, how do they navigate through the difficulties that come with being a part of a society but not really feeling like you're a part of society at work? And then you show up for worship on Saturday and find out you're not right. So how do you navigate that, as a spiritual leader, the first thing we teach our community is forgiveness, the quality of forgiveness.

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You know, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him when he was struck in the battle to the second battle, major battle in Islam, he was struck into a ditch and he was hitting the head and his teeth were knocked out. And he said,

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Allah forgive my people for they don't know any better. And so we teach people that same message, like they just don't know any better. If you know, they don't know you, they don't know any better. They've been, you know, literally have had hatred funneled into their minds and hearts. for however many years,

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give them a positive interaction, make them think twice, you know, show them, show them your good side, don't let them teach you bad character, you teach them good character, don't let them teach you to hate, you teach them to love. And so we have to respond with that, with that grace, that we're taught to respond. And this that's, that's what we all feed off of, in our faith traditions, right? Grace, respond to evil with grace.

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And so if I'm at a restaurant and look, Islamophobia Now, the way that Muslims are treated now, especially Muslim women, literally, many of them literally wearing their faith on their heads, right? The way that they're treated, it's a daily thing now you know, your your your flipped off on the highway, you're run off the road, you're yelled at at Walmart, your your waitress treats you like garbage, your professors discriminating against you,

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you know, the dirty looks, it's become part of our daily life here, right? And what we have to do is not let that make us negative, but instead we have to respond. We have to, we have to rise to the challenge. And the challenge is, can your heart expand enough to where you can respond to all that negativity with something positive and with mercy and with love. And you can actually make that waitress think twice next time another Muslim comes into the restaurant, because you responded with a smile, and you made them think twice about what they did or what they said, or how they looked at you. The greatest challenge is that our kids,

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a lot of Muslim kids are asked, you know, asked their parents, are we going to get kicked out? are we are we going to live because you can imagine what damage it does to the psyche of a child that's going to the mosque and seeing people holding big guns outside and chanting go back home and yelling terrible things at them. So it's it's an uphill battle.

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But we'll get through it. And it's not the first time it's happened in America. Right? It's our turn.

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But we'll be okay. We'll make it through it. And I think we'll be just fine. And I hope that this will be a learning experience. It'll be an opportunity for us.

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We know election years get really, really, really bad, because we are the whipping boy of every politician out there that wants to gain some sort of approval.

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and ignore, you know, ignore true political issues and just focus on this Muslim community because we're just a political liability. So we have to, as a community become more engaged,

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we have to counter those negative interactions with positive interactions. And I think we'll become a more we'll be, we'll be in a better place after this is all done. And hopefully, it won't take long. And hopefully, we'll be in a place where we can help other people that are being discriminated against as well. For what it's worth.

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You know, as just a drop in the ocean, though, you know, I

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have this church that operates a coffee shop, right, we operate in the coffee shop, we are the coffee shop, it's messy, but it's great. And

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you know, one of the things that I count as a personal victory every day is the day doesn't go by there isn't someone there with the job. There isn't someone who I know is Muslim, and they feel comfortable there, and they feel welcome there.

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And, and that holds incredible value for me. And I know that there are others for whom that's the case. And I hope that there are more and more ways.

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For those stories of hope, for business leaders, for religious leaders, for others to know, then that that's a value. And that's, that's who we can be here in Dallas. And that's who we can be in the United States.

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I'm grateful for the tenacity that you offer the surprising amount of patience that you offer, in the face of what feels to me, like injustice in my place of privilege,

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that when I look and see, it feels unjust, it doesn't feel American. And

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so I appreciate your surprising amount of patience in the midst of it. We're grateful for people like you that can see through all the nonsense, right? And that can that can actually that actually have open hearts and then actually have open minds that are actually able to talk to us and interact with us and see through all the the propaganda and the hatred that's out there. So we're we're far more grateful for people like you all, you know,

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and having you in our midst. And that's that's part that's what gives us hope. I mean, really, it does, because

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it shows us that there's a different side to America than what's being portrayed out there. Right. And we know that, that it's not all, not everyone is out there calling for calling for a war on Islam and for us to be banned and deported. But there are there is a significant group of people, there's a significant amount of people in this country that that still want to see America become that tolerance, pluralistic,

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you know, place that that accommodates people of all faiths, not all colors and creeds. Well, there is power in conversation,

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the ability to actually sit down and hear from someone and, and those conversations if we're really going to get into the issues and really understand, you know, we said earlier how religion is difficult to understand and figure out.

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It's not conversations that take place in five minutes, though, that's a good start.

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If we're going to truly do our duty, I believe as people of God, I believe, as Americans, whatever the case might be, if we're going to do our duty to figure out how to live together well in society, to walk with one another, and integrity to stand by our principles. It takes time invested in conversation.

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And so I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be in conversation with you today.

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My hope is, is that this is the first of many. My hope is that we might inspire some folks who are watching, to engage in conversation, to talk at someone whether it's in the parking lot at Walmart, or whether it is by inviting someone over for dinner or accepting that invitation to try, you know, the cookies that some wonderful is or has baked. If you bite twice, nothing happens. And most likely you're good. Yeah, good.

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So so that's that's my hope out of this is that. So much of what we hear about Islam in America comes primarily from politicians that comes from pundits that comes from people who are offering 10 word answers. And I believe that we're called to something more. So I'm hope that this is the beginning of a lot of conversations, not only for the two of us, and for folks who are here with us. But for all those who are watching and for us as a nation as a whole. That as individuals, as corporations, and as media companies. And as political parties, we can engage in more fruitful conversation and dialogue

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to bring about a better world. So thank you, I really appreciate your time. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you so much.