I come not merely to preview Dr. Nyla Ali Khan’s forthcoming book, but also to praise her
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Published: 05-Jan-2021

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan has a heart for the dispossessed -- especially for students living in zones of conflict around the world. For those who read her works regularly, this may seem like a statement of the obvious. That’s ok: Stating the obvious, as I have said elsewhere, can be an act of courage in some circumstances.

Since first I met her in June 2019 (after having read through some of her works in the months before), each exchange of more than a few minutes has turned to shared concerns for contemporary students in America, and in many other places. (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/getting-to-know-nyla-appreciating-rose-state-s-professor-khan ) 

Dr. Nyla has a new book coming this spring from Palgrave MacMillan, an academic publishing house with world-wide reach. The title is “Educational Strategies for Youth Empowerment in Conflict Zones: Transforming, not Transmitting, Trauma.” 
(Forthcoming: May 5, 2021 in hard cover, ISBN 978-3-030-66226-4). 
See: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030662257

While flowing from the tradition of her past scholarly works, there is an even deeper personal and reflective tone than before in those portions of the text I was blessed to read in recent days. 

She shares a moment that took place during one of her frequent visits to her native land of Kashmir, a place of cherished traditions and great history which now exists in what is a pretty tough neighborhood (the intersection of areas claimed by India, China and Pakistan): 
“[At a]College in Bemina, which is on the outskirts of the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, a student requested permission to ask his question in Kashmiri. I was sensitive to the student’s fear of being unable to adequately express himself in English, which, at the end of the day, wasn’t his native language. The student asked a perceptive question on the politics of translation in the classroom. 
“He asked if it was legitimate to request a professor to translate an English passage/ report/ or query into Kashmiri, particularly for those students whose socioeconomic backgrounds did not give them opportunities to gain familiarity with the English language.” 

Dr. Nyla goes on to describe her belief that “the purpose of education [is] to broaden students’ horizons by pedagogical innovation.” 

Yes, Dr. Nyla uses words like “pedagogy” – a reference to varied theories about teaching and the practice of learning.

Once upon a time, I was at Oklahoma State University a graduate student director for “The Schools in American Society” – a program within the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the College of Education. 
I learned and taught a lot about education theory in those days, but in truth I never got much beyond believing that the best ideas about human education are really rooted in beliefs like this: 

“The meaning of existence [is] to preserve untarnished, undisturbed and undistorted the image of eternity which each person is born with. … Like a silver moon in a calm, still pond.” That’s Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his novel “Cancer Ward.” 
In his various books, Solzhenitsyn taught me everything I ever really needed to know about the brutality, suppression of human dignity and consistent evil of the late, un-lamented Soviet Union and its Marxist underpinnings. In all the years since, the awful details have merely confirmed the wisdom of Solzhenitsyn, the critic that even the world’s most powerful communist dictatorship could not crush.

In her books, the story of her example and in her consistent message of hope and human dignity for the rising generation in Kashmir and India, Dr. Nyla Ali Khan has helped me understand better the unending and indeed often horrific struggles of those who seek in certain lands (read: Kashmir, Pakistan, India and others) beyond our shores not a utopia, but a better future.

Her new book blends in stories about South Africa (and the troubled reconciliation process), the Balkan Republics and her new land, the United States

To be sure, Dr. Nyla’s constant focus is on Jammu and Kashmir, a land of “bounteous beauty” and possibility, trapped for now under the thumb of India’s current leaders, who have long since forgotten the promises for autonomy and dignity made to Kashmir’s people at the end of colonial era.

Her own life story has led her to Oklahoma, where she is a respected scholar and journalistic commentator who became an American citizen last year.

Her new work, as the tile includes, aims to suggest, and perhaps to guide “educational strategies for youth empowerment in regions that are torn apart by conflict as well as religious and sectarian schisms.” She wonders “what it would take for us to get our younger generations to channelize their anger and take the political process forward without playing into anyone's hands.” She aspires to suggest we “consider whether education could be deployed as an effective tool in intergenerational family communication.” 

In her own life, the channel went from family into education, and that is worth noting.  
The last time I shared widely the Solzhenitsyn reflection on the purpose of existence was for an online event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, honoring the memory of Dr. Nyla’s father, Dr. Mohammad Ali Matto. (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/remembering-the-father-of-a-friend-honoring-the-one-who-will-wipe-away-our-tears)

She comes from what we western U.S. folks often call “good stock” – meaning far, far more than genetic “blood lines.” 
It means a centered existence that can be fully aware the world is often an unpleasant place yet absolutely certain that it is generally best if (apologies to Merle Haggard), “The roots of [your] raising run deep.” 

Dr. Nyla calls her “sanctum sanctorum” (holy of holies) the family ties of her youth, “a home that exuded peace, happiness and security.” She was raised in a wholesome environment, a place like this: 
“Although torrential rains fell, strong gusts of wind blew, and political turmoil threatened to destroy everything in its wake, the house that Father built did not fall, because its foundation was laid on love, diligence, and integrity.”

So, yeah: It is an academic book in much of its style and tone, but it has in it a lot of sentences like the foregoing.

Some days ago, she wrote an affection memoir, as an observant Muslim woman, about her memories of Christmas in Kashmir. Eighteen months into our friendship, I admire more than ever her integrity and sense of purpose. (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/an-observant-muslim-s-memories-of-christmas-in-kashmir)

She wrote recently about her memories of a particular student in Kashimr who needed reassurance about his place in a world seemingly gone mad. Their exchange certainly seems worth reflection during a time that is literally diseased in the reality of a worldwide pandemic. 

I offer words of comfort here, sharing a recent witness about her good heart:

“Love, affirmation, sadness, hope, occasional anger, faith. In your regular dispatches all of these things are present. Dr. Nyla, the story of your student is all too familiar to many teachers in these sad times for America, yet such stories are not unique to America. Your recurring themes are as old as time itself. 

“In 1998, Steven Pressfield wrote a glorious novel about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, primarily from the perspective of the Spartans (‘the brave 300’) who defended the place known as the ‘Gates of Fire’ (the title of Pressfield's novel). 
“Near the end of the story, two important characters are discussing courage, and the seeming folly of their struggle against overwhelming odds. In dialogue that is searing in authenticity, they confess, one to the other, their fears about what the next day would bring, and shared awe at the bravery of their brothers-in-arms. One of them pronounces the sub-text of the entire story, what must (be) the theme of the time ahead for Kashmir, for India, for Great Britain, for South Africa, for the Balkans, and for the blessed nation of America: ‘The opposite of fear is love.’ 

“The sad reality for all who have good will is that we can not redeem every soul, we cannot right every wrong, we cannot resolve every problem. Yet we can remember, as the great solace for times such as these: ‘The opposite of fear is love.’ 

“May the One God Who Made each one of us, bless and comfort you now and every day, our sister and friend, dear Dr. Nyla.” 

Educators, readers and citizens, find your way into the heart, mind and soul of Dr. Nyla Ali Khan. And, consider the messages, themes, and heart of her forthcoming book. 

Note: Pat McGuigan is publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper, and founder of CapitolBeatOK.com, an online news service. A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, he is the author of three books and editor of seven. During his time at OSU in Stillwater, Oklahoma (referenced above), McGuigan was named Graduate Teaching Assistant of the year, first in the College of Education, and then for the entire university. He taught a total of four years at OSU, first U.S. History and then Sociology of Education. Pat is a state-certified teacher in ten subject areas, and has taught in both private and public schools.  

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