Yasmin Elhady of Huntsville initially felt lucky to be one of the few chosen to ask a question during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, carried live on CNN.
But within minutes, the online discussion at YouTube.com and CNN.com turned cruel, upsetting the young law student and causing her to second-guess her participation.
“Some of it was just straight-up hate,” Elhady said Thursday morning in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
The 21-year-old Grissom High School graduate is preparing for exams at UCLA and finally had to stop reading the commentary over her question about the United States’ image in the Muslim world.
“The beautiful thing about America is that you and I disagree but we respect each other. You and I can share our thoughts with each other and not have to be hateful toward one another. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth,” she said.
But some of that respect was missing from the online conversation Wednesday night and Thursday morning. She was personally threatened, insulted and maligned and her entire religion was blamed for the violence of a few.
“I know that’s not the America I love and defend all the time and speak about when I’m in the Middle East,” she said.
Elhady, who recently finished a year of study at the American University in Cairo, was encouraged, by the young girls she mentored in Huntsville, to submit a question via YouTube for the debate, and was one of 5,000 considered by CNN. As someone of North African descent and a frequent traveler to the region, Elhady said her question about America’s deteriorating image was from personal observation and discussions with Muslims about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“What would you do as president to repair the image of America in the eyes of the Muslim world?” she asked in the video that was aired live.
Three of the candidates responded. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the U.S. should “remain on the offense against Islamic terrorism,” but that “we shouldn’t blame an entire group of people for the horrible acts of a few people who have distorted a great religion.” (MORE)