Can Two Groups Who Are Wary of One Another Have a Civil Debate?

David Wright, 44 and Christopher Gambino, 35 (left) of BAIR meet with two members of the Islamic community; Ali Ghouri and Tameem Burdi, 33, to discuss Islam and the goals of BAIR. (Ilana Panich-Linsman For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In these polarizing times, is it possible for two groups who are suspicious of one another to come together, set aside their differences, and have a productive conversation? In The Washington Post, Robert Samuels reports on what happened when two groups of men — anti-sharia activists and Muslims — decided to meet and have a civil debate:

The men talked for two hours at a branch of the Halal Guys, mostly about Wright’s fear that the mosque was still funding terrorists. Ghouri explained that the mosque’s leadership helps vet donations to ensure they don’t go to bad actors. He explained how their religion is a peaceful one.

“I’m not sure I believed him,” Wright said. “But I did get a free lunch out of it. I had a halal sandwich. That was good s—.”

Wright maintained that he didn’t learn anything about Islam from the conversation, but he allowed that “it changed my perspective a little bit. I have a little more trust for the average Muslim person.”

At first, Ghouri felt that lunch made an impact.

“I think I saw a little bit in him that he did not want to hate Muslims,” Ghouri said. “Maybe over time, he’d change his beliefs.”

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