Essay: Why I Asked GOP Candidates About Promoting Tolerance

Nabela Noor, lifestyle and beauty vlogger Courtesy of Nabela Noor

On Jan. 23, I filmed my question at the Youtube Space in Los Angeles, California for the Republican debate. My question, originally intended for Donald Trump, was powerful and direct. I was proud of my delivery and even more proud of YouTube, Google, and Fox News for welcoming a fresh perspective to the debate. This was huge - for me, my family, our community, and this country. This was an opportunity to start a dialogue on an important issue.

Then, Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the debate. At first, I swore it was just a rumor and that he would still participate in the debate and answer my question. When I realized that Mr. Trump would in fact skip the debate, my heart sank. That was it. I thought I had lost my chance.

Then I realized that this conversation needed to happen, with or without Trump. Even better, the entire team at YouTube, Google, and Fox wholeheartedly agreed, so we moved forward. We drafted an alternate question that still touched on the issues I wanted to cover while being applicable to all candidates on stage. We filmed my updated question in Iowa on the day of the debate, and hoped for the best.

Lifestyle vlogger Nabela Noor was one of three YouTubers who participated in the Republican debate, held Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. Fox News/YouTube

I couldn't tell you exactly what I hoped to hear from the candidates. I knew that politicians normally come prepared with talking points and fluffy statements that perfectly tie into a voter-approved bow.

However, I also knew that there are occasional moments of full transparency and honesty. I guess I hoped that maybe this question could spark an honest, sincere conversation.

When my question finally aired, the moderator directed it towards Jeb Bush. His answer was polite and detailed. He even referenced Donald Trump's ban of all Muslims, which he seemed to passionately oppose.

But Mr. Bush himself has proposed a policy to only accept Syrian refugees who are Christian. So, while I appreciate his respectful response, I know that it is going to take more than platitudes about being tolerant of American citizens to actually change how Muslims in America are treated.

After the debate, the response from the country poured in. I received tweets, YouTube comments, Facebook comments, emails — a surge of commentary that, at first, was overwhelmingly negative. When my participation in the debate was initially announced, I experienced backlash from conservative bloggers, but this was nothing in comparison to the messages I received after my question aired.I couldn't escape the graphic images tweeted to me, the death threats, the insults, the body-shaming, and the bigoted remarks. It was brutal.

However, within a few hours, some major news outlets began to extend their support with powerful articles that shared exactly what happened: a Muslim-American woman addressed the culture of hatred and Islamophobia in America during a Republican debate.

RELATED: YouTuber to Candidates at GOP Debate: How Will You Address 'Culture of Hatred'?

So, why do all of this? Why go on national television and ask a Republican candidate about how they plan to promote tolerance in the United States?

Because the anti-Muslim rhetoric has led to increased tension and violence in this country — violence directed not just at Muslims, but also Sikhs and others who have been mistakenly associated with terrorism.

I asked this question for the girls who have been harassed for wearing the hijab, for the members of the mosques and temples that have been defaced and targeted by arsonists, for the hardworking business owners who have been attacked for their beliefs.

I asked this question to start a conversation. To bring to light a growing problem in America. To remind the American people that hate only makes ISIS stronger in their message. To encourage building relationships instead of barriers, and maybe learning in the end that we're not so different after all.

Nabela Noor is a lifestyle and beauty vlogger whose YouTube videos focus on for DIY ideas, fashion inspiration, beauty tips, and more.

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