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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Digest

U.S. Relations with the Muslim World:

One Year After Cairo

11th Annual Conference
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Ronald Reagan Building Amphitheater
Washington, DC 20004

CSID 11th Annual Conference Report with Links to Papers

On Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) organized its 11th Annual Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. The conference was perfectly situated amidst the great policy-shaping institutions, many of whose representatives were present and active at the conference. With the increasingly critical and timely theme of “U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year After Cairo,” CSID hosted a diverse range of speakers and participants from around the world to discuss the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s famous Cairo speech in June, 2009, and the road forward in transforming his inspiring and well-intentioned rhetoric into tangible policies and actions. CSID President, Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, and Conference Program Committee Chair and Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies at George Mason University, Dr. Peter Mandaville, joined together in warmly welcoming all conference participants and inviting them to actively listen to, and engage with, the long list of distinguished speakers on the day’s program. Dr. Masmoudi charged all attendees with the responsibility of being proactive in their comments and questions throughout the day, to build and sustain an atmosphere of cooperation, critical engagement, and forward-thinking as CSID moves into its second decade as a leader in restructuring and improving the relationship between the United States and Muslim-majority countries around the world.

 

Farah Pandith
Farah Pandith in bw

The first plenary session of the day was held in the same beautiful amphitheater as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where, two days prior, she addressed the participants of the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, which focused on strengthening ties between business leaders and foundations in the United States and across Muslim-majority countries. As a perfect segue, this opening session, chaired by Dr. Peter Mandaville, featured Farah Pandith, Marc Lynch, Emile Nakhleh, and Daniel Brumberg and addressed the topic, “Perspectives on Muslim Engagement.” Pandith, the U.S. Department of State’s special representative to Muslim Communities, spoke to the “new frame, new tone, new lexicon, and new responsibility” of the Obama administration in relation to the United States’ mindset in fostering relations with Muslim-majority states. The Obama administration, she said, is not just in the business of “winning hearts and minds” with flowery rhetoric, but has invested heavily in cooperation, partnerships, and active engagement with all levels of Muslim society; this has marked by a phenomenal motion in which the entire agency pulled together behind the President. Despite the on-going conflicts causing trouble on the ground, from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to the increase in violent extremism, Pandith remains optimistic, seeing “young people being optimistic about their futures” and the passion and capacity-building efforts already underway.

 

Emile Nakhleh
Emile Nakhleh in bw

Emile Nakhleh [paper], member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Scholar in Residence at the CIA, and former senior analyst and director of political Islam analysis at the White House until 2006, was the second speaker to address the CSID audience this year. He stressed five categories where engagement in pursuit of better relations with Muslim-majority countries is imperative. Nakhleh argued that engagement serves the national interests of the United States, gives stakes to Muslim NGOs in the realization of brighter futures, empowers mainstream Muslims, must go hand-in-hand with a new American foreign policy, and finally, if serious, must include engagement with local Muslim communities in regions where religion plays a central role in daily life. In addition to his recommendations for the future of America’s relationship with Muslim-majority countries, Nakhleh also suggested that, for best results, the European Union join in capacity-building efforts, particularly in the realm of economic development, due to the large number of Muslims within its own member states.

 

Marc Lynch
Marc Lynch in bw

Marc Lynch, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University and non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, followed Dr. Nakhleh as the third speaker on the first plenary session. He addressed the reality of the great extent to which eight years of war and fringe, but loud, organizations have captured media attention and overshadowed the great diversity within the Muslim-majority states. Therefore, national security has remained a priority, as indeed it ought to be, though much needed capacity-building and partnership initiatives have been halted. In terms of dealing with the many different political actors in Muslim-majority countries, Dr. Lynch argues that it is vitally important to talk with the many non-violent Islamic movements around the globe so as to establish the robust and sustainable societies that are so desperately needed. He concluded by congratulating the Obama administration on having turned the page and being on the “right track,” though the slow delivery of crucial policy changes continue to be of concern.

 

Dan Brumberg
Dan Brumberg in bw

Daniel Brumberg, acting Director of the USIP’s Muslim World Initiative in the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention and Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was the final speaker on this first plenary session. He pointed out the fact that while many were happy to see former president George W. Bush leave office and be succeeded by President Barack Hussein Obama, “we are building upon the infrastructure laid out by Bush,” a system that is not altogether negative and at least provides a forum through which progress can be made. Dr. Brumberg covered three main topics during his talk. First, he said that the United States, having assumed the role of the moral leader of the world long ago, must be prepared to address human rights violations of governments around the world. Second, he posited that change must come both “from below and from above,” at the governmental level as well as on the grassroots, local communities level. Third, he emphasized the importance of Muslim communities engaging themselves and sorting through their domestic issues, in lieu of foreign intervention, in order for the influence of the United States to have any real impact in the region. Dr. Brumberg returned to the issue of the Middle East Peace Process, as many of his preceding panelists had, as “the most important issue in the minds of Muslims” around the world.

 

Steven Kull
Steven Kull in bw

After the conclusion of the first plenary session was a short coffee break, during which time conference attendees had to make the tough decision of which of the two morning parallel sessions they would attend. Parallel Session #1, chaired by Dr. Abiodun Williams of the USIP, centered around the title of “Muslim Perceptions & Public Opinion,” and included such renowned speakers as Steven Kull, Chloe Berwind-Dart, and Kristin Lord. The first speaker to address this session was Steven Kull [paper], Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA). His talk focused on the prevailing mentalities in Muslim-majority states and how, to what degree, and in what direction they must change as part of a sustainable landscape for future partnerships and cooperation. He outlined three areas in which the United States must work to improve its position as an equal participant, alongside Muslim-majority states, in building partnerships. First, he says that the United States must diffuse the impression of domination and coercion primarily by respecting national sovereignty. Second, it must “trust the Muslim people” on the issue of democracy, and end the era of intervention. Finally, the United States must change its stand toward moderate Islamist parties, and finally recognize them as inevitable actors in the political landscape in most of these countries.

 

Chloe Berwind-Dart
Chloe Berwind-Dart in bw

The second speaker at the first parallel session wasChloe Berwind-Dart [paper], Director General of the Cherish Foundation, an NGO in Nigeria. Through her research and experiences, she cited a keen “eagerness for change” that she noticed in her interaction with the local communities there, though there remains an underlying vein of skepticism as people realize that Obama is just one man among many. One key insight of her research was how the Cairo speech was regarded as aspiration, instead of a concrete plan of action, where sincerity is seen as dominating “the gap between aspiration and action.” Nigerians largely believe that they had been put on a “collective black-list” because of the actions of one of their nationals – referring to the failed attempted hijacking last Christmas. “There should be an unbreakable bond, she says, “between the actions of the United States and its principles.” Ms. Berwind-Dart ended by stressing the need for trust-building between the United States and the populations of Muslim-majority countries in order for any real change to be enacted.

 

Kristin Lord
Kristin Lord in bw

The last speaker on this first parallel session wasKristin Lord, Vice President and Director of Studies at the Council for a New American Security. Her talk focused on three areas in which she has noticed positive changes by the Obama administration. First, it successfully established a clear break from the previous Bush administration, in issues of both mind and matter. Second, it has begun to try to drive a wedge between combatting terrorism and building relationships with Muslim-majority countries. Third, she noticed a significantly different rhetoric in discussing issues of democracy and human rights between the previous and current administrations. These three changes, Dr. Lord suggests, are representative of changed priorities. The inspiring rhetoric with which the Cairo speech was imbued has unfortunately not delivered enough tangible results, and as such has led to a popular perception that “the Obama bubble has gone down.” In order to keep global spirits high and maintain a willingness to engage with the United States, President Obama ought to deliver on the promises outlined in the Cairo speech, and soon.

 

Halim Rane
Halim Rane in bw

At the same time as the above mentioned session was a second parallel session titled “Islam, Human Rights, and Development.” Presenting on this session, with Mona Yacoubian of the USIP as the presiding chair, were Satoshi Ikeuchi, Oliver Wilcox & Chris Carneal, Halim Rane, and Corinna Mullin-Lery. The first to present on this panel was Halim Rane [paper], Deputy Director of the Griffith Islamic Research Unit and a Lecturer in the National Centre of Excellence in Islamic Studies at Griffith University, Australia. Dr. Rane’s talk centered around the evolving landscape of political Islam around the world, and the correspondingly changing positions of the Obama administration in American foreign policy. Through his research, Dr. Rane has noted a maturation of Islamic movements throughout Muslim-majority states, which has been facilitated by an “accomodationist posture” of the Obama administration, which rests on three central factors: first, on the strategic value of the context to the United States; second, on the ready “acceptance of the U.S. economic and strategic goals”; and third, on a sincere commitment to the principles of democracy. As Dr. Rane suggests, “the trend of political Islam and U.S. foreign policy is towards mutual accommodation rather than further confrontation.”

 

Satoshi Ikeuchi
Satoshi Ikeuchi in bw

Satoshi Ikeuchi [paper], Associate Professor at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo and a visiting fellow at Clare Hall College at the University of Cambridge, was the second speaker of this second parallel session. His talk focused on the interesting relationship between positions on human rights in Islamic contexts with international declarations on human rights. Dr. Ikeuchi informed the audience that, in fact, there have been significant attempts to “create Islamic laws in line with universal human rights laws.” While the differences between the letter of these laws are miniscule, the perceptions of them, particularly in the United States, leave lasting marks on their real-world applicability. Dr. Ikeuchi turned to an assessment of President Obama’s efforts to assuage negative perceptions of “the other” in both the “West” and in the “Muslim World,” and the importance of such efforts by an American president, particularly in contrast to past U.S. administrations.

 

Oliver Wilcox and Chris Carneal
Oliver Wilcox and Chris Carneal in bw

Taking up the third slot as presenters in this second parallel session was the research team ofOliver Wilcox, Senior Development Advisor at the Middle East Bureau, and Chris Carneal, Education Development Specialist in the Asia and Middle East Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). They presented findings and identified areas for further work on “Arab Youth Development in U.S.-Muslim Engagement.” Drawing on current research and extensive field experience, Wilcox and Carneal find that key youth challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions reside not only in education and employment but in other areas as well: education systems do not prepare youth for existing labor markets; jobs are increasingly limited for Arab university graduates; and opportunities for civic and political engagement are constricted. The Obama administration’s emphasis on expanding partnerships, they observe, has the potential to build linkages between U.S. and MENA youth-serving organizations. At the same time, greater strategic coordination in youth initiatives and programs could help in maximizing the impact of such enagement.

 

Corinna Mullin-Lery
Corinna Mullin-Lery

The last speaker on this parallel session was Corinna Mullin-Lery, an Economic and Social Research Council (ERSC) Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. Dr. Mullin-Lery’s talk focused on the topic of “The Impact of the Modern Rationalist Approach on the U.S. Discourse on Political Islam.” In the paper, Dr. Mullin-Lery examined the legacy of the discourse on political Islam in the context of George W. Bush’s “war on terror”, reflecting on the role it has performed in constructing and affirming the United States’ self-identity as a beacon of “democracy,” “progress” and “modernity” in contradistinction to an Islamist “other”. She also considered whether or not a real paradigm shift has occurred regarding the way in which Islamist movements are viewed and engaged by the Obama administration. Dr. Mullin-Lery then went on to discuss one of the principal ways in which the “modern rationalist” paradigm impacts analyses of political Islam, and the foreign policies they spawn, namely through the “ideologization of terror” approach, which views political Islam through “the lens of the ‘fundamentalist threat’. Dr. Mullin-Lery concluded her paper by arguing that Obama’s agenda thus far, though seeking to eschew some of the more polarized language and Manichean worldview associated with the Bush administration, as best evidenced in his Cairo speech, is still tarred by the logic, and confined by the parameters, of the “war on terror” discourse.

 

Tariq Ramadan
Tariq Ramadan in bw

After the end of the first two parallel sessions came the time for the keynote speakers, Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Dr. Reza Aslan, at the keynote luncheon. For the addresses of these two much anticipated and renowned scholars, Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s fifth district introduced the two speakers by opening the conversation on the topic of “Prospects for Improved Relations and Understanding Between the U.S. and the Muslim World.” Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies and Theology at Oxford University and President of the think-tank European Muslim Network (EMN), was the first of the two speakers to make his address. Dr. Ramadan began by expressing his reactions to the famous Cairo speech delivered by the President in June, 2009, as having noted the speech as being “very profound and well structured.” President Obama, Dr. Ramadan said, duly recognized the importance of words and terms, as he rightly excluded terms like “Muslim/Islamic World” and language resembling the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric of the previous Bush administration. Dr. Ramadan stressed the imperative of American Muslim engagement with the political landscape, which begins at the level of education, as he rightly pointed out. American Muslims, he stressed, need to take a constructive, critical approach to politics and leading politicians, but must also be ready for self-criticism when and where it is appropriate.

 

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan in bw

Reza Aslan, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside and internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions started from an interesting position: looking back to an earlier ‘Cairo speech’ delivered by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in which the language of “democracy-promotion’ first surfaced.While most American Muslims regarded the speech to be a “cynical ploy” to dominate the Muslim World, Muslims around the world thought the exact opposite, and were excited about future prospects and dealings with the United States. Though the Bush rhetoric quickly evaporated amidst the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama successfully revived it, but with changed rhetoric and a clear departure from the agenda of the previous administration. While the promises made by President Obama during that speech were exciting enough, Dr. Aslan said he hesitated “to give Obama a grade because, while I like his thesis, I have yet to see the paper.” Indeed, we are all watching with anxious anticipation to see Obama’s plans unfold.

 

Mustapha Khalfi
Mustapha Khalfi in bw

A second plenary session immediately followed the keynote luncheon event. With the title of “Dialogue with Political Islamists,” and chaired by Dan Brumberg of the USIP, it featured Mustapha Khalfi, Halim Rane, Salah Ali Abdulrahman, and Quinn Mecham. The first to take the floor was Mustapha Khalfi, who is the Director of the Moroccan Center for Contemporary Research and Studies and is also a member of the national council of the Justice and Development party (PJD) in Morocco. Khalfi’s address presented an intriguing look into the political dynamics playing out in Morocco. He argued that, despite the fears of the United States and many Western allies that opening political fields to all participants will give leeway to radical Islamic parties, increased “political participation does change Islamic movements and parties” for the better, as they become flexible on their platform issues in order to garner support come election season; “The democratic system works,” said Khalfi, “we just need to give it a chance.”

 

Halim Rane
Halim Rane in bw

The second speaker on this plenary panel session wasHalim Rane [paper], Deputy Director of the Griffith Islamic Research Unit and a Lecturer in the National Centre of Excellence in Islamic Studies at Griffith University, Australia. With his expertise in South Asian Islamic movements and parties, Dr. Rane spoke about the difficulties faced by first generation parties in “attracting a multiplicity and diversity of constituencies” because of their outdated approaches. By embracing the new “maqasid” (higher objectives) approach to the formation of their platform issues, the new generation of Islamic parties has, by and large, joined the ‘West’ in advocating “principles of democracy, human rights, healthcare, economic prosperity” while remaining true to their Islamic traditions and practices. “On what grounds then,” asked Dr. Rane, “can the United States dismiss these parties in its push for democracy?”

 

Salah Ali Abdulrahman
Salah Ali Abdulrahman

Salah Ali Abdulrahman [paper], Deputy Speaker of the Representatives Council of Bahrain – among many other positions he presently holds – was the third speaker to address the plenary session at the conference. Dr. Abdulrahman began by addressing the reasons for the ‘West’ to engage Islamist parties throughout Muslim-majority countries, such as that political Islam is “the single most active political actor in the Muslim and Arab Worlds” and that they “represent the future of the region” as they are the most popular movements in these regions. Instead of excluding them, Dr. Abdulrahman says that the United States ought to seek engagement with the many moderate Islamist parties that could present the antidote for extremism, adding that the U.S. should judge each actor on an individual level, and not lump all Islamist parties together.

 

Quinn Mecham
Quinn Mecham

The final speaker at this plenary session was Quinn Mecham, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College and currently working in Policy Planning at the US Department of State. Dr. Mecham agreed with the overwhelming consensus that in improving relations with the ‘Muslim World,’ the United States must stop the indiscriminate exclusion of Islamist parties and movements from the table. The bottom line is, as Dr. Mecham put it, that “these movements matter; they represent constituencies” that cannot be ignored. This does not mean that the United States ought to give preferential treatment to these parties though; this would likely hurt the credibility of the democratic process as it would fuel the allegations of the “perceived double standard.” One year after Cairo, Dr. Mecham notes a distinct and encouraging readiness expressed by the Obama administration in promoting political pluralism, not just in focusing on Islamist parties but on the process as a whole.

 

Nabila Hamza
Nabila Hamza

Following this second plenary session was a brief coffee break, during which the conference participants got a chance to catch up with speakers who peaked their interests during the previous sessions. The first, on the topic of “Voices from the Muslim World,” featured Nabila Hamza, Moataz A. Fattah, Alaya Allani, and Abdullah Al-Ahsan, with Emad El-Din Shahin of the University of Notre Dame as the presiding chair. The first speaker on this panel wasNabila Hamza [paper], President of the Foundation For the Future (FFF), an independent and multilateral institution aiming to promote democracy, human rights, active citizenship and good governance throughout the MENA region. Mrs. Hamza spoke directly through her experiences and research on civil society organizations (CSO) in the MENA region. She emphasized the increase in number and prominence of CSOs, though they face legal and governmental obstacles to fulfilling their work, as well as having a weak capacity to network with international CSOs. The diverse body of works by CSOs have given the populations of MENA countries opportunities to be trained in “networking, management, and negotiating,” thus making them indispensable and central to future progress in these regions.

 

Moataz A. Fattah
Moataz A. Fattah

The second speaker on this parallel session panel wasMoataz A. Fattah, assistant professor in the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Through his studies and research, Dr. Fattah presented polling statistics pulled from the youth of Egypt and Jordan on their perceptions of United States. He found that despite the general trend revealing negative attitudes toward the United States, 25% of those two populations, overwhelmingly young people, think otherwise. Given the long history of relationships between these two Arab countries and the United States, it is interesting to notice the impact the Obama administration has had on these populations, particularly in determining future courses of action on the ground. Several issues, among them the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the issue of democracy promotion, remain hot-button issues swaying public perceptions of the United States, though time will tell whether President Obama will deliver on his promises.

 

Alaya Allani
Alaya Allani

Alaya Allani [paper], professor of Contemporary History at the University of Tunis, was the third speaker to address the attentive audience of this session after the luncheon. Dr. Allani’s presentation focused on identifying the barriers and obstacles that have prevented “the Obama plan,” the set of ideas and policies outlined in the Cairo speech, from being fully realized. First. Dr. Allani argued that the set of internal predicaments facing the Obama administration have been great, and have taken priority over some foreign policy issues. Second, it remains to be seen whether the United States will remain a hegemony of international power or whether it will be eclipsed by the European Union and China. Third President Obama is but one individual, thus the responsibility to ensure the realization of his words rests primarily on interested parties within the United States, namely American Muslims. Dr. Allani ended with two suggestions for the Obama administration: first, to organize religious and cultural activities that would aim to better educate the American public on Islam and Muslims and second, to hold a summit conference in which representatives of the U.S. government and Muslim-majority states meet to discuss progress and future project prospects.

 

Abdullah Al-Ahsan
Abdullah Al-Ahsan in bw

The last speaker on this first parallel session wasAbdullah Al-Ahsan, a professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) at the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Dr. Al-Ahsan notably referred to President Obama and his administration as the “olive branch” of the modern world, by rejecting the “clash of civilizations thesis” and reawakening the hopes and aspirations of millions around the world. The new readiness of the American administration to engage with Islamist movements has shown is exciting, though the problem, as Dr. Al-Ahsan suggested, is the domestic rifts existing in Muslim-majority states, like Pakistan, where “the demands for an Islamic state and rule on the basis of shari’ah” run high among the population. Particularly with respect to the crisis situation emanating from the Afghan-Pakistan border, Dr. Al-Ahsan finds the best solution to be in the empowerment of the Organization of the Islamic Conference troops; he suggested the replacement of NATO troops with those of the OIC, who would be better equipped to “engage with all elements in the conflict.”

 

Laila Taraghi
Laila Taraghi in bw

The second parallel session after the luncheon, with the title of “Democracy and Democracy Promotion,” featured Laila Taraghi, Stephen Zunes, Eric Patterson, and Brian Katulis, with Asma Afsaruddin of Indiana University as the presiding chair. Laila Taraghi [paper], a student pursuing her MA in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, was the first panelist to speak. Speaking on the topic of “Evaluating Obama’s Contributions to Iran’s Democratic Opposition,” Ms. Taraghi said that Iran’s history in fact shows that”activities to promote democracy by foreign powers in the face of a lack of normalized state relations creates more dissent and controversy and can be counterproductive” to the aims. While Obama’s strengths lie in diplomacy, his weakness is mainly the lack of commitment to sustaining long-term negotiations, Taraghi said. In light of the long history of difficult relations between the United States and Iran, President Obama must focus on creating an atmosphere of “mutual respect,” a gesture “required to move forward” because of the overwhelming public perceptions in Iran of the United States dictating commands with which it expects the Iranians to comply. In the new era of politics beckoned forth by President Obama, remaining steadfast in the face of difficult talks and negotiations is the best and most crucial advice.

 

Stephen Zunes
Stephen Zunes in bw

Stephen Zunes [paper], professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies, followed Ms. Taraghi’s presentation with his own that centered on the title “The Role of the U.S. in Encouraging Pro-Democracy Movements.” According to Professor Zunes, though it was a welcome departure from the Bush administration, Obama’s Cairo speech “failed to use this opportunity to call on the autocratic Saudi and Egyptian leaders… to end their repression and open up their corrupt and tightly controlled political systems.” He warned the audience to not fall into a kind of nostalgia for the pro-democracy push made by the previous administration, however, since the Bush administration actually increased support for allied repressive regimes and used “democracy” as an excuse for war and conquest. It was the backlash against this policy which has caused “the Obama administration’s reluctance to more forcefully defend those struggling for freedom and human rights.” Fortunately, the history of non-violent pro-democracy struggles in Muslim-majority countries and related mobilization of domestic civil societies have played a far more significant role in advancing freedom than outside intervention. While the history of Western interventionism makes it problematic in most cases for the U.S. government to directly support such struggles, Dr. Zunes argued that exile communities, NGOs, and global civil society could play an important role in strengthening these popular movements.

 

Eric Patterson
Eric Patterson in bw

The third speaker on this second parallel session wasEric Patterson [paper], Assistant Director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Dr. Patterson called the audience’s attention to the phrase repeatedly uttered by President Obama: “We must support strong and sustainable democratic governments,” and explained that it seems clear that what is meant by “sustainable democratic governments” is the existence of certain institutions (legislature, judiciary, police force, etc). This emphasis on the institutions of democracy rather than on its principles represents a continuity from the Bush era of politics, despite the warm reception of the Cairo speech around the world. Dr. Patterson therefore recommended that if the Obama administration is serious about transforming rhetoric into actions on the ground, it ought to increase direct and indirect support for civil societies, or at least follow through in its support for the institutions of sustainable democracy.

 

Brian Katulis
Brian Katulis in bw

Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where his work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia, was the closing speaker on this session. Analysis of historical trends in policy toward Muslim-majority states shows that the United States “simply provides a blank check” to governments while rhetorically advocating democracy and human rights. Made visible by is massive military presence around the world, the priorities of the United States has clearly not been on democracy promotion, according to Mr. Katulis; “Our current approach does not foster citizenship or a relationship between the governing and the governed.” There must therefore be a reorganizing of priorities domestically in order for the United States to be able to shift its policies internationally.

 

Rashad Hussain
Rashad Hussain in bw

Then came the time for the third and final plenary session, the concluding keynote address, during which CSID was proud to host Rashad Hussain, U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Mr. Hussain assured the conference participants of the sincere efforts made by the Obama administration in reaching out to Muslim communities around the world and begin working towards a new positive relationship with them, efforts promised during President Obama’s campaign for the presidency and began in his inaugural address. While the administration seeks lasting solutions to the many political conflicts around the world, Mr. Hussainemphasized the importance of “planting the seeds,” by focusing on such things as education, entrepreneurship, science and technology, that will provide the foundations for these societies once solutions to the political conflicts are found.

 

After the conclusion of the final keynote address, many remained lingering in the amphitheater, still deeply engaged in conversations on the future of relations with Muslim-majority countries, even after the long hours and numerous compelling speeches of the conference. The topic of “U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year After Cairo” was indeed very timely and energizing for the over 250 attendees at this year’s annual conference. The discussions sparked by the wide-range of topics presented are never-ending, and must continue for comprehensive strategies and action plans to be recommended, drafted, and duly executed by the current and future administrations. As one of the nation’s leading think-tank organizations in educating the American population and its political leadership on the realities of Muslim communities around the world, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy remains steadfast and resolved in its commitment to usher in a new age of positive practical relations between the United States and Muslim-majority countries as a keystone to addressing the world’s most complex conflicts.

 

 

* This report was written by Mariem Masmoudi, senior at UNC Chapel Hill, currently finishing her B.A. in political science and religious studies.

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