APRIL 11, 2011
In the Obama Administration’s continuing effort to befriend Muslims, the United States will for the first time host an international Islamic forum held annually in the Middle East and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will headline the three-day event.Created to address issues critical to Arabs and Muslims, the U.S.-Islamic World Forum will come to Washington D.C. this week after eight years in Qatar. Clinton will be America’s friendly host for the duration of the event, which begins Tuesday, and will deliver the keynote address at a gala dinner on the first day.Last year Clinton was the first senior member of a U.S. administration to participate in the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, which was held in February in Doha. At the event she announced President Obama’s “new era of diplomatic engagement” with nations that have been “hostile to the United States” and promised to close the military prison at Guantanamobecause it had “become a symbol of the wrong way to make America more secure.”President Obama also participated via a video message that called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” The commander-in-chief outlined a “government-wide approach” to improve the daily lives of Muslims and a commitment from senior administration officials—such as Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano—to engage Muslim communities in the U.S.Obama pledged to seek new partnerships in Muslim communities around the world and touted his efforts to engage with “faith leaders” and “civil society groups” to improve the nation’s relationship with Muslims. The efforts are necessary, according to Obama, because the “United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.”A similar message is expected to be delivered at this year’s conference, which is being promoted as a platform for dialogue at the highest level between U.S. and Muslim public officials. The focus in Washington will be on the rapid, turbulent change in the Middle East and implications for Muslims around the world. The goal is to foster unique, positive relationships between policy makers business, cultural and religious leaders from across the Muslim world and the United States.Bringing the Islamic forum to the U.S. is simply the latest of many Muslim outreach efforts for the administration. In the last year alone Napolitano discussed national security matters with a group of extremist Muslim organizations, the nation’s space agency (NASA) was ordered to focus on Muslim diplomacy and Clinton signed a special order to allow the reentry of two radical Islamic academics whose terrorist ties long banned them from the U.S.The Obama Administration also sent an America-bashing mosque leader (Feisal Abdul Rauf) who blames U.S. foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks on a Middle Eastern outreach mission and ordered a government-funded meal program for home-bound seniors to offer halal cuisine prepared according to Islamic law. The Justice Department also created a special Arab-American and Muslim Engagement Advisory Group to foster greater communication, collaboration and a new level of respect between law enforcement and Muslim and Arab-American communities.
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