From February 13th-15th, the seventh annual US-Islamic Forum was held in Doha, Qatar. The annual conference, hosted by the Brookings Institution and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings together experts and policymakers from around the Muslim world and the United States. The conference–titled “Writing the Next Chapter”–focused on President Obama’s approach to the Muslim world and his speech in Cairo last June to examine the the changes and opportunities that emerged as a result of Obama’s call to build new bridges. The speech was screened at the opening session of the conference.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the conference and echoed President Obama’s message. Clinton emphasized that President Obama is still committed to fulfilling his promises to work towards a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, to close Guantanamo, to engage countries like Iran through dialogue, and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While recognizing the impatience of many in the Middle East that no tangible change has occurred, she asserted that these kinds of changes require assistance from the worldwide community. The United States, she underscored, cannot do this alone. She went on to discuss the issue of airport security and the need for freedom of expression.
These kinds of platforms are important to push for the need for constructive dialogue, but I think that the impatience stems from real frustrations that grievances are not being addressed. For example, the Obama administration initially took a firm stand on the need for Israel to cease building settlements, but eventually stepped down on that demand. On the other hand the administration continues to increase pressure on Iran. Another example is that there is an emphasis that Muslim Americans are a vital part of America, but many continue to complain of discrimination and profiling, especially in airports. In the Muslim world, there tends to be skepticism towards American foreign policy and while the rhetoric is refreshing, many would prefer to see more action.
What do you think of Secretary Clinton’s speech? Are people justified to be impatient? Can conferences like this build bridges and bring change? Please leave your comments below.