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. Continue reading
On September 25th, 2009, the first ever Jummah (Friday) Prayer service was held outside the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The prayer event — called “Jummah Prayer: a Day of Islamic Unity” — drew about 3,000 Muslims from around the country. Hassan Abdullah, the head of the Dar-ul-Salaam mosque and one of the main organizers of the event, said that he got the idea for “Islam on Capitol Hill” after watching President Obama’s speech in Cairo this past June. Abdullah believed that the best way to counter continuing negative perceptions of Islam was to join together in a peaceful act that would show the spirituality and diversity of the Muslim communities. Although the event fell far short of its targeted size, the thousands who attended did follow the organizers’ hopes that the Day of Prayer would focus on spirituality and not politics or protest. Continue reading
On August 21st, with Ramadan beginning in most countries the following day, President Obama issued a Ramadan message to Muslim communities around the world. This is another gesture by the President to work on the relations between the United States and Muslims worldwide. For me, though, this message was unique. Growing up as a Muslim American, Ramadan was never formally recognized by the larger American community, except on a local level. President Obama’s more visible efforts to fully incorporate the Muslim American community have led to more awareness–positive awareness, I should say–of Islam and the commonalities that it shares with other faiths.
President Obama has begun his first official visit to Turkey, his first trip to a Muslim country since he was inaugurated president. This trip was announced on an earlier visit to Turkey by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also appeared while in Turkey on the popular news talk show “Come Along with Me” (“Haydi Gel Bizimle Ol”).