Third Annual US-Islamic
World Forum in Doha
Doha, Qatar: The "US-Islamic
World Forum" in Doha, Qatar broke new ground over last
weekend as it tackled the issue of democratization in the
Muslim World. The three-day event was the third annual conference
sponsored by the Brookings Institution and hosted by the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar. Several comments throughout
the Forum represented a significant public shift in US engagement
with the Muslim world.
Ambassador Martin Indyk, Director of the Saban Center for
Middle East Policy at Brookings, led the conference and
expressed satisfaction over the progress in these conferences.
Indyk underscored the importance of holding the conference
in the Muslim world.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State J. Scott Carpenter compared
the democratic challenges facing autocratic regimes in the
region with the "winds of change" which turned
communist Eastern European and oppressive Latin American
regimes to democracies in the 1980s. He announced that the
United States government would not oppose "Islamist"
parties who plan to run in upcoming elections. He also emphasized
how the US is currently working with the Islamic political
groups who lead the current Iraqi and Turkish governments.
Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland
and a senior fellow with the Saban Center, cited the examples
of Ayatollah Al-Sistani in Iraq and the appointment of Ibrahim
Al-Jaafari as Prime Minister as demonstrations of the willingness
of the United States to engage with "Islamist"
"These dialogues have a tremendous impact in developing
mutual and realistic understanding between diverse Muslim
groups and the US government," said Executive Director
Salam Al-Marayati, who participated in the conference. "We
are only at the beginning of this critical dialogue, yet
Brookings has done an effective job in initiating a serious
The Forum is directed by Brookings Senior Fellow Peter Singer,
who has worked with Professor Muqtedar Khan, Non-resident
Fellow, to develop the American Muslim Group on Policy Planning
"This conference shows that the shadow of 9/11 is receding,"
said Khan, "and people are getting more serious about
the realities of the Muslim world."
Nearly one-third of the over 150 participants in the conference
were from the United States. Members of the past and present
US government engaged with representatives of Muslim governments
and non-governmental organizations. Delegates from the Muslim
world shared their frustration in anticipating democratic
reform of governments under the cloud of "colonial
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim,
also riveted the crowd with his critique of leaders of Islamic
movements. He complained about the obsession of ulema (scholars)
to condemn personal attire they consider outside the Islamic
normative, while turning a blind eye to corruption and oppression
of regimes who claim to rule in the name of Islam. He further
stated that no Muslim-majority state can call itself an
Islamic state until it demonstrates an impeccable record
on human rights.
Farid Senzai, Director of Research at the Institute for
Social Policy and Understanding, said the conference "attempted
to answer not when, but how we must dialogue with one another."
Radwan Masmoudi, President of the Center for the Study of
Islam and Democracy, said, "Discussions this year were
more open and focused on the need to network with and support
democratic movements, both secular and Islamic, in the region."
American Muslims can play a vital role in US policy-making
and as a moderating influence on Muslim affairs worldwide.