US Attorney General
and Secretary of Homeland Security Open Dialogue at Washington
By Mustafa Tameez
Washington, DC: At a
historic event hosted by the European Union Ambassador John
Bruton and Mrs. Bruton, two members of the Bush Cabinet
joined the UK Home Secretary, the Vice President of the
EU and a Muslim elected official with the largest constituency
in North America in opening a dialogue among Muslim leaders
The idea to combine iftar and substantive discussions on
the role of Muslims in the West came from a combination
of efforts by leaders in the US, UK and EU to understand
and engage Muslims in the larger issues affecting society
today. The purpose of the event was to demonstrate the high-level
commitment in engaging with Muslims in the
US and Europe.
The current Vice President of the European Union, Franco
Frattini, opened the discussion with a passionate plea for
elected officials and policy makers to reach out to Muslims
and work together on addressing matters of mutual concern.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke on the valuable
contributions of Muslims in the US and reminded the audience
of President Bush's speech earlier in the day about Islam's
universal message of peace.
UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke spoke from his country's
current position as president of the EU and expressed an
interest in expanding his current dialogue with British
Muslims to a global level.
Secretary Chertoff reminded the participants of the valuable
contributions of immigrants to America's success and of
his own opportunity to succeed in America that was not available
to his immigrant parents and grandparents.
Finally, just before the breaking of the fast, Houston City
Councilman M.J. Khan discussed the need for Muslims to be
part of the solution of problems that are facing our respective
countries. He spoke of the American Dream and how Muslims
in the West have been able to take advantage of the opportunities
available to them.
Many of the participants were pleased at having such an
effective and eloquent spokesperson for Muslims like M.J.
Khan. Leaders like M.J. Khan were recognized by top officials
as the bridge to future dialogue for the larger Muslim community.
Pakistani businessman Hanif Akhtar remarked, "We are
very appreciative of the EU for taking the initiative and
to Secretary Chertoff and Attorney General Gonzales for
taking time out of their busy schedule to attend this historic
event. This is an excellent step in the right direction
and the community looks forward to the next stage in the
The event provided a glimpse into the importance of the
Department of Homeland Security to issues affecting Muslim-Americans.
Secretary Chertoff oversees a department that controls not
only important issues such as immigration, customs, and
emergency management, but serves a pivotal role on the President's
Cabinet to reach out to the Muslim community for input and
education about the role of government in our lives.
As a positive sign of how seriously he takes this role,
Secretary Chertoff took time to meet with every attendee
and stayed well beyond what was expected of a guest of his
stature. He expressed an interest to attend more such events
and help reach out to the Muslim community.