US Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security Open Dialogue at Washington Iftar
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 and US/EU
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 dialogue."
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.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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