Co-operation between Judeo-Christian US and Muslim World Stressed at GWLaw
By John Murphy


Left to right: Daniel Sutherland, Ambassador Touqir Hussain, Umar Akbar Ahmed, and Dr Nawar Shora

Washington, DC: Cooperation and understanding between a predominantly Judeo-Christian United States and the Muslim world is imperative for the future of the country, and the rest of the world. This was the theme at one lecture in Washington, DC, USA, during The George Washington University Law School’s Annual Human Rights Conference titled, “Democracy and Human Rights in the 21st Century: reviving the Jinnah vision.”
The distinguished panel included Daniel Sutherland, a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Ambassador Tourqir Hussain, former Ambassador for Pakistan to Spain, Japan and Brazil and current visiting scholar at the Center for Globalization at The George Washington University, Dr. Nawar Shora, Director of the Law Enforcement Outreach Program with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and our own Umar Akbar Ahmed, a current LL.M. student at GW Law.
Mr. Ahmed participated in the panel to convey the message to law students, who study alongside Muslim law students everyday and many of whom will work with them in their future careers, that more affirmative effort needs to take place between Americans and Muslims to reduce the current conflict between the cultures and to ensure a lasting peace based on mutual understanding and respect.
That is not to say there are not efforts like these already taking place.

The panelists address the gathering

Mr. Sutherland emphasized the Bush Administration’s continued efforts to fight the war on terror in a way that is respectful of Muslims in the region and throughout the world. From the beginning, Sutherland emphasized, the Bush Administration has realized that winning the “hearts and minds” of Muslims was important in preventing the cause of hatred and terrorism.
Mr. Shora highlighted his organization’s goal of educating those in America who will have the largest impact on our domestic Muslim community. Mr. Shora spends his time educating government agencies (including the FBI), private corporations, churches, and academic institutions about diversity and cultural awareness. Since founding the organization in 2002, he has reached many thousands of individuals here at home and educated them about misunderstandings of Muslims and Islamic culture.
Ambassador Hussain has put his many years of experience with the government of Pakistan towards education at academic institutions. In addition, he regularly contributes op-eds to American and Pakistani newspapers on South Asian security issues, the Kashmir dispute, US–Pakistan relations, political Islam, terrorism, and US relations with the Islamic world. He spoke of how simple dialogue between people from different walks of life, such as the panel he was sitting on, was an important step towards a mutual understanding between Muslims and the West.
Mr. Ahmed wanted to bring together this panel for just that reason. “Talks such as these are the kinds of things we need to do to begin the dialogue that is essential to mending the relations between the United States and Muslims worldwide that have been strained over the past few years. The panel was an opportunity to hear moderate voices speak on issues that are usually dominated by extreme opinions on both sides.”
Ahmed points out the fact that only 16% of Muslims are Arab, a statistic that may surprise many in the US. With the War on Terror on many Americas’ minds, Muslims of all ethnicities in the US have been targeted with fear and suspicion. “With knowledge comes understanding, with understanding comes trust, and only with trust can fellow nations truly be allies.”
Ahmed also believes that Muslims need a symbolic figure to lead them to greater freedom and democracy. As an example, he played a clip from “Jinnah,” a film documenting the life of Mohamed Ali Jinnah, founder of the modern state of Pakistan.
The film characterizes Jinnah as a peaceful man who was trusted by his people, and one who valued many of the principles Jefferson spoke of in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, he managed to include provisions protecting human, women, and minority rights into Pakistan’s Constitution.
Ahmed notes there is a long way to go to bridge the divide between the US and the Muslim world, but, through events like these, we can see a significant change within our lifetimes. He stresses that fellow law students can play a significant role in their daily lives. Just being open, communicative, and honest with visiting Muslims at school and in the city will make goodwill ambassadors of them when they return to their countries.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.