Bipartisan Group of U.S. Leaders Calls for 'Changed
Course' in Relations With the Muslim World
update: 12:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 24, 2008
WASHINGTON, Sept 24, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via
COMTEX/ -- Leaders Call 'Global War on Terror' an Inadequate Response, Propose
Comprehensive U.S.-Muslim Relations Strategy to Prevent Another 9/11
"Few challenges matter more than reducing distrust and
misunderstanding between the United
States and people living in Muslim majority
states. This timely report is a groundbreaking, stereotype-shattering and
thought-provoking contribution to that essential cause."
-- Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State,
member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's Leadership Group
States needs to make a significant shift in
our relations with Muslim countries, relying more on diplomacy and helping lay
the foundation for democratic development."
-- Richard Armitage, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
and Leadership Group member
Today at the National Press Club, the bipartisan Leadership
Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project released its report entitled
Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World.
The report argues that the Global War on Terror has been an
inadequate framework for improving our security and preventing future 9/11s. It
proposes a comprehensive strategy with concrete actions to reverse extremism,
increase U.S. and
international security and improve U.S. relations with Muslim
countries and communities. The report also calls upon Muslim leaders to take
reciprocal steps to improve relations.
This morning, several members of this Leadership Group
briefed House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) on
the report. Rep. Berman welcomed the report, stating, "This study explores
in depth one of the central global challenges of our time: developing
harmonious relations between Muslim-majority countries and the West. It offers
thoughtful, creative, and multi-faceted proposals for meeting that challenge.
Congress should give those proposals the fullest possible consideration."
The report asserts that the much-publicized debate between
the United States
and the Muslim world is not as deep or irreconcilable as many believe. Policies
and actions -- not a clash of civilizations -- are at the root of these
"The best available public opinion research shows that
the vast majority of Muslims share core interests and values with the citizens
of the United States: economic opportunity, political freedom and the rule of
law," said Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director of the Gallup Center for
Muslim Studies, and a member of the Leadership Group. "Only a tiny
minority of Muslims is involved in violence against the United States
and its allies. The extremists' ability to recruit, operate, and inflict harm
depends on a more widespread set of active and passive supporters. We believe
that our strategy can reduce the base of support for extremism."
At the core of the strategy is a "four pillar
approach." Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained,
"The key to moderating extremism is a comprehensive policy that addresses
the main sources of tension. Together with partners in the Muslim world, we
should employ diplomacy to reduce conflict, technical assistance to improve
governance, economic help to create jobs, and dialogue to build mutual respect
Leadership Group member and former U.S. Representative Vin
Weber elaborated that, "The Leadership Group, the U.S. military and U.S. public all recognize the
limits of military force, and the need for a more comprehensive set of tools to
resolve conflicts with and within Muslim countries. By clarifying our approach,
we will also help to reverse the widespread perception among Muslims around the
world that the United States
is engaged in a 'war on Islam.' The Leadership Group believes that the United States
can and should use diplomacy far more proactively to resolve the major
conflicts we now face. We may not succeed in all cases, but the possible
benefits of direct engagement with both allies and adversaries are much bigger
than the costs."
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking minority member of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, circulated the report to his Senate
colleagues, saying, "The Project's report offers a thoughtful analysis of
the current state of America's
relations with the Muslim world and constructive recommendations on how we can
approach this pressing concern in a bipartisan framework."
The report, a project of Search for Common Ground and the
Consensus Building Institute, presents the first senior leadership consensus on
a comprehensive new strategy for U.S. policy and action in the Muslim world;
the diverse, bipartisan members of the Leadership Group include: Madeleine
Albright, Richard Armitage, Ziad Asali, Steve Bartlett, Paul Brest, Red
Cavaney, Daniel Christman, Stephen Covey, Thomas Dine, Marc Gopin, Stephen
Heintz, Shamil Idriss, Daisy Khan, Derek Kirkland, Richard Land, Robert Jay
Lifton, Denis J. Madden, John Marks, Susan Collin Marks, Ingrid Mattson,
Sayyeda Mirza-Jafri, Dalia Mogahed, Vali Nasr, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Rob Rehg,
Dennis Ross, S. Abdallah Schleifer, Jessica Stern, Mustapha Tlili, William Ury,
Vin Weber, Daniel Yankelovich, Ahmed Younis and Dov S. Zakheim.
The Leadership Group's report also includes calls for
immediate action by the next president, urging him to:
-- Spotlight the critical importance of improving U.S.-Muslim relations in
his inaugural address;
-- Immediately reaffirm U.S. commitment to prohibit all forms of torture;
-- By April 2009, initiate a major effort to resolve regional conflicts in
the Middle East, particularly Iran and Israel;
-- By July 2009, co-convene a business-government summit on economic
reform, growth and job creation in the Middle East;
-- Organize and lead a government-wide initiative to improve U.S.-Muslim
-- Create and fund a global initiative for teaching, learning and exchange
among citizens in the United States and in Muslim countries, working
with the Congress, U.S. education and business leaders, and Muslim
Beyond just outlining goals, the Leadership Group's report
provides many insights on the complex texture of U.S.-Muslim relations, and
uses those insights to drive new strategies for engaging Muslim communities.
For example, the report contextualizes Muslim extremism by presenting the full
prism of global Muslim public opinion revealed by recent comprehensive
In many areas, the Leadership Group's fresh thinking will
help advance currently dead-locked debates, including ideas on how to:
-- Move beyond "preconditions/no preconditions" in engaging Iran
-- Use U.S. interests and principles as drivers for determining an Iraq
-- Promote non-violent, pluralist politics in Muslim countries without
imposing a particular set of institutions, parties or leaders;
-- Engage Middle Eastern youth by creating new employment opportunities and
economic reform; and
-- Transform public diplomacy by dramatically expanding government-civil
society partnerships, people-to-people exchange and cultural engagement
Leadership Group member and former American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Executive Director, Tom Dine, summed up the
importance of this work, "It is late in the day, but never too late, for
American policy makers to alter their mindset about Islam and the Muslim
communities, and to try to act on the common ground that exists between the
peoples and government of the United States and global Muslim societies.
Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World is a
basic primer for policy makers of the next American administration."
There is more information on the project Web site, www.USMuslimEngagement.org.
Additional related information can be found at www.ChangeTheStory.net,
a site developed in cooperation and consultation with the staff of the
U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project that shows how increased understanding and
respect can cross lines of faith and culture.
The U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project is a joint initiative of
Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute aimed at
improving U.S. and
international security and improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
The Leadership Group for the project comprises a distinguished group of
American leaders with diverse political viewpoints, cultural backgrounds and
professional skills who have worked together to create a new set of strategies
for improving relations. Their report, Changing Course: A New Direction for
U.S. Relations with the Muslim World, presents the challenges and opportunities
relations with Muslim countries and communities as well as the group's
recommendations for moving forward.
SOURCE U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project