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Bipartisan Group of U.S. Leaders Calls for 'Changed Course' in Relations With the Muslim World


Last 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

"The United 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 tensions.

"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 and understanding."

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
 relations; and
 -- 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 research.

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
 and education.

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,

Additional related information can be found at, 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 in U.S. relations with Muslim countries and communities as well as the group's recommendations for moving forward.

SOURCE U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project

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