Need to Support New Atmosphere in US-Muslim Relations

  • 11 June 2009

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research yesterday hosted two lectures, one by Dahlia Mujahid—the first female Muslim adviser appointed by the White House, and another by John Esposito—noted Professor at the US Georgetown University. This marks an important contribution that supports and encourages the positive atmosphere influencing relations between Muslims and the US in light of the directions enunciated by the US President Barack Obama in his recent speech to the Islamic world at the Cairo University, especially as the lectures came a few days after the speech. The lectures confirmed the role that the strategic think tanks in the Arab and Islamic worlds could play in charting the map of a new era of relations between Muslims and the West. They can present thoughts, ideas and visions that would enhance the trust between the two sides and eliminate differences and tensions that have increased enormously over the past few years and that various forces from both sides have worked on developing.

Ever since US President Barack Obama made his historic speech to the Islamic world, some forces and movements in Muslim countries have been trying to undermine its importance. They do not find any positive signs in it because they only view relations between Muslims and West in the form of bloody conflict based on confrontation and animosity. The existence and influence of such forces depends on levels of prevailing animosity and therefore the directions of the new US administration is perceived not only as a threat to their principles and ideals but also to their very existence and ability to survive and prosper. These considerations have forced the detractors of the speech to criticize Obama’s speech and hijack Islamic public opinion by downplaying the important changes that have started to appear in US-Muslim relations and between Muslims and the West in general. For this reason, huge responsibility lies with enlightened Arab institutions, forces and elite groups who have a strategic vision based on deep-seated and realistic understanding of the region and national interests of the countries. They should work on preventing forces of radicalism and proponents of confrontationist theories from poisoning the atmosphere. They need to confront them ideologically and expose the limitations of their visions to the Arab and Islamic nations, who welcomed the Obama speech with great adulation.

Many American calls have been made from the highest levels for dialogue, for reaching an understanding and for closing the page on tensions between Muslims and the United States. For those calls to be implemented and for achieving the desired objectives there is a need to strengthen the interaction and dialogue at intellectual and cultural levels, and to cooperate for the firm establishment of a culture of understanding after several years of mistrust and apprehension. This is where the role of the study centers, universities and moderate elite group from both sides should develop. The lecture yesterday at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research expresses this point clearly. It also reflects UAE’s greeting to a new era of Muslim-US relations, and the features that accord with the core of the UAE policy that always calls for dialogue and for building bridges that bring nations and people close irrespective of religion, race, or culture.