U.S. Relations with the Islamic World

2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum: "The Long Conversation"

Wednesday, May 30, 3:00 PM-5:30 PM Doha (8:00 AM-10:30 AM ET)

Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow and Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, United States
Peter Mandaville, Director, Ali Vurak Ak Center for Islamic Studies, George Mason University; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings, United States
Salman Shaikh, Fellow and Director, Brookings Doha Center, Qatar

This year’s signature event, “The Long Conversation,” is an effort to explore the dynamic relationship between citizen, religion, and the state in a changing world. The town hall format of the event allowed for a discussion among all forum participants. The conversation focused on the role of religious authority and institutions in politics, the role of the state in defining and implementing religious laws and moral values, and the role of faith-based societal actors in shaping public affairs and inculcating civic values. As some societies in the Arab world are revising their basic political rules and shaping new state institutions, questions regarding the role of religion in public affairs have come to the fore. What is the appropriate relationship between the state and religious institutions and other faith-based actors, particularly in diverse societies? How can the full rights of all citizens be ensured and who has the authority to determine the boundaries of citizenship? Given the importance to many of religion and religious values as the fundamental basis for determining right from wrong, what are the respective roles of the state and religious institutions in shaping, implementing, and enforcing both religious norms and secular affairs? Who is authorized to define and speak on behalf of religion?