2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum Panel Sessions
Arts and Culture Panel
Wednesday, May 30, 8:00 AM-9:00 AM Doha (1:00 AM-2:00 AM ET)
Moderator: Cynthia Schneider, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings, United States
Panelists: Khaled Abol Naga, Actor, Producer, and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Egypt; Saad Mohseni, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, MOBY Group, Afghanistan; Walter Parkes, Film Producer and Writer, Parkes/MacDonald Productions, United States
Walter Parkes of Parkes/McDonald Productions participates in the Arts and Culture Panel at the 2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar
The Arts and Culture Panel of the 2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum focused on the importance of cultural production in shaping the way that societies see themselves and others, and informing political processes. While the demonizing effects of politics are clear to all, moderator Cynthia Schneider asserted, the capacity of culture to humanize is often overlooked. Panelist Saad Mohseni spoke of his experience establishing a media group in Afghanistan after 2001, emphasizing the role that new TV productions had played not only in entertaining, but also in holding institutions to account and facilitating social change. Examining issues such as corruption and the role of police through the medium of TV, has allowed for uninhibited social reflection in ways that had previously been impossible. Film producer Walter Parkes spoke of a similar experience in relation to his work on a soap opera in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Media Company. Good storytelling that reflects human values common to us all, he said, could advance debates on critical social issues – in this case the clash of tradition and modernity in contemporary Emirati culture. Egyptian actor and activist Khaled Abol Naga added that artists have always provided the most honest and true reflection of politics and society – and had shown early warning signs of the Arab Awakenings. Panelists acknowledged a shift to the religious right in the Middle East that could lead to greater censorship. Abol Naga, however, stressed that censorship had always existed, and that artists would continue to find creative ways to push boundaries.
2012 U.S. Presidential Election Panel
Thursday, May 31, 8:00 AM-9:00 AM Doha (1:00 AM-2:00 AM ET)
Moderator: Michael Doran, Senior Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East
Policy at Brookings, United States
Panelists: William A. Galston, Senior Fellow of Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution, United States; Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director and Senior Analyst, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, United States; Shibley Telhami, Senior Nonresident Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings; Anwar Sadat Chair, University of Maryland, United States
This panel from the 2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum focused on the ways that 2012 U.S. presidential elections will affect future engagement with the Middle East, both before and after votes are cast. Panelists agreed that at a time when U.S. publics are largely focused on internal issues, foreign policy will not feature heavily in the lead up to November’s vote – a factor that could, William Galston argued, undermine the importance of Barack Obama’s foreign policy record in influencing voters. Dalia Mogahed and Shibley Telhami identified a relative constancy of attitudes towards U.S. in the Arab world, and said that they too were focused not on foreign policy, but on issues of political stability and economic recovery in the aftermath of recent uprisings. It was agreed that the course and results of elections, however, will have an important impact on policy toward (and in) the region. The foreign policy of a future Romney administration, Galston said, would represent a significant break with Obama’s policies, and would support themes of American exceptionalism, peace through strength, and lack of apology for past conduct. Iran featured heavily in the debate as the one foreign policy issue that could have a game-changing influence on the election. It was said that an Israeli strike on Iran before November would likely have a polarizing effect. While both candidates would probably endorse the move, the rhetorical nuance and degree of enthusiasm in those endorsements would have important impact both on the elections and on a range of long-term foreign policy objectives in the region.