U.S. Relations with the Islamic World

2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum Plenary Sessions

Political Change: The Dynamics of Domestic Transformations
Tuesday, May 29, 11:00 AM-12:45 PM Doha (4:00 AM-5:45 PM ET)

The first plenary of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum took place Tuesday morning, focusing on the subject of domestic transformations in the Middle East and other regions. The panel included Hossam Bahgat, Founder and Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Anies Baswedan, Rector of Indonesia’s Paramadina University; Rached Ghannouchi, Co-Founder of Ennahdha; and Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. Department of State. Salman Shaikh, Director of the Brookings Doha Center, moderated the panel discussion, which focused on the ongoing political developments taking place throughout the Arab and broader Islamic world. Over the course of the panel, Bahgat warned about the threat of polarization compromising the major goals of the Egyptian revolution, while Baswedan compared the experience of Indonesia’s transition to democracy with experiences of countries affected by the Arab Spring, cautioning that democracy is implemented only over time. Among other remarks, Ghannouchi cited the recent revolutions as unique in that they were domestically driven and helped “correct relations with the West.” For her part, Pandith stressed the importance of engaging with youth of Muslim-majority states as they become more politically active particularly with the spread of social media.

A question and answer session covered a variety of related issues, including the protection of minorities in the Middle East’s new democracies, the role of diaspora communities in ongoing political transitions, and the emerging prominence of Islamist parties in the Middle East.

Moderator: Salman Shaikh, Fellow and Director, Brookings Doha Center, Qatar
Panelists: Hossam Bahgat, Founder and Director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt; Anies Baswedan, Rector, Paramadina University, Indonesia; Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Palestine; Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State, United States

Social Change: The Power of Non-State Actors
Wednesday, May 30, 11:15 AM-12:45 PM Doha (4:15 AM-5:45 PM ET)

In a discussion moderated by the Brookings Institution’s Stephen Grand, panelists spoke about the power of non –state actors in promoting social change.  Zainah Anwar, Founder of the Sisters in Islam and Director of Musawah in Malaysia, called for an open, public dialogue on Islam.  Tawakkol Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate from Yemen, spoke of the struggle of the Yemeni people and the achievements of women in the course of the revolution. Rami Nashashibi,  Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in the United States, spoke of the achievements of Muslim Americans in support of civil rights and social services.  And finally, Iqbal Noor Ali, Senior Advisor of the Aga Khan Development Network, highlighted decades of achievement in promoting development around the world, and called on the forum to remember and support the world’s poor and underserved – many of whom reside in the Muslim world.

Moderator: Stephen R. Grand, Fellow and Director, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings, United States
Panelists: Zainah Anwar, Founder, Sisters in Islam; Director, Musawah, Malaysia; Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, Yemen; Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network, United States; Iqbal Noor Ali, Senior Advisor, Aga Khan Development Network, United States

Strategic Change: New Geopolitical Challenges
Thursday, May 31, 11:30 AM-1:15 PM Doha (4:30 AM-6:15 PM ET)

The final plenary of the 2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum focused on the new geopolitical challenges facing the Muslim world at a time of great change, particularly in the Middle East. The panel included Endy Bayuni, Senior Editor of The Jakarta Post; Nabil Fahmy, Dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University of Cairo; Colin Kahl, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security; and Kori Schake, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The discussion was moderated by Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at Brookings. Bayuni spoke about his country’s experience transitioning from a military dictatorship to democracy, highlighting challenges common to all countries in transition.  Fahmy’s remarks meanwhile focused on the contours of a new Egyptian foreign policy post-Mubarak, in particular stressing how democratic governance would change the country’s stance toward its neighbors. Kahl’s spoke about changing U.S. concerns in the Middle East, as they have altered from a focus on Iran, Iraq, and Israel to greater concentration on countries undergoing democratic transitions, while Schake remarked a pulling back of American presence in the Middle East. The plenary was followed by a question and answer session, during which audience members raised issues such as the influence of Iranian nuclear ambitions on the region, the U.S. stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and probable foreign policy of a new U.S. administration.

Moderator: Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy at Brookings, United States
Panelists: Endy Bayuni, Senior Editor, The Jakarta Post, Indonesia; Nabil Fahmy, Dean, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo, Egypt; Colin Kahl, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security, United States; Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Minister, Pakistan; Kori Schake, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, United States