U.S. Relations with the Islamic World

2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum Working Groups

2012 U.S.-Islamic World Forum: Preview of Working Group Sessions

Democratic Transitions
Conveners: Salman Shaikh, Director, Brookings Doha Center, and Shadi Hamid, Director of Research, Brookings Doha Center
Convened by the Brookings Doha Center, this working group addressed the emerging tensions that threaten prospects for successful democratic transitions, with a focus on Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. These countries are facing growing ideological polarization and severe economic challenges. The working group discussed the extent to which the transitions in these three countries are comparable, what lessons can be learned, and the necessary steps to ensure smooth transitions. This group brought together Arab activists and leaders along with U.S. and European officials to discuss the appropriate role for the international community in supporting democratic transitions.
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Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa
Conveners: Syed Iqbal Hasnain, Consultant, Stimson Center, David Michel, Director, Environmental Security Program, Stimson Center, and Amit Pandya, Lawyer and Author
Convened with support from the Stimson Center, this interdisciplinary working group comprised of experts in water science, policy, and related disciplines. The group sought to improve understanding of water issues in the Middle East and North Africa, build stronger cooperative relationships, and identify intellectual and technical resources (such as data, modeling and remote sensing tools, best practices, policy approaches, and institutional insights) that could be adapted, applied, or shared across the region.
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Developing New Mechanisms to Promote the Muslim Charitable Sector
Conveners: Dean Dilley, Senior Partner, Patton Boggs LLP, and Elizabeth Ryan, Associate, Patton Boggs LLP
Zakat (charity) is one of the pillars of Islam and an important expression of religious faith for Muslims worldwide. In pursuing important anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering objectives, the United States and many other governments have implemented aggressive law enforcement programs to investigate, sanction, and prosecute organizations suspected of disbursing funds for illegal purposes—including, in some cases, charitable organizations. During the past decade, several highly publicized government investigations and international counterterrorism efforts have resulted in a chilling effect on well-intentioned donor activity within the charitable sector and among Muslim-focused charities in particular. President Barack Obama acknowledged this problem specifically in his 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt. This working group convened key stakeholders to consider this new challenge to philanthropic giving and to develop practical solutions. Among other possible solutions, the group examined the feasibility of a newly established, independent organization dedicated to evaluating Muslim charities and charities operating in Muslim-majority countries, with the objective of contributing to donor confidence and thereby promoting the success of this charitable sector.
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Compassion: An Urgent Global Imperative
Convener: Karen Armstrong, Author and Historian of Religion; Founder, the Charter for Compassion
Compassion is a core value of religious life—it requires us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. For a more peaceful, stable, and viable world, many religious scholars and activists agree that it is essential to try to implement this ethic globally so that we live together in greater harmony and respect. Because of their long commitment to compassion, the religious traditions, often seen as part of today’s problems, should be making a major contribution to the building of a just global community, surely one of the chief tasks of our time. This working group discussed creative, realistic, and practical ways of making the compassionate voice of religion not only audible but a dynamic force in our polarized world.
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Karen Armstrong discusses the religious working group at the 2012 U.S. Islamic World Forum