2011 U.S.-Islamic World Forum Roundtables

A Candid Assessment: The Status of the Middle East Peace Process
Khaled Elgindy, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Robert Malley, International Crisis Group, Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), and Dov Weissglas, Weissglas-Almagor
The Arab-Israeli peace process, despite a short-lived resumption of direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis in September 2010, is at a standstill. At this roundtable, panelists each gave their assessment of the status of the peace process and the challenges that lie ahead for both parties and for the United States. One of the panelists started the discussion by saying that, currently, there is no peace process. Despite Palestinian process since 2005 on security, the Israeli government (particularly, the current Netanyahu coalition) has not responded with political concessions.

The Obama Administration’s Engagement with the Muslim World
Daniel Byman, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Rashad Hussain, Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, Marc Lynch, George Washington University, Farah Anwar Pandith, U.S. Department of State, Benjamin Rhodes, White House, and Quintan Wiktorowicz, White House
In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Barack Obama sought to create a better relationship between the United States and global Muslim communities. This roundtable session featured key administration officials who are integral to President Obama’s outreach to these communities. The panelists spoke about the kinds of projects they are working on and the global partnerships in which they have been engaged, and they highlighted the challenges that still lie ahead. Given the timing of the Forum, the discussion concentrated on the reform movements in the Middle East and North Africa, including the events that led to regime change in Egypt and Tunisia and the growing demands for change in countries such as Yemen, Oman, and Syria.

Looking at One Another: How U.S. and Muslim Perspectives Have Evolved Over the Last Decade
Shibley Telhami, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Joe Klein, TimeMagazine, Andrew Kohut, Pew Research Center, Steven Kull, Program on International Policy Attitudes, and Dalia Mogahed, Abu Dhabi Gallup Center
How has public opinion in the United States and in global Muslim communities changed since the events of 9/11? Has public opinion in global Muslim communities changed since President Obama came into office? What are the most critical issues, here in the U.S. and abroad, that influence public opinion and shape the public discourse? Also, how are the recent uprisings in the Arab world having an effect on Arab and Muslim perceptions of the United States and on American perceptions of Arabs and Muslims? This roundtable session featured public opinion experts and journalists who spoke to these issues directly.

2011 Roundtable: How U.S. and Muslim Perspectives Have Evolved Over the Last Decade

The Role of Religious Leaders in Development: Case Studies from Asia
Robin Bush, The Asia Foundation (moderator), Salahuddin Aminuzzaman, University of Dhaka, Yasmin Busran-Lao, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, and Khaldun Malek, University of Malaya
Organized in conjunction with the Asia Foundation, this roundtable discussion highlighted the role of religious leaders in development in Southeast Asia. The moderator began the discussion by noting that little attention is paid to the role of Muslim leaders in development, particularly related to issues of governance. Nonetheless, religious leaders can not only engage on political issues but also on development issues, through their direct influence in the community, where they are trusted and often consulted on religious, social, and community issues.

The Role of Youth in the Arab Upheaval
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Doha Center (moderator), Maryam Al-Khawaja, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Two Arab youth activists who had participated in their countries’ uprisings spoke at a roundtable discussion that focused on the role of youth in the recent events of the Arab Spring. The participants spoke about the future of the youth movements that had achieved substantial political changes in countries like Egypt. One participant noted that in other countries in which young protesters have succeeded in toppling autocrats, such as Serbia, this has often not translated into success for their parties in transitional elections.

A Glimpse from the Ground: A Dialogue on Afghanistan and Pakistan
Bruce Riedel, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Sherry Rehman, Jinnah Institute, and Hassina Sherjan, Aid Afghanistan for Education
This session brought together prominent figures from Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss the relationship between the two countries and the challenges each country faces. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan face violent struggles between competing ideas and visions—jihadi extremism and democratic tolerance—that will affect not just their future but global security. The panelists spoke about the state of democracy in their countries, how the respective struggles in each of their countries are affecting Afghans and Pakistanis, and the major factors that have led to the volatile situation in the Af-Pak region.

The Importance of the Private Sector in U.S.-Muslim World Engagement
(organized in conjunction with The Aspen Institute)
Toni Verstandig, the Aspen Institute (moderator), Jose Fernandez, Bureau of Economic Energy and Business Affairs, Robert Mosbacher, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Bryan Wagner, Morgan Stanley
Since assuming office, President Barack Obama has emphasized the value and utility of forging partnerships—with foreign governments, with faith-based communities, and with ordinary citizens worldwide. President Obama publicly called for a “new beginning” with local communities through the creation of partnerships with both businesses and individuals. Convened by Partners for a New Beginning at the Aspen Institute, this roundtable session focused on how public-private partnerships can harness the resources of both sectors to optimize impact and achieve scale, as well as create new stakeholders in state building, particularly in the areas of economic opportunity, education, and science and technology.

What’s Next in America’s Approach to Iran?
Kenneth Pollack, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Howard Berman, U.S. House of Representatives, Robert J. Einhorn, U.S. Department of State, and Henry Wooster, U.S. Department of State
The Forum hosted a roundtable discussion featuring three United States government officials involved in the crafting of Washington’s policies toward Iran. The speakers analyzed current developments and outlined American goals regarding the Islamic Republic, which was followed by an open discussion featuring extensive audience participation. One participant began the discussion by saying that the United States has two goals in Iran: forestalling a nuclear weapon capability and trying to bring Iran back into the greater community of nations by reinforcing democratic values.

Democratization and Political Reform
Salman Shaikh, Brookings Doha Center (moderator), Jennifer L. Windsor, Georgetown University, Tamara Cofman Wittes, U.S. Department of State, and M. Din Syamsuddin, Muhammadiyah Association
Revolutions and protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa have demonstrated that Arabs are eager for democracy. Egypt and Tunisia have already seen the collapse of regimes that had endured for decades, while pressure for change is mounting in countries as diverse as Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Will the current enthusiasm for democracy be sustained, and what challenges lie ahead? How can Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries ensure that democratization succeeds in the long-term? A roundtable discussion featured democratization experts who spoke to some of these issues, while also addressing the approach that President Obama has taken when engaging the Muslim world.

The Challenges and Opportunities of the American Muslim Community
Stephen Grand, The Brookings Institution (moderator), Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Ingrid Mattson, Hartford Seminary, and Paul Monteiro, White House
This roundtable session highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing the American Muslim community. How has what it means to be a Muslim in America changed in the last decade? How have American Muslims evolved since, and how have their relations with federal and state agencies changed over time? In what ways have American Muslims worked with others, including other faith communities, to address community needs and the phenomenon of radicalization?

2011 Roundtable: The Challenges and Opportunities of the American Muslim Community