With the generous support of the Government of Qatar, the Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World convened a conference in Doha from October 19-21, 2002. The conference assembled over 60 leading scholars and practitioners from 25 countries across the Islamic world (including Muslim communities in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia) and the United States. The goal of this first meeting of the Project’s regional conference series was to exchange perspectives and to inform the wider policy debate. An important by-product was to help fill the void in positive dialogue between the U.S. and Muslim states and movements.
The Doha conference comprised a series of plenary sessions and task force discussions, designed to promote an in-depth exchange of ideas. Together, the participants examined the political, cultural, social, religious, and economic dynamics presently shaping relations between the Islamic world and the U.S. This entailed discussions on many of the vital issues of concern between the U.S. and the Islamic world, including: the impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks, tensions with Iraq, Palestinian-Israeli violence, globalization and the Islamic world, the role of the new media, the future of democratization, and the influence of the Gulf states on the wider Islamic world.
In addition to the private conference sessions, there were two events open to the public and covered by regional and world media. The opening session of the conference featured a keynote speech from His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the Emir of Qatar. The Emir’s talk was followed by speeches by Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, and Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, Professor at Tehran University, who explored the forces shaping relations between the U.S. and the Islamic World.
The closing session featured a speech from Sheikh Hamed Bin Jasim Bin Jaber Al-Thani, the Foreign Minister of Qatar and was followed by a roundtable discussion on the challenges ahead in U.S.-Islamic relations. The roundtable discussants included the Foreign Minister; Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; Thomas Friedman, author and foreign affairs correspondent for The New York Times; Shibley Telhami, Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland and non-resident Brookings Senior Fellow; Abdel Hamid Al Ansari, Dean of the College of Sharia, University of Qatar; and Hamid Ansari, former Ambassador of India to Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations.
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For the past year, you've seen that perhaps no leverage that the US and the West thought it had — aid, sanctions, the freezing of Afghanistan's reserves — has really had an effect on Taliban behavior. The Taliban has essentially done what they had always done. The Afghan people have been in a humanitarian crisis because the Taliban hasn't budged.