Thursday, July 2, 2009

Engagement With Muslim Communities

Secretary Clinton announced her appointment of Muslim-American, Farah Pandith to head a new Office of the US Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Pandith and her staff (S/SRMC) "will be responsible for executing the Administration’s efforts to engage with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level."

Pandith was the senior adviser on Muslim engagement in the European and Eurasian region at the State Department, a position created for the first time in the US. She served on the National Security Council focusing on Muslim engagement and combating extremism. She also worked for USAID served in Afghanistan in 2004.

Pandith immigrated to the US from India. She attributes her personal experience as an Muslim immigrant as an example of how others can successfully integrate themselves into American society.

"I’m an American Muslim, and that’s part of the way in which I look at things,
that’s the lens with which I look at things. And if you look at the diversity of
Islam in America, it’s multifaceted, it’s nuanced. Our mosques are in every
state of our nation. Muslim Americans are from more than 80 different ethnic
backgrounds. Why do I mention this to you? Because I think when you think about
approaches for engagement, I take that with me as I think about things....
There’s not one program that is going to be the magic program to engage with
See her State department briefing below or read the transcript here.

One important comment she makes happens when she is asked about how she is going to change the misperceptions of Muslims about America?
"What we want to do is build dialogue, not because we think there is a
misperception, okay? It is to offer an opportunity through different types of
mechanisms to have a dialogue. And I think that that’s very important. If
misperceptions come up, that can be addressed. But it’s not an approach that
says you don’t understand these three things and we’re going to make sure you
understand them. That’s not what – that’s not what this is about. This is about
conversation. This is about communication."
In other words.. listening.. not just making people understand and like us. This is key for public diplomacy. It differentiates PD from propaganda. One of the five pillars of PD!

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