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U.S. Muslims Seek Policy Initiatives in President’s Cairo Address

posted on: May 29, 2009

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy organization today released an open letter to President Obama and to the Muslim world offering specific policy recommendations for the president’s historic address in Cairo on June 4th.

In the open letter, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wrote in part:

“As you prepare for your historic address to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4th, I would like to offer an American Muslim perspective on what governments, leaders and individuals can do to improve the prospects for international peace and prosperity.

“As an American, I will first focus on what you can do to help repair relations with the Muslim world that have suffered such damage in recent years. Your statements since the inauguration have raised the level of hope for real change in our nation’s foreign and domestic policies.

“It is imperative that your positive statements now be backed up with concrete policy initiatives that will help move us all toward a more peaceful and prosperous future. Otherwise, we as a nation risk wasting the good will that has been garnered by your ongoing outreach to Muslims.

“First, America must champion political and religious freedom, human rights, the growth and stabilization of democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law for everyone, not just those we favor. For too long, we have claimed to be champions of freedom and democracy, while turning a blind eye to repression, occupation and authoritarian rule. We must hold every nation, even those we regard as allies, to a uniform standard of justice and equality. No other action will do more to restore America’s international reputation…

“As an American Muslim, I ask leaders, governments and individuals in the Islamic world to make similar changes and to implement similar reforms.

“First, government, civic and religious leaders must foster a culture of respect for human and minority rights, political and religious dissent, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.

“Governments in the Muslim world must encourage full political participation in systems of government that abide by the separation of powers and are held in check by independent judiciaries. Leaders and individuals in Muslim nations must also respect the results of free and fair elections.

“Non-governmental entities in the Muslim world must seek partnership with elected officials and other leaders in each society exclusively through peaceful means…

“True peace and understanding will only come when we all – Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths and philosophies – cast off the prejudices and preconceptions of the past to engage each other based on what we have in common, not on what has separated us for so long.

“I ask you to accept this advice in the sincere spirit it is given and I hope your address in Cairo will help change the direction of our world from the path to conflict to that of peace and reconciliation.

“As you stated in your inaugural address, a new way forward in partnership with the Muslim world must be based on ‘mutual interest and mutual respect.’

“This decisive moment in history requires clarity of purpose and a commitment to practical action that will lead to real change.”

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.