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Opinion

President Obama and the Muslim World - 2012-12-10

By Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC Secretary General 

With President Obama's re-election, we believe that there is an opportunity to continue an unprecedented U.S. engagement with the Muslim world, which he began at the beginning of his first term. President Obama undertook a bold initiative in his first four years to engage with the Muslim world in June 2009 at the Cairo University, which demonstrated vision and leadership.

I was in the audience there. It aroused great hopes for an evenhanded U.S. policy in addressing the outstanding issues in the Middle East and in combating the forces of intolerance that seek to create divisions. It was a landmark address wherein the president reached out to the Muslim world seeking the new beginning of a relationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect. It is my hope that the enthusiasm generated from the Cairo speech will find greater translation into policy in President Obama's second term.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been able to build up a relationship of trust, confidence and cooperation with the U.S. since President George W. Bush appointed the first U.S. special envoy to the OIC, in 2008.

In this new relationship, the OIC and the U.S. have cooperated on significant issues with global consequences, including the promotion of religious tolerance and understanding, the partnership between the OIC General Secretariat and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the promotion of the role of women and girls in science, technology and innovation, and launching a joint health-care programs for mothers, newborns, and those suffering polio.

More than ever, the president's leadership is required to bring a permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution. Both Palestinians and Israelis long for a permanent peace to focus their energy and resources on developing their societies in peace and co-existence. Death, destruction, insecurity and mistrust should no longer be part of the prospects for the new Palestinian and Israeli generation.

U.S.-OIC cooperation will also be vital for supporting the efforts of Afghanistan and Somalia to ensure stability, security, socio-economic development and reconstruction in their countries.

The president's recent trip to Myanmar offered an unprecedented opportunity for America to influence developments there and help end to the plight and suffering of the Rohingya community, which is Muslim. While the president is rightly concerned about democratization and the opening up of Myanmar, as the International Crisis Group warned in its latest report, "there is a real risk that the localized conflict in Rakhine State could take on a more general Buddhist-Muslim dimension and spread to other parts of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic country."

Under the president's administration, the OIC General Secretariat and the State Department supported the Istanbul Process, which seeks to implement U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 by protecting freedom of expression and encouraging respect for every religion and belief system. It is important that this dialogue continues strongly in the president's new term and that the current resolutions are implemented to solidify relationships among all religions and the protection against intolerance.

We must also further our cooperation on humanitarian issues in the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding that I and the USAID administrator signed last March. It is important that we bring aid to those in need and assist in development to stabilize countries with humanitarian crises compounded by domestic conflicts, extremism, government transitions and civil unrest. The OIC has worked to assist both Somalia and the Sahel in this way, but these situations can only be resolved through a global approach that emphasizes relief and sustainable development together.

The president's re-election frees him from the strictures of electoral politics and lets him exercise leadership unfettered by an impending election. I have assured him of our commitment to work with him and his government in close cooperation to bring peace and progress to all. The OIC looks forward to strengthening this relationship with America. We continue to believe in what the president eloquently stated in his election-night acceptance speech in November 2008, "Our stories are singular but our destiny is shared."

Source: http://blogs.providencejournal.com/ri-talks/this-new-england/2012/12/ekmeleddin-ihsanoglu-president-obama-and-the-muslim-world.html

 

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