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Amb. Marc Ginsberg

Amb. Marc Ginsberg

Posted: February 13, 2010 04:08 PM

Dateline Doha: Engaging The Islamic World

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The Emirate of Qatar is hosting for the 7th year the U.S-Islamic Forum - a conference dedicated to fostering dialogue, civic and social engagement, and interfaith exchanges with the Islamic world. I am a delegate in my capacity as President of Layalina Productions - a not-for-profit producer of Arabic language media for Muslim world media outlets.

Since President Obama was elected, the Forum has successfully striven to sustain the momentum borne from Obama's landmark Cairo address eight months ago and the new era ushered in by his election.

Skillfully orchestrated by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution under the direction of former Clinton diplomat Martin Indyk, over 1,000 Muslim and American public and private sector leaders are here -- sort of an Islamic world version of Davos.

During the three-day conference the Obama team will be here in full force. Secretary of State Clinton will deliver a major policy address and her staff will unveil a panoply of policy proposals to accelerate the engagement enterprise.

Included in the list is a US-Muslim world entrepreneurial summit in April, a new scientific envoy exchange program, a new joint health development program and the first ever appointment of a special envoy to the 56 member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In his videotaped speech to delegates, the President took subtle cognizance of his Administration's inability to make any real progress fostering peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He also reminded the Forum of the repeated rejection by Iran of his efforts to engage the Islamic Republic.

What I find most appealing about this year's agenda is the Forum's laser-like focus on developing a host of public-private sector partnerships in the areas of new social media, civil society, entrepreneurship and interfaith exchange. I was sitting next to Jahid Mohseni, an Afghani no older than 30 who is CEO of Moby Group -- a new media company in Kabul that has pioneered new technologies using "old" media to expand communications among young Afghanis.

The Forum's determination to maintain and expand dialogue with the Islamic world represents a crucial initiative at a time when extremism continues to emanate from Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Iran. Americans can only gain when these doors are opened, and Islamic nations surely gain when Americans bring tangible initiatives to a region that begin to produce positive social change and economic development.