IIA Conference – Muslims and Public Policy Panel

Here are my notes from the Public Policy Panel. Please keep in mind that this is a stream of consciousness capture of my interpretation of what they had to say. (sorry for the terrible formatting – no time to fix it right now)


  • jocelyne cesari – facilitator
  • charles dunbar
  • amaney jamal
  • muqtedar khan

muslims and public policy

charles dunbar

  • islam AND america, not necessarily IN america
  • interested in relations between muslims and america
  • 6 concerns about short term relations between muslims and the
    rest of society
    •  1 conflicted relationship between the muslim world and
      the west (US in particular)

      •  Muslim resentment of the west because of its domination

    •  2 stereotyping

      •  orientalist myth that in islam, the state and the
        mosque are one in the same

      •  muslims were, as a result, unable to benefit from the

      •  american orientalism by douglas little is a good book

      •  these perceptions color the views of other americans

    •  3 9/11

      • action of 19 deranged young men has widened the chasm between
        the muslim world and the west

      • strenghthened the hand of both sides of the extreme that
        believe in this clash

      • crisis of authoritarian regimes

      • widening of divide caused by american government efforts to
        protect americans

        • cutting off of contact between foreigners and this country
          (esp students)

    • 4 Israel and American policy toward current Israeli policy

      • little coverage of US attitude/support toward unilateral pull

      • israel and palestine will remain burning focus of both sides

    • 5 democratizing the middle east

      • pain of being democratized by Americans

      • he sees no conflict between democracy (political pluralism)
        and islam

      • iraq was a mistake, not because of iraq, but because of what
        we should be doing in the world

      • “We can do better than that” Richard Perl on Hosni Mubarak

        • patronizing attitude is problematic

    • 6 american muslim reaction to the reality in the middle east

      • Muslims in the US are mistaken at not getting in and playing
        in the american political arena

        • exception James Sogby and his group has learned to play in
          this arena

      • representation

        • Muslims outnumber Jews in the US, but don’t approach the
          level of representation

  • 4 things in closing as prospects for a better future for the
    relationship and for islam in america
    •     1 US government position towards Islam and
      Muslims in America has improved

    •     2 Muslims are “catching up” in heft in the
      American body politic

    •     3 raccrochement between US and Libya is
      quite remarkeable

    •     4 maybe iraq will turn out fine

muqtedar khan

  • giving speeches is like making babies (joke)
    • so much fun to conceive, but difficult to deliver

    • having delivered his own child, he knows

  • after 9/11 try to get muslims to create a metaphor of thier
    muslim/american identity
    • I am an American because . . .

    • this is extremely difficult for most peole

    • america like my wife, i share two children with them

  • according to CAIR
    • 2/7 Muslims go to the mosque

    • 7million total

    • within 2

      • Muslims in America (negatively), Mosque Centered

      • deeply engaged in Islam and America

        • embrace faith and politics

    • within 7

      • Muslims who are in America

      • Americans who are Muslims

  • American Muslims?
    • 1 What role do they play

    • 2 How are they affected by

    • 3 How are they affecting

      • very few participating in significant positions

      • present in 2nd circle of power, but not in the first circle
        of power

        • think tanks, working for senators, etc

      • categories of Muslims with involvement

        • Media

          • Fareed Zakaria

        • Think Tanks

          • Muqtedar Khan

        • Fund Raising

          • Rangers/Pioneers for the Bush Campaign

        • Leaders of representative organizations

  • systematic indifference to domestic policies that are not
    designed to affect them directly (ie USA Patriot Act)
    • take the idea of public goods for granted

    • american muslims in this sense are free riders

    • they get involved when something inconveniences them

    • muslims are not engaging in universal arguments, only
      parochial/selfish politics

      • islam is adament that we should participate in these

      • enjoin good and prevent evil

  • muslim impact on policy
    • african american muslims, vs african americans, vs american

      • is there a policy priority difference?

  • role of identity shapes our desires and preferences
  • we’re a foreign policy community with views even narrower than
    those of George Sorous
    • we care about two things only

      • Palestine

      • Kashmir

      • sometimes spills over into Chechnya and Bosnia

    • no articulation of domestic policy whatsoever

  • parents concerned about the impact on their children
  • american muslims never raise more than 5 million dollars for
    political action
    • plenty of money for construction and development of mosques

      • millions of dollars

      • used only on fridays

      • money could be better spent on the community itself

  • pre 9/11 we were only a foreign policy community only
    • concerned about our muslimness

  • 9/11 made us look internally
    • concerned about our americanness

  • we engage in political debates, but not policy
  • two issues
    • islam is fastest growing religion in america and the world

      • its a threat that we’re becoming powerful

    • efforts to create a voting block

    • efforts to promote abrahamic view

      • includes muslims with christians and jews

    • looking for dual engagament on domestic and foreign policy

amaney jamal

  • Muslims in New York Project
  • roles of mosques in the civic and political incorporation of
    Muslim Americans (Brooklyn New York)
  • looking at a Turkish Mosque and an Arab Mosque
  • why Mosques?
    • do they marginalize Muslims from the community?

      • in Michigan, it wasn’t the case

  • post 9/11 feelings
    • pattern

      • arabs live concentratedly around the mosque

      • turks live more spread out

    • experienced verbal insults

      • arabs 43%

      • turks 13%

    • experienced increased discrimination

      • arabs 76%

      • turks 41%

    • were concerned future issues facing my family

      • arabs 70%

      • turks 55%

    • feel like america is my home

      •  arabs 86% said no

      •  turks 96% said no

    •  felt respected by society

      •  60% agreed

      •  40% disagreed

    •  that that americans have been respectful and tolerant?

      •  31% respectful and tolerant

      •  69% disrespectful and intolerant

    •  want people to know your ethnicity

      •  arabs 67

      •  turks 67%

    •  want people to know you are muslim

      •  arabs 83%

      •  turks 60%

    •  would you vote for a candidate supportive of muslims

      •  arabs 85%

      •  turks 70%

    •  believe the media to be biased against islam

      •  arabs 85%

      •  turks 85%

    •  think US foreign policy biased against islam

      •  arabs 67%

      •  turks 71%

    •  have confidence in mosques

      •  48%

    •  have confidence in police

      •  42%

    •  have confidence in government in DC

      •  10%

    •  have confidence in political parties

      •  6%

    •  have confidence in islamic advocacy groups

      •  24%

    •  40% would vote according to their mosque endorsement

      •  43% would not

      •  16% neither agree nor disagree

  • key center of pan muslim incorporation if we can overcome ethnic
  • mosques and mosque patterns are being monitored
  • outlandish claim by some that 85% of mosques in the united states
    are involved in terrorism
  • the link for muslim political/public participation is the mosque


  • american muslims need to add an element of authentication that
    those from the muslim world need not add
  • some american muslims are remote controlled by movements back
    home which is often a barrier of our legitimacy here
  • there is an influence of the context on muslim points of view
  • Cardawi
    •  islamic celebrity figure

    •  fatwa generator

    •  influencing fiqahi council of the US

  • concerns of parents here
    •  what will my children’s future be

  • fledgling participation of people in politics around the mosque
  • collective action methods
    •  coercion (required)

    •  collective identity

    •  same people will donate to the same people for mosques,
      but not for anything else

      •  belief that if you build a mosque God will make a space
        for you in heaven

  • national muslim organizations have seemed to fail in protecting
    muslims, so people are taking matters into their own hands at the level
    of the mosques
  • post 9/11 mosques have gone both ways
    •  conservative become liberal

    •  liberal become conservative

  • mosques have goodwill, resources, people, and fear on their side

Professor Mahmoud Ayoub

  • for Dr. Khan
    •  infrastructure of jewish community
    •  muslims, not monolothic, they need infrastructure
    •  they need a place for their life stage rituals
    •  PM built a mosque first in Medina
    •  big, elaborate mosques are good
      •  he doesn’t get invited to iftar dinner at white house
        because he doesn’t belong to a mosque

    •  no central authority in islam
      •  lucky to have sheik yusuf al-cardawi

        •  one of few muslim leaders with a good islamic

        •  everyone who can read the quran thinks they can give

    •  brought back jurisprudence for immigrants (ali sistani)
      •  brought back from Iraq

    •  study of tazia
    •  quran and its interpreters
      •  2 volumes, commentary on commentaries, viewed with

dr. khan’s response

  • other immigrants can make a choice
    •  greek, greek american, american
    •  italian, italian american, american
    •  muslims can convert other people to islam

  • problem with “proper” islamic education
    •  its my funeral
      •  i want to own my interpretation

dr. jamal’s response

  • mosques are not really being used for missionary activity
  • there is not a national muslim majority
  • muslim politics vary everywhere
  • locals are marginalized at the grassroots level

what about american born muslims?

  • khan
    •  white wannabe’s (parents) vs. black wannabe’s (children)
      •  children are looking for a different identity than
        their parents

    •  identity is spontaneous, but not as strong as that of
      their parents

african american muslim question?

  • why marginalizating of african american muslim communities?
  • racism within the muslim community
  • immigrant vs. non-immigrant communities

shiraz hajiani’s questions on policymaker’s view

  • dunbar
    •  there was no view of the american muslim community
    •  post 1993, when he left the state dept, there has been a
    •  if the muslim community chooses to act on the us govt in
      the same way that the jewish community does, it’ll be interesting
    •  5 million dollars is nothing, especially for a richer

  • jamal
    •  9/11 has given people an opportunity to criticize within
      their own muslim communities
    •  last 20 yrs, american muslim voice was static
    •  post 9/11 there is a platform for people to speak
    •  how does the arab israeli conflict affect us here?
    •  one unifying element of the worldwide ummah (that’s
      pretty sad my own input)

  • khan
    •  struggle of who can interpret islam
    •  fikh al-akliyyat?
    •  memo to american muslims
      •  article by khan

    •  the american muslim community expanded as a result of 9/11
      •  those outside the voice have come back in

      •  voices within have been promoted

      •  big change lets here the marginal voice before we
        dismiss it

  • leonard
    •  citing voices being considered
    •  asani, wadud, abou el fadl

  • jamal
    •  if you’re an enemy from within, then even your
      participation is looked at as suspect
      •  therefore, it’s important for the muslim community to
        rehabilitate its image before it pursues influence