6th US-Islamic Forum Puts The Accent Of Deeds

After three days of intense dialogue on topics ranging from human development to arts and culture to security, the Sixth US-Islamic World Forum yesterday ended on a high-note on the back of political change in the US and signs of acceptability being shown by the Muslim world.

Insistence on “deeds” now, rather than continued dialogue was also echoed by participants at a highly-charged closing session.

“We have discovered over six years that we can serve as an incubator but its up to you (the participants from across the Muslim world and US), who have been involved over the years to take the initiative forward,” Martin Indyk, the director of Saban Center at Brookings Institute, which co-organise the annual event with Qatari Foreign Ministry, said. Offering her closing perspective, Nashwa al-Ruwaini, executive director and board member of the Middle East International Film Festival said she would like Muslims to be treated on equal grounds.“As an Arab Muslim, we don’t want America to love us or hate us. We want to be treated equal ground. What we were trying here was to find a common ground,” al-Ruwaini, who was instrumental in starting the ‘Muslims on the Screen’ project, said.

“It took two women to start that initiative. Then it spread from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco and that’s when we found that we (Arabs) weren’t really the new Russians or Germans,” she added.

Her recommendations included more government fundings for arts and cultures; US funding certain TV or media initiatives that can “really make a difference” and opening of American cultural centres across the Muslim world. Sally Quinn of The Washington Post made a more compelling call when she remarked that the “common word has been established for over a year. It is now time for a common deed.”

She was referencing to “a common word”, a letter signed by over 130 Muslims scholars of all Islamic thoughts on October 13, 2007, who unanimously came together to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam.

“Interfaith dialogue is good but more of it is counter-productive. It’s basically the people who already agree, agreeing to each other,” Quinn said.

“There should have been more ‘action’ this year (forum).”

Anies Baswedan, rector of Paramadina University, Indonesia pointed out much focus was put on the Muslims outside the US, while the Muslims in the US, one of the fastest rising populace, were not discussed. Baswedan also noted how improved governance and democratic institutions in the Muslim World can bring stability by giving examples of Indonesia.

Muslim leaders must get away from rhetoric and turn abstracts into realities for billions of Muslims.”US Congressman Brian Baird said: “One of things I noted here is the recurrent awareness that we have a responsibility and the idea that, instead of looking at the US, it can start from here is overwhelming.”Appreciating Qatar-based Education City and the technology incubator, Baird added to Nashwa’s comments on arts and culture as a bridge and said: “More than TV and culture what people admire more is scientific innovation and technology.”

And this region, particularly, is heading exactly in that direction of investing on science, according to him.