Common Ground With the Muslim World

By Nate Van Duzer 9-26-2008

What do Madeleine Albright, Richard Armitage, Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Muslim imam, a Catholic bishop, a retired Lieutenant General, a former head of AIPAC, and other leading public figures have in common? All are members of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, and all have come to a consensus on how to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Most Americans agree that this broken relationship desperately needs attention.

This week, some of these leaders presented their newly-released report, "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World." The product of over 18 months of dialogue, this document presents a comprehensive set of recommendations to the next administration, Congress, business leaders, and American citizens. The report rests on four pillars: elevate diplomacy to resolve key conflicts, support efforts to improve governance and civic participation in Muslim countries, help catalyze job-creating economic growth, and improve mutual respect and understanding between Americans and Muslims around the world. While the media might consider few of these recommendations flashy, the strength of the report lies in the depth of its analysis and in the width of opinion that contributed to it. I recommend reading at least the executive summary.

This past summer, I staffed this project at one of the convening organizations, Search for Common Ground (the other is the Consensus Building Institute). I have been very impressed by observing ideological foes on paper join together in person, agreeing on practical action steps and sometimes sparking unlikely friendships in the process. As a Christian engaged with policy issues, I believe this course of dialogue and consensus-building is a model to follow.

Nate Van Duzer is a policy and organizing assistant for Sojourners.

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