The 2009-2010 Calendar Report for Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress is now available at the following link.
It is critical for a leadership from among American Muslims to specifically engage itself with American foreign relations. A rare opportunity has arisen in this nation to shape the country’s policies towards a mutually agreeable and constructive path for Muslim and American leaders.
Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress, a diverse national coalition of Muslim-American leaders, has the cohesiveness and focus of purpose to achieve this goal. Formed before Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the nonprofit organization provides the infrastructure to directly engage Muslim American citizens in American international relations, and thus to pave the way for open societies within Muslim countries around the world. Since Muslim-majority societies often suffer from horrible forms of oppression and injustice, and since no current Muslim American organization specifically focuses on American international relations, the need for this type of work is self-evident.
Our prior background as Muslim-American community organizers has provided us with a nuanced understanding of the needs and wishes of Muslim communities in this country. Ruby Amatulla, the Executive Director of our organization, previously organized the American Muslim Iraq Peace Initiative (see:http://www.amipi.org), a coalition of 22 notable American Muslim organizations dedicated to peace and justice in post-invasion Iraq. This coalition included directors and board members from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Universal Muslim Association of America, the Islamic Center of America, and numerous others. Ali Behzadnia, MD, served as a cabinet member within Bani Sadr’s government in 1980s-era revolutionary Iran, but dedicated himself to peaceful spiritual and social reforms later in life as a physician and as an immigrant to America. Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, provides an authorial voice and an insider’s perspective on the real lives and concerns of American Muslims, as an NPR commentator and as a Huffington Post columnist. Jeff Garrison, MD, provides the intellectual leadership and cultural experience within both American and Muslim societies to ensure this campaign’s success. Both Dr. Iffat Khan, pathologist and co-founder of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, and Reem Elghonimi, computer engineer and esteemed Muslim speaker in the Texas region, provide a voice for equitable and just gender relations in the Muslim world. Numerous college graduates from esteemed universities such as the University of California Berkeley and University of Notre Dame provide the student leadership necessary to mobilize grassroots support among American youth for this campaign. Gazi Alankus, a software engineer by profession, provides the visionary leadership to ensure a successful Internet marketing campaign.
We are seeking seed money and funding for an extended project to build the political, social, and intellectual momentum for this engagement. These expenses include office funding, travel expenses, and logistics. We have held former planning seminars for this project which specifically targeted Iranian American communities and notable Iranian leaders, and we have encountered fantastic success. Leadership summits have been held in California, the Midwest, and the East Coast, including a specific seminar related to engagement with Iran in Atlanta, Georgia.
It is long overdue that a visionary and forceful leadership should arise from among American Muslims to build peaceful bridges and to promote constructive engagements between America and the Muslim world. A more harmonious people-to-people understanding can help to confrontational and costly affairs that exist between these two polarized camps of humanity.
The power of trust and goodwill between nations can overcome barriers erected by colluding vested interests. In today’s global society, government-to-government engagement can exist if mutual dialogue exists. These open societies can be brought about through active citizen involvement on the international front.
It is imperative in our time to pursue citizens’ diplomacy in order to address violations of human rights, misuse of power and money, and confrontational international relations. The causes of these injustices are often avoidable, but they occur due to misguided policies pursued by vested elites and servants of mistaken ideologies. Openness and international exposure can serve as a solution for such governmental discrepancies.
Citizen diplomacy is especially important when one considers the relationship between Muslim-majority societies and Western societies. Closed-door authoritarian governments in many Muslim-majority societies can collude with special interests in Western societies, or they can confront Western societies in an ultimately futile rhetorical battle. Both of these policy options harm the interests and welfare of individuals in both countries.
These injustices could be minimized if openness and people-to-people dialogue existed. If we wish to bring reforms in places where authoritarian governments exist, a citizens’ delegation can engage governments and initiate informal, behind-the-scenes communications that yield constructive results. If an open society engages a society that is mismanaged by a closed-door, authoritarian government, this outreach helps to open up the closed society to the world and compels it to become more transparent and accountable.
Modern American history is a testament to two critically important policy decisions:
1) America pursued détente with the Soviet Union during the later part of the Cold War. This foreign policy strategy averted much more tragic alternatives.
2) America reached out to China in 1972, leading to the emergence of China as a regional economic power and facilitating its eventual growth into a global power.
Both choices demonstrate visionary moves that utilized intermediaries to break stalemates and overcome past barriers. These choices initiated much more positive directions for the future. America has lost that vision within the Muslim world.
Similar visionary moves are imperative in the Muslim world today. Muslim societies consist of well over one-fifth of humanity and control 76% of the oil reserves of the globe. Unless and until breathtakingly creative diplomatic moves occur that dismantle past detrimental barriers for this fast-growing segment of humanity, progress and prospects will succumb to volatility and disorder. Enormously costly military engagements will only increase the present confrontations that currently exist, and it could exacerbate the irresponsible proliferation of nuclear arsenals.
American Muslims could bring about a solution to this deadlock. If this community is properly empowered with a legitimate national presence and a clean slate, a visionary leadership can emerge which is conversant with the mindset and modus operandi on both sides. This activism needs to be both political and social, and it needs to act on both a national and international level. American Muslims could serve as behind-the-scenes intermediaries and could engage in critical international negotiations that fostered human rights and bilateral interests.
Realizing all of these opportunities, a group of dedicated American Muslims have formed MPJP, with a mission to establish a healthy dialogue between America and the Muslim world. There is no such leadership that exists today, but there exists an enormous need for this leadership. Many past blunders could have been avoided and rendered more productive if such a leadership had existed in the past.
If America retained the trust and goodwill it once shared with the Muslim world long ago, America could have achieved its objectives at a fraction of the price it already paid, not to mention without the incalculable pain and suffering that has occurred. The impact of trust in all human affairs is ephemeral yet essential, especially among affairs of nations. America can regain its standing in the Muslim world, and the Muslim world can gain the speed of social, political, and economic transformations necessary for the interests and welfare of their people. This is our vision.
This effective and powerful voice could easily be raised from among American Muslims. The PEW report recently revealed that 65% of this minority were born in foreign countries, an obvious sign that they are closely conversant with the societies they came from. This familiarity is an enormous advantage if we wish to establish a dialogue which can eliminate the prejudices, distrust, and misconceptions built over years by vested interests within both camps. Many of the American Muslims are the cream of the crop within many lands, and as the PEW report established, they are a well-educated and accomplished minority in America with mainstream values and lifestyles.
What the PEW report failed to expose adequately is that the majority of Muslim Americans are dismayed with the confrontational relationships between America and the greater world community of Muslims (‘umma’ in Arabic). They are frustrated, and they feel helpless regarding the ‘Islamophobia’ they face at home coupled with the degradation of the societies from which they came. We believe that we can stimulate and mobilize this minority in order to offer them a way to become a catalyst of change.
We also trust in this nation to support us and empower us in order to facilitate a win-win situation. This is the nation which has remained resilient and versatile through quite difficult periods of transformation. This is one of the most self-reflective, self-critical, and changeable nations in the world. Its greatness lies not in its military power or its wealth, but in its values, principles, and vision of human dignity. We believe that this is the best place in this planet to spearhead a pioneering international movement of peace, justice, and progress.
We bring this appeal to progressive and visionary philanthropic individuals who understand our vision and its potential. We hope to labor towards this path of peace, justice, and progress.