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Muslims and Government: Contrasting America and Britain
by Azeem Ibrahim
In April, 2010 a New York Times article commented on President Obama's quiet approaches to the politically isolated Arab-American and Muslim communities. Without public fanfare, he has included Muslim leaders in policy discussions on a range of subjects including health care legislation, foreign policy, the economy, immigration and national security. These same leaders have said "they see no substantive changes on a variety of issues" but that they are "encouraged" by the extent of their consultation by the White House and other governmental agencies.
It is an unfortunate truth that in the post 9/11 era, Muslims in the U.S. have been seen as a political liability. This was demonstrated by the particularly crass action by Obama operatives at a rally, when they asked two Muslim women wearing headscarves to remove themselves from the TV camera line of sight. President Obama personally apologized to the women afterwards, but the incident was a telling commentary on perceptions at a time when public fear and ignorance were high.
Since then the administration's approach has been understated, and each publicly known outreach has resulted in orchestrated criticism from right-wing opinion-makers who complain that Obama is appeasing Islamists and extremists. White House appointments are scrutinized and criticized, including President Obama's appointment in February 2010 of Rashad Hussain as the United States Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Mr. Hussain has the full confidence of the administration, in spite of adverse opinion, and is noted for this rebuttal to his critics. "The president realizes that you cannot engage one-fourth of the world's population based on the erroneous beliefs of a fringe few," he said.
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