History Department
History Department

Historian invited to U.S.-Islamic World Forum

Mon, April 11, 2011
Historian invited to U.S.-Islamic World Forum

The U.S.-Islamic World Forum is convened by the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the State of Qatar.

Associate Professor Denise Spellberg is the author of Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of Aisha bint Abi Bakr (Columbia University Press, 1994). She teachers courses at The University of Texas' Department of History on The History of the Middle East from 570 to 1453, Gender in Islamic History, Islamic Spain and North Africa, Islam in Europe and America, and Islamic Historiography.

In 2009, she was awarded a grant from the Carnegie Corporation's Carnegie Scholars Program for her book project, "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders."

Other scholars attending besides Spellberg include Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, an Islamic scholar, teacher and co-founder of Zaytuna College, America’s first accredited Muslim institution of higher learning; and Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America. The forum is an invitation-only event.

The keynote address will be given by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. There will be other officials from the Obama Administration in attendance along with key U.S. officials including Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Farah Pandith, Special Representative for Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State; former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski; and Minnesota's Congressman Keith Ellison.

There will be a plethora of leaders from over 30 Muslim-majority countries as well including: Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Tunisia. Jordanian's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh will be attending along with Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

According to the Saban Center's website, "The Forum has established a reputation as both the premier convening body for American and Muslim world leaders and a catalyst for positive action." It has been convened annually since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. in an effort to create more understanding between U.S. policymakers and the Muslim world.

This year's forum will include plenary sessions on "issues critical to the Arab and Muslim worlds, working groups focused on building partnerships on key issues such as civil society, American Muslim engagement, the role of the media and culture, religious minorities, development, and a series of roundtable discussions on topical issues." Certainly, in light of the recent and on-going political uprisings in the Middle East, it will be a tremendous opportunity for dialogue given the backdrop of what the media is now calling the "Arab Spring."

Journalists that have been invited to attend the forum include David Gregory, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press"; Margaret Warner from PBS's "Newshour"; and Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "GPS" and Time news magazine's editor-at-large.

Past participants have included notable dignitaries such as President Bill Clinton; Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who is also attending this year; President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan; Commander of the U.S. Central Command David Petraeus; and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina Dr. Mustafa Ceric.

There will be a webcast of the different sessions of the forum.

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