Quotes from the Senate hearing “Engaging with Muslim Communities”

As the position of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is left vacant, possibly for a couple more weeks, the direction and even the physical location of the bureau remains in limbo. In his opening statement (14kb PDF) at the February 26 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World, Senator Lugar stated his and the Committee’s support for the future Under Secretary:

President Obama’s actions in the first weeks of his Presidency indicate that he is determined to provide leadership in reaching out to Muslims. …

A lynchpin in the leadership chain and the primary manager of outreach programs to the Muslim world has been the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Since this post was created in 1999, some very talented people have occupied it. Unfortunately, no one has occupied it for very long. During the last ten years, the post has been vacant more than a third of the time and the longest tenure of any Undersecretary was a little more than two years. This circumstance has severely hampered attempts to implement a public diplomacy strategy, and it has contributed to others in our government inventing their own narratives. President Obama and Secretary Clinton must remedy this shortcoming by ensuring continuity in focus and message during their tenure.

This Committee stands ready to support the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. We want the Undersecretary to have the power, the funding, and the political backing required to do the job. Funds for public diplomacy will have to be spent efficiently and creatively if we are to explain the views of the United States, display the humanity and generosity of our citizens, and expand opportunities for interaction between Americans and foreign peoples.

When asked for her thoughts on S. 49, the Senate resolution recommending a change in the security paradigm for America’s “Information Resource Centers”, former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright said “I love it.”

Testimony the hearing can be retrieved below:

  • Hon. Madeline K. Albright, Former Secretary of State  (23kb PDF)
  • Admiral William J. Fallon, former Commander of Central Command (72kb PDF)

    I believe we have a grand opportunity to reengage the Muslim world to our mutual benefit. … There is great anticipation and expectation for change and positive developments with the advent of the Obama Administration. Emotional expectations are high worldwide.

  • Dalia E. Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies (154kb PDF)

    Our research uncovered a number of surprising insights, but the most important was this: A massive conflict between the U.S. and Muslims around the world is not inevitable. Our differences are driven by politics — not a clash of principles. Our research suggests three primary filters shape Muslims’ negative views of the U.S.: Perceptions of 1. disrespect; 2. political domination; 3. acute conflicts. To improve relations and further decrease the appeal of violent extremism, we must turn to what I will call the 3 R’s: Resolution of conflicts, and Reform and Respect, rather than looking to religious explanations for Muslim behavior.

  • Dr. Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core (50kb PDF)
  • Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute (62kb PDF)

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