In June 2009, President Obama called for 'a new beginning' in relations between the United States and Muslim world. One year later, with no sign of an Israel-Palestine peace deal, a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and an ongoing nuclear standoff with Iran, has the "new beginning" stalled? Is the process of engagement a long-term one? Should the current strategy be sustained?
What can politicians do to re-build trust among these communities? How much impact do foreign policy decisions actually have on individuals' perceptions of Muslim-West relations? What is the role of media in shaping public opinion? How significant is the role of the Arab-Israeli conflict in widening the gap between communities in the US, Europe and the so-called "Muslim world"? Is progress on the Middle East front a sine qua non for the improvement of Muslim-West relations?
Reza Aslan is a writer and scholar of religions.
Born in Iran, Aslan is currently a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy. He was a visiting assistant professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Iowa and the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
A frequent commentator on television, radio, and in print, Aslan is a graduate of Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa. He is the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam and How to Win a Cosmic War: Why We're Losing the War on Terror.
Roger Cohen is a journalist and author who focuses on international politics and relations. He is the New York Times' international writer-at-large and the International Herald Tribune's editor-at-large, where he writes his weekly Globalist column.
Mr. Cohen began his career as a freelance journalist in Paris in 1977. Two years later, he became a foreign correspondent for Reuters based in various cities across Europe. In 1983, he began working for the Wall Street Journal in Europe, and opened a bureau in Rio de Janeiro. In 1990, he took a position with the New York Times working out of Berlin, Paris and Zagreb, Croatia, and became the Times' foreign editor in 2001.
Mr. Cohen has also authored several books, including Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo and In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. He holds a master's degree in history and French from Oxford University.
Amb. Martin S. Indyk
Ambassador Indyk is the Middle East expert and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk joined the Brookings Institution on September 1, 2001 as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program.
Ambassador Indyk served two tours in Israel, the first during the Rabin years (1995-97), and the second (2000-June 2001) during efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace and stem the violence of the intifadah. During these periods, he helped to strengthen U.S-Israeli relations, reinforce the U.S. commitment to advance the peace process, and substantially increase the level of mutually beneficial trade and investment.
Prior to his assignment to Israel, Dr. Indyk served as special assistant to President Clinton and as senior director of Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC).
While at the NSC, he served as principal adviser to the president and the National Security Adviser on Arab-Israeli issues, Iraq, Iran, and South Asia. He was a senior member of Secretary Christopher's Middle East peace team and served as the White House representative on the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission.
Joe Klein is a columnist and senior writer at TIME. He joined the magazine in 2003 to write a regular column, In the Arena, on national and international affairs. He is the author of The Natural: Bill Clinton’s Misunderstood Presidency and several other nonfiction books. As “Anonymous,” Klein wrote the critically acclaimed novel Primary Colors, a best-seller inspired by the 1992 political race. Klein is an occasional contributor to The New Yorker, where he formerly served as Washington correspondent. He has written articles and book reviews for The New Republic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, LIFE, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former Guggenheim fellow.
Marc Lynch is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Williams College.
Lynch is the author of Voices of the New Arab Public and State Interests and Public Spheres: The International Politics of Jordan's Identity. His articles have appeared in The Wilson Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, and the Middle East Report; and, he maintains the Abu Aardvark blog, a widely read running commentary on the Arab media, American public diplomacy, and Arab popular culture.
Dalia Mogahed is a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. With John L. Esposito, Ph.D., she is coauthor of the forthcoming book Who Speaks for Islam? Listening to the Voices of a Billion Muslims.
Mogahed provides leadership, strategic direction, and consultation on the collection and analysis of Gallup's unprecedented surveying of more than one billion Muslims worldwide. She also leads the curriculum development of an executive course on findings from the Gallup Poll of the Muslim World.
Prior to joining Gallup, Mogahed was the founder and director of a cross-cultural consulting practice in the United States, which offered workshops, training programs, and one-to-one coaching on diversity and cultural understanding. Mogahed's clients included school districts, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, and community service organizations, as well as local and national media outlets.
Political commentator Reza Aslan argues that while President Obama handled the election protests in Iran perfectly, the situation in the Islamic Republic has since changed dramatically. Aslan says that the political turmoil goes much deeper than the Green Revolution, and suggests "it's a mistake to think we know who's in charge over there."
Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein argues that military involvement in Afghanistan has also bound the United States to Pakistan, leaving the U.S. in no position to abandon the mission. He relates his experience in the Kandahar province, which borders Pakistan, where the only official government presence is dedicated to protecting a warlord.
Reza Aslan discusses the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing the clash is not based on identity or religion, but rather on land and resources. Aslan says a two-state solution is likely impossible, and diplomatic efforts should be focused on negotiating a one-state solution that provides Palestinian autonomy.