Foreign Policy Blogs

U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project

The Washington-based non-profits Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute have produced a major new leadership group report on improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Titled “Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World,” the two groups released the report last month to a packed house at the National Press club.


The report presents the consensus of 34 American leaders in the fields of foreign policy, national security, politics, business, religion, education, public opinion, psychology, philanthropy, and conflict resolution on how to improve dialogue between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Some of these include former diplomats Madeleine Albright, Richard Armitage, Dennis Ross, among many other distinguished leaders.

According to the report's authors, “the primary objective of the report is to provide new strategies for reducing tensions with Muslim countries and communities around the world. The core point of the report is that it is possible to meet both U.S. interests and the interests of the vast majority of Muslims around the world who seek peaceful coexistence, by addressing the main sources of tension in new ways.”

From the Executive Summary:

1. Elevate diplomacy as the primary tool for resolving key conflicts involving Muslim countries, engaging both allies and adversaries in dialogue

  • Engage with Iran to explore the potential for agreements that could increase regional security, while seeking Iran's full compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation commitments
  • Work intensively for immediate de-escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a viable path to a two-state solution, while ensuring the security of Israelis and Palestinians
  • Promote broad-based political reconciliation in Iraq, and clarify the long-term U.S. role
  • Renew international commitment and cooperation to halt extremists' resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Provide top-level U.S. leadership to resolve regional conflicts and to improve coordination with international partners

2. Support efforts to improve governance and promote civic participation in Muslim countries, and advocate for principles rather than parties in their internal political contests

  • Build the capacity of government institutions to deliver services, and of citizens to participate in governance
  • Advocate consistently for nonviolence, pluralism and fairness in political contests
  • Use U.S. leverage with authoritarian governments to promote reforms in governance
  • Assess the value of engagement with political representatives of armed and activist movements case-by-case, based on their principles, behavior, and level of public support
  • Support political transitions and the consolidation of reforms in countries at critical "turning points"

3. Help catalyze job-creating growth in Muslim countries to benefit both the U.S. and Muslim countries' economies

  • Support policy reforms to secure property rights, facilitate transactions and promote investments
  • Partner with governments, multilateral institutions and philanthropies to make education a more powerful engine of employment and entrepreneurship
  • Use public-private investment partnerships to reduce risk, promote exports and fund enterprises
  • Use trade agreements to reward economic reform and spur investment
  • Manage energy interdependence and diversify resources

4. Improve mutual respect and understanding between Americans and Muslims around the world

  • Use public diplomacy to reinforce changes in policies and actions
  • Dramatically expand cross-cultural education, people-to-people and interfaith exchange
  • Promote greater depth and accuracy in news coverage and programming
  • Invest in cultural diplomacy through arts and entertainment programs, to deepen mutual understanding and challenge stereotypes
  • Involve the Muslim-American community as a bridge

Here's a great documentary video about the present state of U.S.-Muslim relations, and the engagement project on media partner LinkTV.

This is a very important report that couldn't come at a better time in U.S.-Muslim relations. I look forward to following the actions of this group.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.