The U.S. Department of State has announced the appointment of Kashmir-born Farah Pandith as special representative to Muslim communities. According to the announcement:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has appointed Farah Pandith to serve as special representative to Muslim communities, in charge of a new office that is responsible for outreach with Muslims around the world. According to a notice published by the State Department June 23, Special Representative Pandith and her staff will carry out Clinton’s efforts to “engage with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level.” Pandith previously was an adviser on Muslim engagement at the State Department, serving as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. She has also served on the National Security Council as the coordinator for U.S. policy on outreach to Muslims, and worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development on assistance projects for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories. Pandith, who is Muslim, immigrated to the United States with her parents from Srinagar, Kashmir. She told the Italian press agency Adnkronos in 2007 that she sees her personal experience as an illustration of how Muslim immigrants to the United States can successfully integrate themselves into American society. She said that along with the importance of education, “I also learned … to balance pride in my cultural heritage with a deep attachment to the values of America.”
Ms. Pandith was one of the organizers of a March 2006 conference in Belgium called “Muslim Communities Participating in Society: A Belgian-U.S. Dialogue.” The conference brought together the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood with its Belgian/European counterparts and the participating American organizations included all of the major U.S. Brotherhood organizations- the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Muslim Students Association of the US and Canada (MSA). A State Department Bulletin further announced that ISNA had used the conference to engage in networking with its Belgian counterparts:
Representatives of the Islamic Society of North America attended the conference and announced a package of internships, scholarships and exchanges for Belgian imams, Muslim leaders, teachers and students to visit the United States and continue their interactions with the U.S. Muslim community. Several other exchanges and projects were inspired by the conference, including a journalism study by the University of Southern California and a Belgian partner to discuss media coverage of Muslims and Islam.”
Joint initiatives between FEMYSO and MSA were also announced at a follow-up to the conference. FEMYSO is the youth organization of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) which essentially comprises the European Muslim Brotherhood.
At the time, U.S Ambassador to Belgium Tom C. Korologos testified about how the U.S. participants were selected, designating the U.S. Brotherhood organizations to be “moderates”:
Our next challenge was to agree on a list of participants. We vetted, checked and rechecked those we invited. Some of the organizations whose members participated in the Conference have been accused of being extremist. It is possible that some individual members of those organizations have made statements that have been termed extremist. Our view however, was to base our selection on the stated policies and specific actions of organizations and individuals today with regard to harmonious Muslim integration into American and European society. We wanted them to hear and participate in our dialogue with fellow moderates.
The State Department further announced that the conference was part of an effort intended to promote networking between the U.S. and European organizations:
The United States hopes to spark an international network that allows mainstream Muslims in Europe and North America regularly to discuss issues of alienation and extremism, a U.S. diplomat told Congress on April 5. The new approach connects previously isolated Muslim groups in an effort to “mobilize the moderates and marginalize the militants,” said Tom Korologos, U.S. ambassador the Belgium, where the concept was launched in a two-day meeting in November 2005. The initiative is “a model for generating not just a conference or two, but an entire movement of mainstream Muslims across Europe to ease alienation and combat extremism….Four or five more conferences like this can lead to a network of moderate Muslims,” Korologos said.”
In August 2008, based on information first reported by the GMBDW, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama campaign had appointed Mazen Asbahi, an individual with ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as campaign outreach coordinator. Subsequent to the resignation of Mr. Asbahi, the Obama campaign apologized for its newly appointed replacement Muslim outreach coordinator having attended a meeting which also featured two leaders of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Since becoming President, Mr. Obama has appointed Dalia Mogahed, another individual with ties to the U.S. Brotherhood, as one of two Muslims serving as his faith advisors.” It should also be noted, as discussed in a previous post, that long-time Muslim Brotherhood supporter John Esposito also appears to be returning to a position of influence in the Administration after having lost considerable stature following his pre-911 denials that Islamism posed a threat to the U.S.
(Further biographical information on Ms. Pandit can be found here.)