The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has announced that Manal Omar, the recently appointed United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Director of Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs, will be a featured speaker at the group’s 11th Annual Convention in December. Describing Ms. Omar as a “Muslim Visionary”, the announcement states:
Named one of the Top 500 World’s Most Influential Arabs by Arabia Business Power in 2011, one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by Georgetown University and the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in 2009 and one of the 10 young visionaries shaping Islam in America by Islamic Magazine in 2007, Manal Omar will join the exciting lineup of speakers for MPAC’s 11th Annual Convention, “Spring Forward: America’s Role in A Changing World.” With so many accolades, Omar may best be known by her touching and riveting novel, “Barefoot in Baghdad,” a poignant story of her experiences in war-torn Iraq in 2003. Omar’s story of hope and despair takes the reader to the front lines of the battle, where she talks about helping women rebuild their lives as she gets to know Iraqis who are determined to rise from the ashes. “Manal Omar captures the complex reality of living and working in war-torn Iraq, a reality that tells the story of love and hope in the midst of bombs and explosions,” said Zainab Salbi, founder and CEO of Women for Women International. Omar currently serves as the director of Iraq, Iran and North African programs under the Center for Post-conflict Peace and Stability Operations at the United States Institute of Peace. She is also on the board of directors of Women Without Borders, an organization that supports women around the globe as they aim for inclusion and participation for all women. MPAC is honored to have such an accomplished activist with more than 15 years of experience working in the field of women’s rights, peace building, humanitarian aid and development join us for the convention. Her dedication to creating dialogue on current events in the Muslim world when it comes to women’s rights will be an asset to the discussion about the Arab Spring and the changing world.”
A USIP press release discusses Ms. Omar’s recent appointment and provides additional background information:
For Immediate Release, October 28, 2011The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has appointed Manal Omar as Director of Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs. Omar will play a key role in USIP’s operational efforts in this region, particularly assisting key stakeholders and local populations through the difficult transitions.In her previous assignments with USIP, Omar served as a program officer for the Grant Program and then Iraq program director. “Manal is skilled at working with a range of players, from civil society actors and political leaders to religious communities and security sectors. Her talents will enhance the Institute’s peacebuilding work especially in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia,” said USIP President Richard H. Solomon.Prior to joining USIP, Omar had extensive experience in the Middle East. Her assignments included regional program manager for the Middle East for Oxfam. From 2003 to 2005, she was regional coordinator for Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan for Women for Women International. She worked for more than three years with the World Bank’s development economics group, and has carried out training programs in several countries. Omar began her career as a journalist in the Middle East, and her articles have appeared in U.S. and international media. In 2007, Islamic Magazine named her one of the ten young visionaries shaping Islam in America.In announcing her appointment, Solomon said, “Omar is one of USIP’s most accomplished peacebuilders. She embodies the postmodern peacebuilder, combining instinct and intellect, management acumen and operational experience.
Ms. Omar’s personal blogdoes not provide great deal about her early background, stating only:
She holds an Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and a BA in International Relations from George Mason University where she was an active member of Lambda Phi Delta Rho Tau Co-Ed Fraternity, and won third in the nation at the US National Championship for Rhetorical Analysis in 1995.
In fact, Ms. Omar’s early background is suggestive of ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood:
- In 1999, the Baltimore Sun reported that Ms. Omar was a graduate of the Islamic Saudi Academy. Previous posts have discussed reports that the Saudi-funded school was using textbooks that were anti-Semitic, intolerant of various Muslim groups, and which advocated violence against those who convert from Islam. Those posts also discussed the history of problems at the schools as well as its possible further ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
- The Washington Post reported in 1999 that Ms. Omar, then 24, was the director of development at the Washington-based American Muslim Council (AMC). The AMC at that time was headed by Abdurahman Alamoudi, a leader in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and currently imprisoned as part of a plot to assassinate the Saudi head of state, Crown Prince Abdullah. Other important leaders of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood such as Jamal Barzinji were also part of the AMC.
- Aly Ramadan Abuzaakouk, then the AMC Executive director, wrote an article about a October 2000 “Jerusalem Day” anti-Israel rally organized by all of the major U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organization where Ms. Omar “read the list of names of the Palestinian Martyrs.” (see note below)
- In 2002, Ms. Omar appeared together with numerous U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders as well as Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Tariq Ramadan at the 2002 annual conference of the Muslim Student Association. Her presentation was part of a seminar on “Organizational Dawah” that also included U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi.
An earlier post reported that William Taylor, the U.S. special coordinator for transitions in the Middle East and also a USIP Vice-President, has said that the U.S. would be “satisfied” if the Muslim Brotherhood wins the Egyptian elections and that he is willing to meet with the Egyptian Brotherhood given the chance. That post also explored the close relationship between the USIP and Center for the Study of Islamic and Democracy (CSID), founded in 1998 largely by the efforts of Georgetown University academic Dr. Esposito who during the 1990’s served in the State Department as a “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Many members of the early CSID board were associated with IIIT, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). As the earlier post posts noted, from its inception, CSID has argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace.
According to its website, the USIP describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict without resorting to violence.”
(Note: The American Muslim Online Vol. 2, no. 1, January, 2001)