The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) hosted its 14th Annual Conference titled ‘Democratic Transitions in the Arab World’ on May 29th, 2013. The conference included several panel discussions. The first panel discussed how a proper understanding of Islam could help democracy and featured Dr. John Voll, professor of Islamic history and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University; Iranian thinker and self-described revolutionary Abdulkarim Soroush; and Ashfaque Syed, co-author of the Essential Message of Islam.
Tamara Sonn, the William J. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary and Program Chair at CSID, provided opening remarks and sought to explain sources of distrust and concerns in the Middle East. Sonn explained that the favoring of minorities by colonial powers had left behind mistrust among the various sects throughout the Middle East that persists even decades after independence. Sunni-Shiite tensions and competition between the Gulf and Iran as well as government support for religious preachers and the following rise of militant Salafi Islam augment feelings of mistrust with fears of instability, she added.”
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The keynote for the CSID conference was delivered by Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi who has recently predicted the end of Israel and has a history of ties to Palestinian extremism and calls for terrorism.
According to the conference program, two US officials were scheduled for a session titled “US. Policy Towards The Region – Revamping Stability And Strengthening Democracy.” US OIC Envoy Rashad Hussain, with a history of associations with the US Muslim Brotherhood, is known to have attended the conference. Deputy Secretary of State Will Burns was invited to attended but it not known if he actually participated.
The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) was founded in 1998 in what appears to have been a cooperative effort among the US Muslim Brotherhood, the US State Department and Georgetown University academic Dr. John Esposito who served during the 1990’s as a State Department “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Past CSID board members included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and both important leaders in the US Muslim Brotherhood who helped to establish many of the most important U.S. Brotherhood organizations. Antony Sullivan, the current CSID Vice-Chair, has many ties to U.S. Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. 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.