US Special Envoy visits Nouakchott
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 17/07/12
The US Special Envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) recently paid a visit to Mauritania, where he delivered a lecture at the University of Nouakchott.
Rashad Hussain, an advisor to US President Barack Obama, told a group of academics, students, and politicians that American policies towards the Muslim world were misunderstood.
"The policies of United States toward the Islamic world are based on promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution through peaceful means," Hussain said during his July 6th speech, according to AMI. He added that President Obama was "paying increasing attention to the situation of Muslim communities in America and the rights of American Muslims".
"The number of Muslims in the United States exceeds the population of some Muslim countries," he continued.
Hussain added, "There is a misunderstanding by Muslims of American policies, which is sensed by the Mauritanians themselves as part of the culture of the Islamic peoples, whether in India or Saudi Arabia or Mauritania."
After meeting Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the American envoy said that "Mauritanians embody the authentic values of Islam in its purity and tolerance and renewal, and this embodiment gives a picture of the truth of Islam and [dispels] suspicions of extremism and fanaticism of which Muslims are accused because of the actions of some people."
University of Nouakchott President Dr Sidi Ould Mohamed Abdallahi said the lecture was of "great importance" because it contributed to "building bridges of scholarly communication between Mauritania and the United States".
He explained the seminar was organised with the help of the International Centre for Renewal and Guidance, run by Sheikh Abdallahi Ould Boyé, "a scholarly Mauritanian figure with a leading position in the Muslim world". Reactions to the lecture by the advisor to the US President were varied, but on the whole they focused on US foreign policy toward Muslims.
"The lecture was in fact beneficial, because it gave us a different picture from what we think in terms of the hatred of Americans toward Muslims," Professor Ibrahim Ould Mustafa said. "But there is a key issue still on the table for us, which is the absolute US support for Israel's policies in the Middle East and against the Palestinians."
He added, "This issue dominates the heart of every Muslim and makes him believe that America has double-standard policies toward the Islamic world, one with the Muslims against terrorism and the second against the Muslims in Palestine."
Meanwhile, researcher Ely Ould Al-Salek said, "This lecture changed to some extent the stereotype that prevailed for the majority of Mauritanians toward America, namely that America is against Islam, and perhaps the reason for that is the absence of direct American speech to Muslims in Mauritania, which left room for many perceptions about the American people."
"But America has to prove in deeds what comes on the tongues of officials so far as opening to the Islamic world and their co-operation with us going beyond terrorism issues only," he added. "It must play the role of a just arbiter in the case of Arab-Israeli conflict instead of the clear bias in favour of Israel."
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