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SFCG and CBI Organizing Project on Global US-Muslim Relations

I just read a story about an exciting initiative from Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute. In early January, SFCG and CBI convened a distinguished group of American leaders with diverse political viewpoints, cultural backgrounds and professional skills for a Summit on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community. The goal of the project was to reverse the increasingly negative relations between the US and the Muslim world. The project on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community will create new strategies that represent the best thinking of these leaders, informed by in-depth dialogue with the public. The project aims to

  • create a coherent, broad-based and bipartisan set of strategies to improve relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world;
  • communicate and advocate those strategies in ways that shift U.S. public opinion and contribute to changes in U.S. policies, and public and private actions.

This group explored several critical questions: Where do relations stand today? What are the major drivers of tension and conflict? How could those tensions and conflicts be addressed in ways that meet the concerns of both the U.S. and Muslim countries? How could the project on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community best contribute to progress? The participants noted the depth of mutual misunderstanding and misperceptions of each other’s interests and values; the global importance of geopolitical conflict in the Middle East; the underlying challenge of economic and political difficulties in many Muslim countries and communities; and began to discuss opportunities for addressing all of these challenges.

Members of the group committed to further discussion, planning and action to engage the American public and leaders in education and dialogue. Currently, the project team is working with the Leadership Group to develop strategy choices, plan for public engagement, and develop effective language to frame and convey the issues.

During the second half of this year, the Leadership Group will seek input from cross-sections of the American public, and will reach out to leaders of key constituencies–in foreign policy, electoral politics, business, media, and religious communities–to seek their ideas on ways to improve relations. In the fall, the Leadership Group will frame key challenges, choices and recommendations for improving relations.

The Group will release a Report early in 2008, seeking substantial media coverage. During 2008, Leadership Group members will brief decision makers and opinion makers across the country. The project team will also collaborate with public affairs groups to disseminate the Report and supporting materials widely across America.

The January Leadership Summit, and the ongoing Project on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community, are being convened by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and CBI, in partnership with Viewpoint Learning, a public opinion research organization founded by Dan Yankelovich. The project has received generous financial support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, and Mr. George Russell, Jr. CBI Managing Director David Fairman is co-directing the project with SFCG-USA Executive Director Rob Fersh. For more information, contact David Fairman at dfairman@cbuilding.org.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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