According to researchers, true political representation is critical to bridging the gap between Muslim societies and their governments. This was said during the ‘Oasis of Dialogue’ session organised by the QatarDebate Center in Washington.

Participants explained that Muslim communities have been seeking democracy and diversity within Islamic societies while pursuing answers to challenge Islamophobia.

These were the outcomes of a panel discussion held by the centre under ‘Bridging the Gap: Muslim Communities and Governments’. The meeting took place in Washington recently and brought together experts, researchers and academics, in collaboration with the centre’s strategic partner – Islam and Muslims initiative.

Delving deeper into contemporary issues

The session is the sixth in a series launched by QatarDebate to disseminate knowledge and bridge the gap between Muslim communities and their governments by delving deeper into contemporary issues. It was moderated by the centre’s Qatari Ambassador A Mohammed Al Lakhan Al-Marri, a faculty member at Qatar University and a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of California – Riverside.

Oasis of dialogue 2023-16

Discussions touched on several sub-themes – Islamic public opinion, understanding the relationship between Islamic governments and their citizens, the compatibility of government resolutions with public opinion, and cases in which governments’ actions conflict with the aspirations of Muslim societies.

Former Executive Director of the Arab American Association in New York, Linda Sarsour, noted the importance of supporting Arab communities and others worldwide, to better plan the democratic transformation in a gradual way, to overcome potential negatives and to work on developing solutions.

I think we need a long time to change, but hope remains that we will reach that point one day.

Participants also discussed the challenges facing Muslims in the US, especially those relating to identity and religion as well as policies that particularly affect them, such as immigration policies.

Dr Trita Parsi, an expert in Iranian affairs and professor of international politics at Johns Hopkins University, stressed the importance that communities demand their full rights and that they have the political awareness to make their voices heard. Parsi said that the QatarDebate Center is touching on these controversial issues when the US is facing a ‘democratic legitimacy crisis’, which gives the utmost importance to such discussions and to raising the level of political participation.

Discussions touched on the political representation of Muslims in the US and their ability to fight Islamophobia by leveraging their votes in elections, in addition to gaining representation in local sectors, congress and the Senate.

Importance of a dialogue

Dr Dalia Fahmy, Associate Professor of Political Science at Long Island University and visiting researcher at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights at Rutgers University, highlighted the importance of dialogue.

She explained that dialogue ‘cannot develop dynamically when it comes to defining the deep connections between various issues, such as Islamophobia, which can only be assessed through critical thinking about the impact it has on local communities, not only in the US but also internationally.

The dialogue session also highlighted the role of political Islamic figures in challenging Islamophobia and promoting societal integration, the impact of discrimination in Islamic societies, the reasons behind the gap between Muslim public opinion and government policies, and the prevailing media trends.

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