It is no secret that U.S. “counterterrorism efforts” have harmed Muslims in America by wrongly associating Islam with terror. Many government agencies and officials, however, are attempting to repair relations with Muslims and Arab-Americans. Obama administration officials have orchestrated a number of meetings with Muslim and Arab-American leaders to discuss security and other policy measures.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reversed two separate Bush administration decisions that barred esteemed scholars Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib from entering the U.S. In both cases, the Bush Administration originally cited the U.S.A. Patriot Act as the basis of exclusion; however, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the scholars were excluded for ideological reasons. The decision to overturn the ban and to engage the Muslim community in the United States speaks volumes to this administration’s resolution to peaceful dialogue.

One can only hope that politics do not impede progress. The recent meetings between Arab-American, Muslims, and U.S. officials have not received much press. This is likely because officials have not announced the meetings or have only done so after the fact. Who or what is the government aiming to protect by keeping this cooperative effort a secret? Some bloggers and other critics say U.S. officials are making the nation increasingly vulnerable to threat. Others, however, are inspired by the government’s effort to engage marginalized members of the community. Every action elicits a reaction. The conflict resides in the impossibility of predicting what that reaction could be. Should the U.S. government keep its peaceful engagements a secret because it runs the risk of these actions being misconstrued by critics? Should U.S. officials fail to engage Muslims and Arab-Americans because they cannot establish with absolute certainty that they are not tied to someone somewhere who has been labeled an extremist? Where is the middle ground between naiveté and paranoia? How do any of us avoid tilting into the extreme?

Click here to read the April 19, 2010 NY Times article “White House Quietly Courts Muslims in America.”

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