The State Department's representative to Muslim communities travels the globe. Those at home can play a supportive role too, she says.
By Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times
June 5, 2010
Soon after Farah Pandith was named last year as the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities, she sat down with the editor of an independent Muslim website for her first official interview.
Altmuslim.com, a forum for opinion and analysis about current issues facing Muslims, was a fitting choice. Pandith has said a strong focus of her work is to reach out to younger Muslims around the world, often those most likely to use the Internet for news and networking.
In that first interview at a Washington, D.C., cafe and in a recent interview with The Times while in Los Angeles for a panel discussion on cultural diplomacy, Pandith said that her job involves engaging Muslims abroad but that those at home can play a supportive role.
A Kashmiri-born Muslim who grew up in Massachusetts, Pandith was appointed to her position last June, shortly after President Obama, speaking from Cairo, sought to dissipate some of the mistrust between Muslims and the West. Pandith's charge is to help bridge the cultural and religious divides by reaching out to individuals and organizations to build cooperation and partnerships."
You think, 'Wow, there are people in America who have already done this,' and that's where the domestic piece comes in," Pandith said, referring to the networks that American Muslims have built.Previously, she spent two years as a senior advisor in the State Department focused on Muslim communities in Europe, a position created in the wake of the 2005 controversy over a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad...
A year into her appointment, Pandith estimates that she has spent 80% of her time overseas and in the last nine months has visited 21 countries. Her Facebook page serves as a guide to some of her travels: Italy, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Qatar.
Some American Muslim groups have expressed an eagerness to be included in her work.
Hussam Ayloush, Southern California executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which focuses mainly on domestic civil rights issues, wants to "play the role of bridge between our country and Muslims overseas." Ayloush said that there has been little communication so far between his group and Pandith's office but that he hopes it will happen.
"We should not confuse the anxiousness, the excitement and the high expectations with disappointment or impatience," he said. "We're just hoping that we move into the action mode very soon."...
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html