February 13th, 2010
01:07 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama picks special envoy to world Muslim group

ALT TEXT

During a speech in Cairo, Egypt last year President Obama laid out a strategy for outreach to the Muslim world. (Photo Credit: Erika Dimmler/CNN)
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama appointed a special envoy Saturday to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the 57-nation organization that calls itself the "collective voice of the Muslim world."

He is Rashad Hussein, an Indian-American Muslim who has been a deputy associate White House counsel, described by Obama as "an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff."

Obama made the announcement Saturday in a video message to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He said he made the move to broaden the outreach strategy toward the Muslim world he laid out last year in Cairo.

"Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work," Obama said. A hafiz is someone who has memorized the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be speaking Sunday at the 7th annual forum and Obama took the opportunity Saturday to laud the event and reiterate what he calls the "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" - a relationship that he says has been marred by "misunderstanding and mistrust."

"The United States is responsibly ending the war in Iraq; we are removing all our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August, and we will partner with the Iraqi people on behalf of their long-term security and prosperity. In Afghanistan and beyond, we are forging partnerships to isolate violent extremists, reduce corruption and to promote good governance and development that improves lives.

"We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians. And the United States will continue to stand for the human rights and dignity of people around the world," he said.

Obama said his administration has held thousands of events with students, civil society groups, faith leaders and entrepreneurs, including Clinton's "landmark" visit to Pakistan.

"And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month. This dialogue has helped us turn many of the initiatives I outlined in Cairo into action," the president said.

Obama also listed outreach initiatives toward the Muslim world in education, economic development, science and technology, food security, and global health.

"None of this will be easy. Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun."

Hussain has served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He posted a message on the White House blog saying he is "honored and humbled" by the appointment.

"I am committed to deepening the partnerships that he (Obama) outlined in his visionary address last summer. I look forward to updating you on the Administration's efforts in these areas over the coming months," he said.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference says it is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations and that its 57-state membership is "spread over four continents."


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soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. terry,va.

    He should nominate himself and leave the country.

    February 13, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Willy Brown

    Heck I thought he'd pick Abdul.

    February 13, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. sifto77

    whatever else we do–we must suck up to Muslims....

    February 13, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Bush probably doesn't even know–or care–what the Quran is. In these days and times, Obama's making such an overture is to be praised. The handshake is stronger than the fist.

    February 13, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. mh

    surprised Obama didn't go himself given he is Muslim.

    February 13, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Katie B in NC

    I am so proud of our President for the wisdom he has shown in reaching out to the Muslim community. This approach makes me feel much more secure than the previous administration's strategy.

    February 13, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. Send an envoy to China

    Pres Obama should send a sspecial envoy to China to convey from
    the American People this message: "Don.t meddle in our domestic
    affairs...means we can see whomever we want.".....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 13, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. chris l

    Yes, Lets keep kissing the asses of people who want ALL of us dead. Its the way to go for liberals. The "mind rot disease" that inflicts them (king of like brain cancer) causes there fantasy view of the world. Hopefully scientists will find a cure for them someday.

    February 13, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  9. Gordon Shumway

    Seems like Obama has more allegiance to the muslim world than he does his own country. Does that really surprise anyone?

    February 13, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    I think this is a very smart idea. The vast majority of Muslims in the world want what everyone else wants: The chance to make a better life for themselves and their children.

    And the best way to do that is to recognize these voices of moderation, to better marginalize the extremists.

    A quick review of history shows that those who feel powerless and disenfranchised are the ones who resort to radical violent methods.

    When you empower people by providing education and real economic opportunity, the desperation and nonsense of extremism just isn't appealing.

    February 13, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. Tony R

    Good appointment. Partnership with Muslim world very important.

    February 13, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Sue

    I am surprised that Obama himself is not going--as this would be the perfect opportunity for him to insult/apologize for the US, our military, our citizens, etc.-–in front of millions of Muslims again.

    This would also be a perfect opportunity for him to bow to Muslims again as well.

    One thing is for sure............The Muslim terrorists LOVE Obama--they were thrilled when he was elected--as they know that a weak, terrorist sympathisizing US President---definitely helps them in regard to attacking the US and the countries of our allies.

    February 13, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Scott

    "a relationship marred by misunderstanding and mistrust" Wow ,is that an out of touch statement. There is no misunderstanding. Read the koran and you will understand that the western world of freedom of religion and individualism is satanic towards that mindset. It will never change. No amount of singing kum bye ya will fix it. No apologizing will change it. While false chistianity may have tainted some of its history. Islam is clearly a bloody religion and always will be.

    February 13, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. Whoever

    I'm a little tired of "reaching out" to the collective "Muslim world". What have they ever done for us. For the Western world. Please someone, answer that. And let's keep the answers to within the last few centuries.

    February 13, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Chris

    I wish people would realize that judging the religion of Islam on the actions of Al Qaeda is like like judging Christianity on the actions of the Spainish Inquisition.

    February 13, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Stallion

    C'mon.....gimme a break.......the sooner obama and his crazy muslim ideologies are gone, the better off this country will be. I cannot wait for him to be voted out in 2012. He is absolutely repulsive.

    February 13, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. acfaber291

    what a supreme wasted effort.

    the majority of obama's senior staff are jewish.

    what's the point.

    February 13, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Linda

    This is a good move. It is impossible to defeat the terrorists who use Islam as one of their weapons without the involvment of Muslims across the world. We have sacrificed too many lives, too much money and too much time fighting them in combat without the support of millions of world wide Muslims and have failed miserably – it is time for us to shift gears and for Muslims to step up to the plate as well because rational Muslims have the most to lose if they do not put a stop to the hijackers of their religion.

    February 13, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  19. JES

    So when will Obama inform us when we will no longer need or keep the Bible.

    February 13, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  20. john

    Yes, please pander to those who hate the evil west and would like nothng more than to see our destruction. Yes forsake Israel, our allie in the middle east.

    February 13, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  21. Robert

    Our freedom of speech rights should not be limited because Muslims are so easily offended by anything they deem un-Islamic (e.g., Muhammad cartoons). So I hope Rashad Hussein discusses with the OIC their warning to the West "regarding the red lines that should not be crossed” regarding free speech about Islam and terrorism.

    February 13, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. Barry B Brey

    Since the Muslim group covers such a large part of the world I am wondering what help they have provided to Haiti. I would also be interested in readfing the group's collective condemnation of Muslim Terrorism.

    February 13, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. Edwin

    I'm sure the nay-sayers will blast Obama for this... 'helping *muslims*??? But... they're the enemy, right?'

    And I'm sure it proves once more to them that he is secretly a muslim, since no 'true American' would do anything except fight muslims...

    I just wanted to head those idiots off before they spewed nonsense.

    Having a president who actually tries to work with the rest of the world to make peace is... amazing.

    February 13, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. Jorgor Barrie

    This appointment shows how President Obama wants to reach out to the Muslim world in the name and on behalf of Peace and Human Development. I only hope the Muslim world will reciprocate in kind and embark on a meaningful peaceful world rid of Weapons of Mass Destruction such as the Nuclear Bomb the 'Islamic' Republic of Iran is so aggresively and hastily chasing.

    GOD B LESS OBAMA AND HIS FAMILY! GOD BLESS MANKIND!

    February 13, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Reaching out is a much better approach than President Bush's approach of alienating most of the world, including our allies. The reach must be done with the alternative in reserve. If the Muslim world continues to refuse cooperation, then they should suffer the pain of harsh results. Some times the only thing extremists understand is pain.

    February 13, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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