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. jules sand-perkins

    We had communication with Japan when they bombed Pearl Harbor.
    What are we going to communicate to terrorists through Arab governments?
    If we communicated to the terrorists that we were willing to abandon Israel, they might leave us alone, but we're probably not going to abandon Israel, since that would cost us our base of alliance in the oil region, and leave the Arab nations free to unite into a single entity.
    I believe that we should show greater strength to the terrorists and to those who harbor them–even nuclear strength, war being hell–and stop sending them carrot cake.

    February 13, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. Perusing-through

    AMAZING!

    It is amazing that President Obama is engaging and making significant efforts to build productive and beneficial relations between the Muslim world and the U.S.; . . . . . . . . . while Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and the rest of the Republican GOP look for new ways to insult and/or ignore the Muslim population which is 1.6 Billion, nearly a quarter of the people on the planet.

    GOP stupidity never ceases to amaze.

    February 13, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. bimmer

    Obama is viewed as being soft on terrorism. Would this gesture strengthen that suspicion?

    February 13, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Let's see, are these the 57 states of the United States that Obummer referred to during his campaign or are these the 57 Muslim states that he is FAR more familiar with having grown up in Indonesia (a Muslim country) and attending Muslim schools there? Let me see, hmmmm.

    February 13, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. chris burr

    I am a 59 year old school teacher. While I had high hopes for President Obama, I continue to be discouraged by his governance. His administration is the most disorganized (daily conflicting messages about a variety of issues), impulsive (let's try KSM without considering the practical difficulties),confusing ( let's attack the banks one day and provide an olive branch to the Muslim world the next day), undisciplined (on the same Sunday having three advisors giving three wildly different estimates of phantom stimulus jobs), immature (let's go after Fox News), and reluctant to take responsibility (it was Holder's decision or 50 minutes is plenty of time to interrogate a terrorist before giving him an attorney) that I have ever seen.

    He seems lost in world of theory and blind to the practical impact of his decisions. It's a nice idea to provide everyone with healthcare, but is there any evidence that such an undertaking improves healthcare and lowers premiums? The Massachusetts healthcare plan is $2 billion over budget and premiums are higher than ever. Imagine this same scenario on a federal level.

    February 13, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  6. Steve

    His outreach is misguided

    It is the muslim world that should be reaching out to the US with signs that embrace peace rather than terrorism

    I'm tired of this administration making the US the "bad guy" in their dialogs

    February 13, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. Bob M

    B. Hussein Obama showing who he is and what he wants this country to become. Who is this guy?

    February 13, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Perusing-through

    REPUBLICAN-GOP FOLLOW UP TO THIS IS . . .

    . . . . to have Sarah Palin lead the charge that President Obama "pals around with Muslim terrorist". Just wait, give Sarah, Rush Limbaugh, or Glen Beck the time and they will soon make that claim.

    February 13, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Saul Rosenberg

    The Prophet Obama, peace he upon Him. There is no God but Allah and Obama is his prophet.

    February 13, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Tom, Bradenton,FL

    We already have one in office named HUSSEIN.

    February 13, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. GuyInVA

    Jihadists like blowing themselves up, and we like blowing them up. You'd think we would get along better.

    February 13, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. andy

    OK as if we do not have enough problems here at home Obama now must spend money to court the Muslim world.He is just so out of touch with all that we need.I guess you Repub haters do not have a problem with this either,this has nothing to do with Bush past or present this is Obama's baby,courting the Muslims.If a republican did this the repub haters would go ballistic.

    February 13, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. eolufemi

    I'm sure republicans will find something to complain about in doing this, but I applaud the president for continuing to reach out to the rest of the world and put America's best foot forward.

    February 13, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Dino

    Very proud of our president.

    February 13, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. beanne

    So Barack Hussein Obama takes councel from someone who has memorized and therefor most likely worships that devils' book, the quaran....It's not Holy nor does it deserve to be capatalized..It is the book that praises haters, women repressers, , rappers,murderers and isolationists and this is what Obama calls Holy? We are in a world of hurt with this Anti- American-AntChrist at the helm of our Country. How did this happen America? How did we put such a person as this in OUR Whitehouse? 2012 cannot come fast enough...but for now 2010 we are going to send those Dems packing. And I for one can not wait!

    February 13, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Ethan

    Keep up the good work Mr. President!

    February 13, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  17. SCOT

    Yep that should set Al Quaeda to rest.

    February 13, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. henrietta

    Finally! I am so proud of the steps we are taking to communicate with the rest of the world, rather than judging and condemning. Certainly we cannot expect the most conservative muslims to be our "friends" – but as a Protestant, I am sure I would have been burned at the stake a few hundred years ago! We cannot have peace if we cannot talk. And we are so fortunate to have a President who can tell the difference between the terrorists and the rest of the Islamic world.

    February 13, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  19. chris

    Great work... Bush would never really reach out to other cultures unless they were Christian or he had guns pointing at them... this is why Obama has had more respect in repairing how other cultures view us and hopefully will make travel abroad for us safer.

    February 13, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  20. Charlie in Maine

    Okay, Let the hatred spew from the teabaggers and birthers, but this is exactly what is needed. On the same day we blast the hell out those fascists in the Taliban we are trying to make peace with the moderates. This will serve notice to the few extremists while encouraging the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims to see as in a better light.

    February 13, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Bobby

    Do you really think the muslim world cares that were on our hands and knees begging them for there freindship?

    February 13, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. Tor Lars

    - a relationship that he says has been marred by "misunderstanding and mistrust."

    Wow. Can this president ever refrain from knocking his own country's history? He really has an enormous ego. No accomplishments, but an ego to beat all egos. Yes Mr. President... everything was just so wrong before you. Truly disgusting.

    February 13, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. veritas

    Can't wait to hear what Rush, Sarah and the rest of the "American Taliban" have to say about this!

    February 13, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. IKHAN

    A wise move.
    We cannot simply ignore a population of billion plus people inhabiting this planet & their view point in the affairs of our world. Its important that we engage them in dialogue which serves both our interests. Also important is the role that the US & Islamic countries can play together in rooting out extremism & violence.
    The time for unilateral policies is over, as a leader of Free World, US has to rethink its role in order that our future generations inherit a saner world.

    February 13, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. jane

    I think this shows wisdom on the part of both the President and the Secretary of State.

    February 13, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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