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

Obama picks special envoy to world Muslim group


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. Anonymous

    It would seem to be more prove about Obama's muslin background and lack of christianity.

    February 13, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. inthecity

    Good luck, with that problem.

    February 13, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. andy

    OK do you now think that just maybe Obama has a personal tie to the Muslim World,or is this just being a good president to court the Muslims?And the Dems call the Repubs radicals.If this was a convention of the worlds Baptist do you think Obama would care?

    February 13, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. Mike J.

    Considering that our most dangerous adversaries are currently comprised of extemist factions from the Muslim world, I think this is a big step towards making inroads for dialog between the U.S. and the Muslim world for purpose of potential peace negotiations.

    February 13, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Chad

    Hmm...I dont remember having a nazi-american conference.

    February 13, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. virginia nielsen

    What a great LEADER !!! That is what I expect from the most powerful nation on the planet ... understanding and consequently PEACE !!! Keep on the good work, Prez!!!

    February 13, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. Dem TIl death

    As i"ve said before this man has more common sense in his left smallest toenail than old Bush,Cheney, and Palin put together. The U.S. made a good move electing a statesman to the WH.Long live our President, Barack Hussein Obama !

    February 13, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  8. Bush: bin Laden is not a priority

    Obama just gets it. The war on terror will never end if we don't address the root cause of islamist radicalism and eliminate their means of recruitment.

    February 13, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Bob Kelley

    Our relationship with the Muslim world marred by "misunderstanding " and "mistrust"?? Is Obama serious?? How about marred by Islamic jihad against thousands of innocent civilians???

    February 13, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
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