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Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2005

Historic conference seeks improvements in treatment and inclusion of Western Muslims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPT. 8, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The first conference to explore the relationship between Western nations and their growing Muslim minority populations will be held Sept. 22-24 at Indiana University Bloomington.

A group of 14 scholars from both sides of the Atlantic will participate in the "Muslims in Western Politics" conference. Their challenge is to produce policy recommendations to improve the civil rights and treatment of Muslims while addressing salient security concerns.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will feature public lectures by James Zogby and David Cole, two of the foremost thinkers on issues of civil rights and political participation by American Muslims and Arabs. The conference will be held in the Indiana Memorial Union on the Bloomington campus.

Terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, Madrid and London and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have focused attention on Muslim minorities in the West -- as political actors, electoral constituencies, scapegoats for poor economic performance and suspects in the face of insecurity.

Western nations and their rapidly growing Muslim populations are adjusting to each other under the constant pressure of "exogenous shocks," said Abdulkader Sinno, an assistant professor of political science and Middle Eastern studies at IU Bloomington. "The way they manage the process will deeply affect Western politics and their relations with the Muslim world."

Sinno, who organized the conference, is a Muslim and Arab American who emigrated from Lebanon to the United States when he was 18. An authority on Middle Eastern politics, Muslims in the West, conflict processes and state building, he hopes conference participants will find answers to several critical questions, including:

  • How can Western Muslims become stakeholders in the political process?
  • How can they gain political representation?
  • How do they interact with state institutions?
  • How are they perceived by fellow citizens, and how do they perceive their compatriots in the post-9/11 world?

"This is the first conference to look comparatively at how Muslim minorities and state institutions interact, with a focus on politics, policies, law, human rights and security," Sinno said.

Zogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community. A lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues, U.S.-Arab relations and the history of the Arab-American community, Zogby appears frequently on television and radio. Since 1992, he has also written a weekly column on U.S. politics for the major newspapers of the Arab world. The column, Washington Watch, is currently published in 14 Arab countries.

Zogby will lead off the conference with a lecture titled "The Emergent Arab American Political Constituency" on Sept. 22 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union's Whittenberger Auditorium.

Cole is a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, a commentator on National Public Radio, and the author of three books including Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism (New Press, second edition, 2005), which received the American Book Award and the Hefner First Amendment Prize in 2004.

Conference participants intend to publish their findings in an edited volume.

The conference will be supported by several university divisions that are considered recognized leaders in the development of workable solutions to cultural and transnational issues. They include the Center for the Study of Global Change, the Center for West European Studies, and the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program.

For a complete list of sponsors, plus program and paper abstracts, participant bios, travel and accommodations, and local information, go to http://www.polsci.indiana.edu/iwest/.

To learn more about Abdulkader Sinno, go to http://www.sinno.com.