The inaugural event of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum was held in Doha, Qatar on January 10-12, 2004. The conference convened some 150 leaders in politics, business, academe, media, and civil society from the United States and 38 Muslim countries, with the goal of encouraging dialogue and improving relations between the United States and the Islamic world.
Former President Bill Clinton and Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, were the keynote speakers. The forum is an initiative of the Saban Center’s Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World.
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar:
Your Excellencies, Dear Friends, Honourable Audience,
It is my pleasure to open this conference which is of special significance stemming from the importance of the theme it tackles, namely the Islamic – American Dialogue that we will all seek to promote and pursue in order to enhance the bases of mutual understanding between the Islamic World and the United States of America, and strengthen cooperation between them.
Permanent and candid dialogue at political, cultural, and academic levels is the means to consolidate our friendship on the bases of partnership, respect and mutual understanding, which have to be reinforced as principles for interaction among all countries and peoples.
Your conference also gains further importance due to the current international circumstances. The challenges we all face make it imperative upon us to exert efforts to settle existing regional crises and conflicts, foremost of which is the Arab-Israeli conflict, through peaceful means.
Conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have deteriorated to an unacceptable extent because of the practices of Israel’s forces of occupation marked by excessive violence that violates the rules of international law, the U.N. principles and resolutions and human rights.
Our Islamic World wonders why the international community refrains from exercising pressure on Israel to make it withdraw from the occupied Arab territories at a time when all pressures fall on the Arab side alone. Hence, we believe it is necessary for the United States, the sponsor of the peace process, and the international community to further their efforts aiming at ending the continuing violence so that it becomes possible to return to negotiations and implementation of the Road Map to realize the positive vision of President George W. Bush, which conforms with the principles of liberty and justice in which the U.S.A. believes, namely the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, living in peace side by side with Israel.
Needless to say that the realization of durable and just peace in the Middle East also requires Israel’s complete withdrawal from all Arab territories it occupied in 1967, including Syrian territories and the rest of occupied Lebanese lands, in the framework of the comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Last year witnessed grave events, the most significant of which was, perhaps, the invasion of Iraq, the repercussions of which we have to deal with wisdom and realism. We view the situation in Iraq from the perspective of basic principles, namely: the necessity of preserving the unity of Iraq; helping it to come out of the ordeal it had suffered for so long, and enabling it to regain its independence and sovereignty and choose its leadership in a free, democratic way, since a democratic Iraq will contribute considerably to consolidating security and stability in the region and pave the way for the return of the land of civilizations to its natural place in the international community.
At the same time, we the Arabs and Muslims throughout the world have to solve the problems and crisis that face our countries and communities, many of which are due to inherent factors. We have to carry our political, economic and cultural reforms to broaden popular participation and democratic practice to have a better future for our coming generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Through candid and constructive dialogue in this conference, we hope to achieve the goals we all seek to realize. I am pleased to take this opportunity to announce that, in line with our conviction in the importance of this dialogue and necessity of maintaining and encouraging it, “The Permanent Forum For the American-Islamic Dialogue”, which we called for its creation at your previous conference held here in Doha last y ear, has taken its first practical steps by the establishment of ‘Qatar-Brookings Project’ which will assume the permanent supervision of the work of this conference and its subsequent sessions, and which will include the opening of a permanent headquarters for the Forum here in Doha, which will have an international advisory board consisting of world figures, to follow up this mission and plan for its future activities for promoting ways of better understanding between the United States and the Islamic world.
Our goal and ambition is to contribute to deepening understanding, promoting cooperation and increasing rapprochement between the peoples and communities of the world. This requires first of all a dialogue and communication between our countries, cultures and civilizations. We believe in the interaction of cultures and civilizations and reject the concepts of their conflict. Islam as a religion, culture and a civilization is a basic and vital part of the whole cultures, civilizations and religions that shaped throughout the centuries and generations the modern world and its heritage. The on-going dialogue between our countries and societies today is a continuation of the fruitful dialogue and interaction that has for so long characterized the historical relations between our peoples. Let us preserve this rich legacy and do our best to enrich, deepen and promote it for the good of the peoples of the entire world.
I thank you for your attendance and wish you and your conference all success.
May the peace, the mercy and blessings of God be upon you.