US-Islamic forum in Doha endorses Barack Obama
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DOHA: Delegates at a US-Islamic forum voiced support on Monday for US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, although some warned against expecting any radical policy change irrespective of who captures the White House. Obama won overwhelming support in a mock election by more than 200 American and Muslim delegates at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha.

His Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates won a handful of votes.

About 280 public figures and academics from 32 countries, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, attended the fifth edition of the forum due to end in Qatar later Monday. 

Islamic television preacher Amr Khaled told the forum that he speaks “on behalf of millions of Muslim youth who seek work, respect and freedom,” and urged the next US administration to “solve the political problems in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and not to mix Muslims and extremists.”

“The Indonesian people would love to see a [US] president who has studied at an elementary school in Jakarta,” Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyya, one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, said in a reference to Obama.

But Dhiya Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on terror groups, warned that US policy under the next president would be “a continuation of current policies, though in a less extreme way than the conservative Republican administration.”

The Bush administration has “planted landmines everywhere” for its successor, making it impossible for the next president to suddenly reverse course, Rashwan said. “The arms industry will not give up these deals under any circumstances.”

The Bush administration has also “imposed a phobia” against Islam on Americans, something US politicians will find difficult to change, he added.

Mehran Kamrava, a political science professor at the Qatar branch of Georgetown University, said he thought the next US cabinet would not “work hard for a rapprochement with the Islamic world, because Muslims are not a strong voice.”

The annual gathering is organized by the Qatari Foreign Ministry and the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. – AFP


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