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On 4 December 2006, the American Muslims’ national leadership met with
key senior American government officials to discuss Islamophobia in the
country and American-Muslim relations. The conference, organized by the
Bridging the Divide Initiative of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution,
was co-sponsored by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
(ISPU) and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS).
As conference chair, I had to bring together two parties that did not see
eye-to-eye on this issue. While American Muslim leaders and participants
argued that Islamophobia was not only a reality but also a rapidly growing
phenomenon in the United States, the government’s position was that while
there have been increased incidences of anti-Muslim episodes in the country,
the word Islamophobia deepens the divide between the two sides. Other government representatives also suggested that the fear to which Muslims
were referring was not that of Islam, but rather that of Muslim terrorism, as
manifested on 11 September 2001.
Stephen Grand (director, United States-Islamic World program) welcomed
all participants and launched the conference. The government was
represented by the Department of State, the Department of Homeland
Security, and associated agencies. The morning keynote address was delivered
by Alina Romanowski (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
Professional and Cultural Affairs). She was introduced by Ambassador
Martin Indyk (director, the Saban Center), who proclaimed the importance
of such dialogues at a time when the gap between the United States and the
Muslim world appears to be widening ...