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President Karzai, Foreign Minister Spanta and Ambasasdor Jawad attend U.S.-Islamic World Forum

In his February 16 keynote address to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, President Hamid Karzai urged cooperation with the West in combating terrorism and furthering opportunities for development throughout the Islamic world.

The U.S.-Islamic World Forum is a conference operated by the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Leaders from nations across the globe convened on Doha Qatar to share ideas and strategies, and to develop plans for cooperation for the coming year. Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad joined President Karzai and the Afghan delegation and participated in a number of the Forum’s sessions and meetings. Forums explored such subjects as “U.S. and Islamic World Opinion: Latest Findings of How We See Each Other,” “Addressing the Conflicts that Divide Us,” “Human Development and Social Change,” and, “Looking Ahead: A Muslim World Perspective.”

President Karzai met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, Afghan community elders and Middle Eastern business leaders. In his keynote address to the U.S.-Islamic Forum, the President spoke of the similar interests shared in both the Islamic and Western world and voiced concern about efforts in the media to frame current tensions as a “clash of civilizations.”

As an argument to dispel that myth, President Karzai compared elements of the Quran to the U.S. constitution. “All humans are equal in the sight of God,” he quoted from the Quran, adding that “humans are born into different tribes and distinctions not to despise one another, but to know each other better.” He compared the cornerstone of Islam with the foundation of American government saying, “the founding fathers of what is today the United States of America adhered to these same principles as they set about founding a new great nation: ‘we hold this truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal’, they declared.”

President Karzai went on to explain that the terrorists of the world are not representative of the beliefs of Islam, and were in fact enemies of the Muslim community. “Muslims were the first victims [of Al-Qaeda]. Before they attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the terrorists were killing thousands of innocent Muslims in my own country,” said the President.

The speech ended on a hopeful note, as President Karzai described the successes in rebuilding Afghanistan’s health sector, education system and infrastructure, such as the Ring Road. Road building in Afghanistan has been a joint effort of many nations from the Muslim and non-Muslim world, an example of the international cooperation the U.S. Islamic World Forum was convened to promote and encourage. The EU, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Japan all have played a role. “When these countries from far-flung corners of the world, representing different civilizations, come together to cooperate, there is much hope to have for the future, no matter what common challenges there may be,” said President Karzai. “Indeed, our future in a peaceful world lies in the extent to which a cooperation among civilizations, as exemplified in Afghanistan, can become the rule and not the exception.”

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