CAIRO: Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State Farah Pandith arrived in Egypt Tuesday to build on President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech last year, the US embassy in Cairo said.
Pandith’s three-day visit aims to “build on President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo, where he stressed that US relations with Muslim communities around the world should be based on ‘mutual respect and mutual interest,’” the embassy said in a statement.
Pandith will be discussing suggestions for the future of US relations with Muslim-majority communities with experts in Cairo and Alexandria.
The special representative will attend the conference “New Beginnings: US-Muslim Relations” which is taking place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Pandith is scheduled to meet with Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmad Mohamed El-Tayeb, as well as visiting the English Language Resource Center (ELRC) at Al-Azhar University, and the Aga Khan Foundation in Darb Al-Ahmar district of Cairo.
Furthermore, following up on President Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship, which took place last April in Washington D.C., Pandith will also join a panel discussion with Egyptian alumni of Egyptian-American exchange programs on “Engaging Social Entrepreneurs in Egypt.”
“In the Arab and Muslim world there is a disappointment at the Obama administration. Today, one year after his speech, no major steps have been taken in the issues he has discussed and made promises in,” said Hassan Abu Taleb, international relations expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“Having a special representative for the Muslim World come here is a positive step, maybe a bit late but it’s still in the right direction. However, we need to know whether the visit is simply for public relations and to portray a positive image of the US government, or her role would surpass PR and build on last year’s speech which entailed cooperation in the different social, economic and cultural aspects,” he explained.
“An ambitious action plan needs to be put — one that is based on partnership and dialogue. And we hope real change happens,” he added, because the Muslim world is still suffering greatly from the major misconception created during the Bush administration,” noted Abu Taleb.
Pandith was appointed Special Representative to Muslim Communities in June 2009, she is responsible for executing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s vision for engagement with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level.
Before this she was Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, focusing on Muslim communities in Europe.
This wasn’t her first job working with the Muslim communities as she also served as the Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council during which she was responsible for coordinating US policy on Muslim World Outreach and the Broader Middle East North Africa initiative.
Pandith is an American Muslim who was born in India and then immigrated to the United States.