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In his National Affairs article "The Muslim-American Muddle," Peter Skerry argued that since 9/11, "America has reached a political and intellectual stalemate regarding the Muslims in its midst," and that both elites and the general public misunderstand, for better or worse, the challenges Islam poses to America. At an event on Wednesday sponsored by the AEI Program on American Citizenship, leading experts on Islam in America came together to discuss the article and the role of Muslims in America. Skerry (Boston College and Brookings Institution) contended that if Muslim Americans are to dispel concerns about where their loyalties lie, their leadership (such as organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations) must acknowledge past Islamist ties and their accompanying "baggage." Andrew C. McCarthy (National Review Institute) argued that Skerry underestimated the influence of radical Islamist ideology, while Justin Vaïsse (Brookings Institution) questioned Skerry's focus on Muslim American organizations rather than isolated, homegrown Muslim jihadists (like Nidal Hasan of the Fort Hood shooting). Hillel Fradkin (Hudson Institute) discussed how past immigrants had assimilated into American society and the important role that public schools once played in this process. Muslim American author Souheil Ghannouchi said the burden was on the Muslim American community to move beyond accusations of Islamophobia and actively engage as American citizens.
“A decade after 9/11, America has reached a political and intellectual stalemate regarding the Muslims in its midst,” writes Peter Skerry in his timely essay in National Affairs, “The Muslim-American muddle.” According to Skerry, complacent elites and alarmist populists alike misunderstand the real challenges Islam poses to America, while Muslims themselves are conflicted about their role in American society. At an event sponsored by AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, a panel of leading experts on Islam in America will discuss Skerry’s essay and the critical issues to consider as Muslims in the US assume their responsibilities as American citizens.
PETER SKERRY, Boston College and Brookings Institution
HILLEL FRADKIN, Hudson Institute
SOUHEIL GHANNOUCHI, Author
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, National Review Institute
JUSTIN VAÏSSE, Brookings Institution
GARY J. SCHMITT, AEI
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Hillel Fradkin is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, where he directs its Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World. He is the founder of Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, the leading journal on contemporary Islamism, which he co-edits with Hassan Mneimneh and Eric Brown. He is also general editor of Hudson’s monograph series on contemporary Islam and Islamism as well as the center’s website: www.CurrentTrends.org. Before joining Hudson in 2004, Mr. Fradkin was a fellow at several other research institutes and was a member of the faculties of the University of Chicago (1986–1998) and Columbia University/Barnard College (1979–1986.) He has also taught at Yale University and Georgetown University. He writes on both classical and contemporary Islam, as well as Middle Eastern politics, American foreign and security policy, and the history of the problematic relationship of religion and politics.
Souheil Ghannouchi is a university professor and a Muslim American community leader with an extensive knowledge of Islam and politics. Born in Tunisia to a family with strong religious and political roots, he was an activist in his youth and participated firsthand in the Tunisian student movement. During his 20 years of asylum in the United States, beginning in 1989, Mr. Ghannouchi served in the leadership of a number of organizations and was at the forefront of the Tunisian human rights campaign.
Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author of the bestseller, “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad” (Encounter Books 2008). He was previously the legal-affairs editor at National Review and the chairman of the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. For 18 years, Mr. McCarthy was an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York. From 1993 through 1995, he led the terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a plot to bomb New York City landmarks. For five years, he was the chief assistant U.S. attorney of the Southern District’s satellite office in White Plains, and following the 9/11 attacks, he supervised the Justice Department’s command post near Ground Zero in New York City. In 2004, Mr. McCarthy served at the Pentagon as a special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense. He has also been an adjunct professor at both Fordham University’s School of Law and New York Law School, as well as a deputy United States marshal in the federal Witness Protection Program.
Gary J. Schmitt is the director of AEI's Program on American Citizenship. Previously, he served in senior positions in the U.S. Senate and the Reagan White House, and as president of the New Citizenship Project, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to exploring the impact of public policy on American civic life. He is the author or editor of several volumes on issues pertaining to national security and has also written and lectured on American history, constitutional law, political philosophy and American political thought. His two most recent books, to which he is also editor and contributing author, are “The Rise of China: Essays on the Future Competition” and “Safety, Liberty and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism.”
Peter Skerry is professor of political science at Boston College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and at the Brookings Institution. He previously taught at Claremont McKenna College and at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was formerly a research fellow at AEI and legislative director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). His book “Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority” was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Mr. Skerry has written about race, religion, ethnicity and immigration for a variety of scholarly and nonscholarly publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Public Interest, National Review, Foreign Policy, National Affairs, and Time. He has served on the Advisory Council on European/Transatlantic Issues of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, an affiliate of the German Green Party. He has also been a member of the board of the United Neighborhood Organization, a Chicago-based Latino community organization and charter school operator. Mr. Skerry was co-director of the Brookings-Duke Immigration Policy Roundtable and is currently co-convener of the Dialogue on Islam in America at AEI. He is completing a book on the challenges concerning the social, cultural and political integration of Muslims in the United States.
Justin Vaïsse is the director of research for the Center on the United States and Europe and a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. From 2003 to 2007, Mr. Vaïsse served a special adviser on the United States and transatlantic relations at the Centre d'Analyse et de Prévision (the Policy Planning Staff) of the French Foreign Ministry. During that period, he was also an adjunct professor at Sciences-Po in Paris. His areas of expertise include American foreign policy and European affairs. An adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he is the author of many articles and books, including “Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France” (with Jonathan Laurence) and, most recently, “Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement.”