Leadership Forum with American Muslim Communities

November 11, 2014

Every week is busy at MPAC, but last week was especially busy! For the past couple of years, the American Muslim community has been facing challenges regarding issues of national security, surveillance, foreign policy and public perception. The day following the midterm elections, American Muslims from around the country came together to strategize how we can collectively overcome issues that impact our communities. In partnership with the New America Foundation, we convened over 50 American Muslims from across the nation for a leadership forum called “Policy Challenges and Opportunities Facing American Muslim Communities.”

These community leaders, together with experts, thought through the issues we are facing and found solutions to build a framework of principles and goals for working together. When difficult issues arise, often times we talk past each other and not to each other. The purpose of this forum was to talk directly to one another about our community's challenges and opportunities. This was our inaugural policy leadership forum and we hope to continue expanding this group and bring more leaders to Washington, DC to advocate on behalf of American Muslims.

Throughout the day, we spoke frankly with each other and in the afternoon Shaarik Zafar, the State Department's Special Representative to Muslim Communities, engaged with us. Following the leadership forum, we had a more intimate meeting in the West Wing at the White House with President Obama's Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco. In the meeting, American Muslim leaders and experts discussed the impact of mass surveillance, problematic trainings in law enforcement and government agencies, and how to partner closely with government agencies to develop community-based countering violent extremism (CVE) programs.

This leadership forum highlighted the need for communities to come together to develop a set of priorities around the various policy issues that are consequential to how we live as American Muslims. In a diverse community such as ours, we will not have the same strategies and approaches to our advocacy, but we can share the same goals and sets of principles that will make our communities safer and our country stronger.

The day portion of the leadership forum consisted of three robust panels:

1) The Nexus between National Security and Civil Rights

  • Rabia Chaudry, Fellow for New America Foundation’s International Security Program
  • Alejandro Beutel, Independent Researcher
  • Heather Hurlburt, Director of New Models of Policy Change at the New America Foundation
  • Suhail Khan, Director of External Affairs at Microsoft Corporation
  • Moderator: Haris Tarin, MPAC Director of the Washington, DC, Office

2) Media, Public Perceptions and Narrative Building

3) Impacting Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities

This leadership forum was just the beginning of us paving the road for American Muslims to work together and ultimately move our country forward. We hope you’ll continue to support our work in order for us to implement the recommendations from this forum on your behalf.


Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC President

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