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Shaarik Zafar is America's 'Special Representative to the Muslim World'
Monday September 1, 2014 8:06 AM, News Network

Amid increasing criticism of its stand taken during the recent Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, and its prolonged silence over the massacre in Syria, the US on Wednesday is appointing Shaarik Zafar, a Texas based lawyer, as its yet another 'Special Representative to Muslim World'.

Shaarik Zafar

US Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a ceremony to honor Shaarik Zafar at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, for his appointment as Special Representative to Muslim Communities.

According to a US State Department statement, during the ceremony Secretary Kerry will highlight the vital role Special Representative Zafar will assume in driving the Secretary’s engagement on issues that have impacted Muslim communities around the world.

The Secretary will also underscore the important role all faith communities can play in promoting pluralism and countering hateful ideologies.

Zafar’s predecessor, an Indian-American Farah Pandith, had held the job since it was created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 and focused on building initiatives with young Muslims around the world.

With Zafar, the position of Special Representative to Muslim Communities will move into a new office at the State Department aimed at faith outreach that is rapidly expanding.

The white board in his office where he brainstorms is topped with cultural themes: “sports, Hollywood.”

Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks prompted a major rethinking of the US government’s outreach to Muslims, Zafar’s appointment reflects a new phase that may be less apparent but deeper and more effective.

Many feel dismayed that the Obama administration no longer gives high-profile priority to Muslim outreach compared to early in his presidency, when he made key speeches in Turkey and Cairo.

Years of headlines on things such as US law enforcement mosque surveillance, failed Mideast peacemaking and anti-Muslim comments on the GOP presidential campaign trail have strained relationships.

The US administration under Obama is once against under attack for its pro-Israel and pro-Zionist policies.

Prominent Swiss celeb-professor Tariq Ramadan had recently announced he would skip the annual gathering of US Muslims — the conference of the Islamic Society of North America in Detroit — to protest the Muslim-American leadership silence or deferential to US power brokers on domestic and foreign issues.

“In bending over backwards, in saying ‘Yes sir!’ they sacrifice not only their dignity, but forget and betray their duty,” Ramadan wrote earlier this month, prompting prominent responses.

A similar discussion erupted in July when a large Arab-American group called on Muslim leaders to boycott government Iftars to protest US policy toward the Israel-Gaza war.

Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see how Zafar handles his job. He says he will focus primarily on “pushing open doors” — areas where cooperation is likely. Two of the State faith office’s top priorities are climate change and entrepreneurship.

Another priority (which Pandith focused on as well) is promoting “the creative economy” in Muslim communities overseas, helping them powerfully tell stories through film or art that may help further U.S. foreign policy goals.


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