U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday he was naming a special envoy to a top Islamic body to further Washington's cooperation with the Muslim world.
Obama told a U.S.-Islamic World Forum in the Qatari capital Doha in a recorded video message that he was naming White House official Rashad Hussain as special envoy to the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
"As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo," Obama said.
In a speech in Cairo last June, Obama called for a "new beginning" in ties between the United States and Muslims, many of whom felt targeted by the "war on terror" launched by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Since then, my administration has made a sustained effort to listen. We've held thousands of events and town halls ...in the United States and around the world ... And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month," Obama said.
Obama told Muslims in his June 4 speech in Cairo that violent extremists had exploited tensions between Muslims and the West and that Islam was not part of the problem.
His speech was welcomed by many Muslims, though some said they wanted him to spell out specific actions to resolve long-running problems like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"And as a hafiz of the Quran, (Hussain) is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work," Obama said in his message to the Doha meeting, using the term for someone who has mastered and memorized the Muslim holy book.
Hussain was named deputy associate counsel to Obama in January 2009. He has served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and as assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he reviewed legislation such as the USA Patriot Act.
Hussain, who has a master's degree in public administration and in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University, graduated from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
And as a hafiz of the Quran, Hussain is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work
US President Barack Obama
Committed to two-state solution
Obama, who has made the elusive search for Middle East peace a top priority of his administration, also renewed his commitment to seeking a two-state solution for the Palestinians.
"We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians," he vowed.
But he acknowledged that the path ahead would not be easy, admitting that "the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.
"Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun," Obama said.
"Now, it falls to us all, governments and individuals, to do the hard work that must be done turning words into deeds and Writing the Next Chapter in the ties between us, with faith in each other, on the basis of mutual respect."
A year into his administration, Obama has yet to achieve any significant momentum on stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and Muslim audiences are now less receptive to his promise of a "new beginning" with the Muslim world.
Now, it falls to us all, governments and individuals, to do the hard work that must be done turning words into deeds and Writing the Next Chapter in the ties between us, with faith in each other, on the basis of mutual respect