Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.

Obama to Host East AFrican Muslims At 2-Day US Summit - 2010-04-26

Monday, 2010, April 26 - Tuesday, 2010, April 27
Kevin Kelly

As part of his effort to improve US relations with Muslims in East Africa and throughout the world, President Barack Obama is hosting an entrepreneurship summit this week designed to encourage grassroots economic development that can lead to political reforms.

Four Kenyans are among more than 200 mostly Muslim delegates from 50 countries invited to the event taking place in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr Obama is expected to address the summit which, organisers say, will focus on topics such as "fostering a culture of entrepreneurship" and promoting innovation.

Some Muslims see the meeting as a sign of a significant shift in Washington's approach, which was first signaled in President Obama's policy speech in Cairo last June.

"What has also changed -- beyond tone and rhetoric -- is the departure from the world view of his neo-conservative predecessors that freedom and progress in the Muslim world was a top-down project: You change the regime and the democratic effect would somehow filter down," Asim Siddiqui, founder of a British Muslim debate forum, wrote recently in London's Guardian newspaper.

Mr Obama's is instead projecting the perspective that "trade, not force, may drive democratic reform in that part of the world," Mr Siddiqui observed.

Influential analysts in the US, such as New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that economic underdevelopment in Muslim societies fuels isolation and resentment on the part of young men unable to find jobs.

Some of them turn to radical Islamist groups hostile to American interests and values, Mr Friedman and other commentators say.

It is thus suggested that the United States can most effectively help foster political moderation and spur democratic reforms by working to integrate Muslim communities into the global capitalist economy.

The summit will "celebrate the risky, exhilarating life of entrepreneurship," according to promotional materials for the event.

The Kenyan Muslims invited to Washington were chosen on the basis of their "commitment to community service, and gender, geographic and urban/rural diversity," the summit organisers say.

Yusuf Keshavjee, a co-founder of a yoga hotel in Diani Beach, is chairman of White Rose Drycleaners, East Africa's largest chain of dry-cleaning franchises. Mr Keshavjee also serves as board chairman of Honey Care Africa Ltd, a social enterprise that is said to have lifted 9,000 smallholder farmers out of poverty.

Also taking part from Kenya is Rehema Dida Jaldesa, managing director of Yashar Distributors. Ms Jaldesa's construction business has drilled boreholes in northern Kenya.

Salim Amin, another summit attendee, owns Camerapix Ltd, which employs 30 media professionals at its Nairobi headquarters and in a London office. Camerapix, founded in 1963 by renowned cameraman Mohamed "Mo" Amin (Salim's father), now provides clients with television production, photography and publishing services.

Nuria Sheikh Farah, the owner of Risala Enterprises Ltd, will also be at the summit this week. Ms Farah's company has a fleet of lorries that transport petroleum products and household goods throughout East Africa. She also runs Gargaar Kenya, an NGO in northeastern Kenya that promotes the education of girls.

The two-day summit to be attended by about 250 delegates from more than 50 Muslim countries is seen as an opening for Africa's economic boom.

Copyright © 2010 The East African. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

Back to top