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The Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU) is funded by the U.S. State Department. Its stated mission is to to present a positive portrayal to Muslims abroad of Islamic life in America, and to explain to Americans "what Muslim values are."
CAMU was founded in April 2002. "It will be government-funded, but it's not government-founded. I'd like to say we founded it," said Malik Hasan of Pueblo, CO, the group's chairman. However, Hasan acknowledged that the idea began with the State Department.
CAMU has a web site, whose stated aim is to "encourage a broader dialogue and stimulate a forum for the exchange of ideas and information between Americans of all faiths and people from the Muslim world." The web site gives away a free glossy pamphlet and several short documentaries offering upbeat looks at the lives of individual Muslims in the United States. It also includes a section inviting visitors to share their thoughts, but visitors' contributions are screened and edited. The site has posted some comments by Muslims that are critical of the United States, but its failure to provide an unfiltered forum contrasts noticeably with its stated intent to promote "open dialoque between the American people and the peoples of the Muslim World."
CAMU has had little noticeable impact on U.S.-Muslim relations. An Internet search in January 2003 found that only a handful of external sites had linked to opendialogue.com, most of which were the sites of U.S. embassies or other government institutions.
In contrast with CAMU's message of dialogue and tolerance, the Bush administration's supporters in the Christian Coalition of America have sent a different message. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called a February 2003 CCA conference an "Islamophobic hate-fest." Speakers include Daniel Pipes, who says "increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews," and WorldNetDaily.com Editor Joseph Farah, who says "Islam has been at war with the West, with Christianity, with Judaism ... ever since the days of Muhammad." Former CCA head Pat Robertson has also been a regular contributor to the rhetorical war, saying that Muslims are worse than Hitler.
As of this writing (Nov 19, 2004) the Council no longer seems to exist.
- Mark O'Keefe, "State Department Draws Fire in Effort to Promote Muslim Life in U.S.," Newhouse News Service, May 14, 2002.