Envoy Pandith pledges to be a good listener



WASHINGTON // The special envoy appointed to lead the Obama administration's effort to reach out to the Muslim world said this week that her approach would be based on a simple diplomatic tool: listening. "There is no one bullet that is going to fix everything; there is not one programme that is going to be the magic programme to engage with Muslims. It's really listening. It's really understanding what's taking place on the ground," Farah Pandith, who was appointed last week to be the first special representative to Muslim communities, said in a briefing with reporters. "It's finding opportunities through our embassies to get to know what others are saying and thinking and dreaming and believing."

In what amounted to her official introduction, Ms Pandith struck rhetorical tones similar to those favoured by her new boss, Barack Obama, who has sought to distance himself from unilateral policies of the Bush administration. The very appointment of a high-level state department official focused on communicating with Muslims, many analysts said, indicates a new commitment to dialogue. But Ms Pandith, 41, does not represent a clean break from the Bush years. She served three years on George W Bush's National Security Council, where she was responsible for "co-ordinating US policy on Muslim world outreach", according to a description of her responsibilities released by the state department.

And while many Middle East analysts have praised her appointment, some have been more cautious, citing her connections to an unpopular administration. Mustapha Tlili, who worked with Ms Pandith at a conference on Muslim youth in 2007, said her experience under Mr Bush remains a "question mark". "My hope is that she brings to the new function a different discourse than the one she used during the Bush administration," he said, nevertheless describing Ms Pandith as "well-equipped" for her new post.

But Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a critic of Mr Bush's policies, said he believed Ms Pandith was one of the few from the Bush administration who could talk "with" people rather than "talk at them". "She is someone who brings a level of sophistication but also respect for other people's opinions," said Mr Singer, who worked with Ms Pandith in his role as director of Brookings' project on US policy towards the Islamic world. "She is going to stand up for her own beliefs, but she doesn't do it in this kind of arrogant, cocksure manner that defined the last eight years."

Ms Pandith, a Muslim, was born in Kashmir Province. She emigrated to the US as a child and was raised by her parents in New England. She was president of her class in high school and at Smith College in Massachusetts. In the 1990s, Ms Pandith worked for the US Agency for International Development. She returned to the agency in 2004 for a two-month stint in Kabul. In 2007, she was tapped by the state department to lead US outreach to Muslims in Europe.

Some of those who know Ms Pandith describe her as a skilled networker who never appears to be lecturing or talking down to others. Andrew Hess, her former professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said he was impressed with her ability to engage with students from different cultures. "She liked to talk about and discuss the issues that divided the students and work in some way to bridge them," he said. "I am not surprised that she has gone as far forward as she has in Washington."

The decision to appoint a woman for the post meshes with the administration's broader goal of promoting women's rights in Muslim countries. Mr Obama has sought to bolster the status of Muslim women, most recently by praising the "courageous women" protesting in the streets of Tehran. Daisy Khan, the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement in New York, said the appointment "clearly indicates that a Muslim woman has the same entitlement as her male counterparts".

"She will be a role model for others who aspire to be in key political positions," said Ms Khan, who has worked with Ms Pandith. In her briefing on Wednesday, Ms Pandith described her new position as "historic". But it remains to be seen how effectively she can carry out a job with enormous responsibilities and no precedent in Washington. Some have wondered whether a job description that calls for improving relations with the world's 1.2 billion Muslims is too ambitious.

Ms Pandith did not specify how she planned to enhance dialogue with Muslims and skirted key foreign policy questions, such as whether continued support for Israel could harm perceptions of the US in the Arab world. She referred such matters to George Mitchell, the special envoy to the Middle East, and said her role was to focus on dialogue, not politics. The job requires a "nuanced" approach, she said, noting that she plans to focus the outreach on young Muslims. New initiatives could include anything from town hall-style meetings to community projects, all co-ordinated through various US embassies abroad. "We have to be able to build bridges of dialogue. It's critically important."

sstanek@thenational.ae

UNSC Elections 2022-23

Seats open:

  • Two for Africa Group
  • One for Asia-Pacific Group (traditionally Arab state or Tunisia)
  • One for Latin America and Caribbean Group
  • One for Eastern Europe Group

Countries so far running: 

  • UAE
  • Albania 
  • Brazil 

Pupils in Abu Dhabi are learning the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle now and throughout adulthood, thanks to a newly launched programme 'Healthy Lifestyle'.

As part of the Healthy Lifestyle programme, specially trained coaches from City Football Schools, along with Healthpoint physicians have visited schools throughout Abu Dhabi to give fun and interactive lessons on working out regularly, making the right food choices, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated, just like their favourite footballers.

Organised by Manchester City FC and Healthpoint, Manchester City FC’s regional healthcare partner and part of Mubadala’s healthcare network, the ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ programme will visit 15 schools, meeting around 1,000 youngsters over the next five months.

Designed to give pupils all the information they need to improve their diet and fitness habits at home, at school and as they grow up, coaches from City Football Schools will work alongside teachers to lead the youngsters through a series of fun, creative and educational classes as well as activities, including playing football and other games.

Dr Mai Ahmed Al Jaber, head of public health at Healthpoint, said: “The programme has different aspects - diet, exercise, sleep and mental well-being. By having a focus on each of those and delivering information in a way that children can absorb easily it can help to address childhood obesity."

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, which can lead to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.

There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This can occur through blood transfusions, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injecting drugs. Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common.

People infected with hepatitis C experience few or no symptoms, meaning they can live with the virus for years without being diagnosed. This delay in treatment can increase the risk of significant liver damage.

There are an estimated 170 million carriers of Hepatitis C around the world.

The virus causes approximately 399,000 fatalities each year worldwide, according to WHO.

 

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6
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The specs: 2018 Volkswagen Teramont

Price, base / as tested Dh137,000 / Dh189,950

Engine 3.6-litre V6

Gearbox Eight-speed automatic

Power 280hp @ 6,200rpm

Torque 360Nm @ 2,750rpm

Fuel economy, combined 11.7L / 100km

Company profile

Name: Tharb

Started: December 2016

Founder: Eisa Alsubousi

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: Luxury leather goods

Initial investment: Dh150,000 from personal savings

 

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
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Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

In numbers: China in Dubai

The number of Chinese people living in Dubai: An estimated 200,000

Number of Chinese people in International City: Almost 50,000

Daily visitors to Dragon Mart in 2018/19: 120,000

Daily visitors to Dragon Mart in 2010: 20,000

Percentage increase in visitors in eight years: 500 per cent

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

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