Closing down the American prison at Guantánamo Bay is proving more difficult than initially anticipated, but so far the success has been mixed for the Obama Administration, with both disappointments and victories for the plan in the past week alone. The latest of blows to the White House’s efforts to move detainees from Guantánamo came this week when the Canadian government flatly rejected calls to take 17 Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, cleared for release from the prison. Kory Teneycke, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told the Associated Free Press that “Canada is not looking to take any detainees from Guantánamo…In the case of the Uighurs and other Guantanamo Bay detainees Canada has no interest.” The lack of interest in taking in detainees has proven troublesome for the Obama Administration. The Uighur case is widely considered a mess inherited by the new President but with seemingly few prospects for a quick solution. Indeed, American lawmakers have likely made a solution seem even farther away. Mark Kersten reports.
Canada has refused a request from the Obama administration to take 17 Chinese Muslims called Uighurs cleared for release from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper says they have no connection to Canada and there are security concerns. Authorities claim that Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Uighurs fear persecution if they are sent back to China. Their quest to settle in Canada is complicated by the case of Omar Khadr, a 22-year-old Canadian who has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 on accusations of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a battle between al-Qaeda fighters and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
From his home in Austin, Teas, Shahed Amanullah runs six popular websites that explore topics of interest to Muslims – with two more expected to launch shortly. Amanullah’s mini-internet empire include a website that reviews restaurants that meet Islamic dietary restrictions, another that reviews mosques, and one that explores gender issues – but his highest-profile website is “alt.muslim.com” – a forum for Muslims and non-Muslims to explore contemporary, often controversial topics as they intersect with Islam. These topics include terrorism, politics, culture, and comedy. The Washington Post interviews Shahed Amanullah on his reasons for creating these communities, the changing perception of Muslim Americans post 9/11 and moving into the Obama administration. “My job isn’t to convince people that Muslims are perfect. My job is to convince people that Muslims are human,” he says.
Dalia Mogahed, a senior executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The selection by Mogahed is viewed by many Muslims in the US and many in the Middle East as a step by the Obama Administration to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudices that they believe have been cast upon Muslims since September 11, 2008. The move to appoint a hijab-wearing Muslim woman is also seen as step to improve relations with Islam, which many Muslims see has badly damaged during the Bush administration.
Spain announced last Tuesday that it was ready to help the United States in reaching out to Muslim countries that President Barack Obama announced in his speech to the Turkish parliament. “The United States knows that Spain has the ability, influence, understanding and experience (in the Muslim countries) and, therefore, we’re going to work in that regard,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
The strengthening of Spanish-Muslim ties was one of the major issues discussed by President Obama and Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero. “I think that the Obama administration’s focus on international relations – supporting multilateralism, dialogue and respect for others and intelligent diplomacy – fully coincides with the Alliance of Civilizations,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.