The Role for Muslim Think Tanks

By Hanley, Delinda C. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2010 | Go to article overview

The Role for Muslim Think Tanks


Hanley, Delinda C., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The topic for the American Muslim Alliance Foundation's monthly forum, held Aug. 9 at the Martin Luther King Library in Washington, DC, was "Capacity Formation: Emerging Roles of Think Tanks in Muslim Countries/Communities."

Professor Sulayman Nyang, chairman of African Studies at Howard University, described the rich history of think tanks or policy institutes in the Muslim world, including Dar Al Hikhmah, the library and translation institute in Abbassid-era Baghdad, Iraq, which collected knowledge from all over the world. Following President Woodrow Wilson's presidency, public policy organizations and think tanks began surfacing in the United States and now number 40,000, from conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute to liberal ones like the Brookings Institution. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Brandeis, a private Jewish research university, produce scholarly papers and advice.

Muslims in America are highly educated, Dr. Nyang pointed out, but not yet as organized. "It's vital to get Muslims to invest in research and develop think tanks," he concluded. "It's great that Muslims are getting Ph.D.s at Harvard, but their research shouldn't be a one-time event. Muslim think tanks need to organize these scholarly works."

Nuh Yilmaz, Washington, DC director of the Turkish think tank Foundation for Political, Economical and Social Research (SETA), discussed how think tanks start from a political position, form an organization, next do research and produce strategies, and finally recommend policies. He said America is now out-sourcing policymaking and even journalism to think tanks.

Shireen Zaman, executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, DC, described her organization, which she said is not a Muslim think tank. …

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