IjtihadReason Malta Forum In the News Lectures at the Grand Mosque, Oman Photo Essay

The Malta Forum is an endeavor which began in 2002 to reach out across what seemed to be a civilizational divide, in the aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Institute for American Values, together with colleagues from the Middle East, convened a series of meetings which brought together public intellectuals and academics from the Unites States, the Arab world, and beyond, to engage in a dialogue aimed at creating a base line of common understanding—one that accepts differences and disagreement with a foundation of respect and good faith. In order to hold such meetings, it is necessary to prepare a written plan in advance, which will contain the main theses of the raised discussions. Given that students are participating in the event, this task can easily be handed over to them, because they know the best specialists from the essay outline writing service who will quickly complete any structured written work using a modern writing style and taking into account all the points noted by the customer.

The desire to graduate the conversation forward, from a limited circle of participants and to bring it into a wider cultural context in both the United States and the Arab world, is faced with the fundamental obstacle of the mutually reductionist characterization of each of these two societies in the other's media and culture.

Archetypal models of presentation of the United States are in currency in the Arab world, ranging from its harsh portrayal of the U.S. as the heir of imperialism and colonialism, through a Hollywood-inspired amalgamation of over-indulgence and decadence, to a hypocritical society and government either unwilling or incapable of overcoming its support for injustice in Palestine and elsewhere. While other elements of a positive character are indeed in circulation—notably a recognition of the American values of rule of law, personal liberty, and economic opportunity—the predominance of the negative portrayal as a framework is an evident reality that requires study and exploration.

The place of the Arab world in American culture, on the other hand, may be less rooted in longue durée historical explanations, but is instead governed by images from recent memory—from the oil embargo of the 1970s, to the Iranian hostage crisis, Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship leading to the Gulf war, and the traumatic assault faced by the United States on the 11th of September 2001.

Despite official attempts at formulating the war with al-Qa‘idah, the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks, as a limited confrontation with marginal elements, U.S. cultural formulations often translated the conflict into one with a broader opponent. Prior to September 11th, 2001, the distinction between "Arab", "Muslim", and "Middle Eastern" was almost irrelevant outside of academic circles, and within communities variably espousing one or more of these labels. In the aftermath of September 11th, this benign negligence contributed to the simplistic but effective characterization of the Arab/Muslim/Middle-Eastern other as an enemy bound by irrationality, culture, tradition, or religion in his or her intolerance to American values and determination to cause harm. Even when more sophisticated formulations were presented, the underlying pool of elements that fed the crude discourse affected and at times shaped the analysis.

Our Malta Forum participants recognize that the differences that the reductionist propositions highlight and enhance cannot be dismissed as the mere result of misunderstanding or miscommunication. However, as many participants have argued, it is the absence of awareness of other elements of cultural significance in the respective settings that has caused missed opportunities for positive engagement.

Through its conferences, the Malta Forum tradition of respectful dialogue that accepts good faith disagreement and differences will continue. The two sides of the conversation, the United States and the Arab world, have witnessed advocacy efforts, both those that attempt to characterize the other as fundamentally incompatible with one's values, or those that focus solely on common grounds while dismissing the causes of conflict. The approach adopted by this conference is fundamentally different: By recognizing the multiplicity of voices in both cultures, the Malta Forum has underlined the importance of cultural engagement as an effort at the level of culture—where culture is understood as a complex scene— not as an effort between cultures—where cultures are construed as unitary entities. In every effort we have made for the last eight years we have worked together, sharing in all elements of decision making and responsibility for our meetings.


"The Arab Cultural Debate and Its Implications for U.S.–Arab Relations," The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA, March 2010. Learn more

"The Way Forward," Fuengirola, Spain, in May 2007. Read more

"Religion and the State in Comparative Perspective," Casablanca, Morocco, November 7-10, 2005. Read more

Inaugural Meeting, Island of Malta, May 2004. Read more

Malta Forum

  • Said Bensaid Alaoui, Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies, Muhammad V University, Morocco
  • Sami Aoun, University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
  • Abdallah Ould Bah, Professor of Philosophy, Nouakchott University, Mauritania
  • Muhammad Jamal Barout, Writer and political commentator, Syria
  • David Blankenhorn, Founder and President, Institute for American Values , U.S.
  • Raina Sacks Blankenhorn, Executive Vice President, Institute for American Values, U.S.
  • Craig A. Cardon, Cardon Hiatt Companies, U.S.
  • Imad Damaj, Virginia Commonwealth University, U.S.
  • Khalid al-Dakhil, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
  • Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, the University of Chicago, U.S.
  • Nabil Abdel Fattah, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Egypt
  • Moataz Abdel Fattah, Associate Professor of Political Science, Cairo University, Egypt and Central Michigan University, U.S.
  • Sean Fieler, Equinox Partners, U.S.
  • Abdou Filali-Ansary Director, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, Aga Khan University, Morocco and England
  • Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Shafeeq Ghabra, Founder and CEO of Jusoor Arabiya and Columnist for Al-Ra'i al-'Am, Kuwait
  • William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution, U.S.
  • Abdulaziz al-Gasim, Former Judge, Saudi Arabia
  • Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, U.S.
  • Amel Grami, Professor, Faculty of Literature, Arts, & Humanity, University of Manouba (Tunisia)
  • Muhammad Haddad, Professor of Philosophy, University of Tunis, Tunisia
  • James Davison Hunter, Labrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture, and Social Theory, University of Virginia, U.S.
  • James Turner Johnson, Professor of Religion, Rutgers University, U.S.
  • John Kelsay, Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion, Florida State University, U.S.
  • Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University, U.S.
  • Afzaal Malik, Director of Global Stakeholder Relations, The Coca-Cola Company, U.S.
  • Samuel Menassa, Writer, Lebanon
  • Hassan I. Mneimneh, Director, Center for IjtihadReason, Institute for American Values, Lebanon and U.S.
  • Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy, American Enterprise Institute, U.S.
  • Daniel C. Peterson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic, Brigham Young University, U.S.
  • Alex Roberts, Affiliate Scholar, Institute for American Values, U.S.
  • Muhammad al-Rumayhi, Columnist, Kuwait
  • Ivan Sacks, Senior Partner, Withers Bergman, LLP, U.S.
  • Abdulrahman al-Salimi, Editor, al-Tasamoh, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments of Oman, Sultanate of Oman
  • Ridwan al-Sayyid, Professor of Islamic Studies, Lebanese University, Lebanon
  • David Schneider, The Coca-Cola Company, U.S.
  • Leah Ward Sears, Former Chief Justice of Georgia, U.S.
  • Peter Skerry, Professor of Political Science, Boston College, U.S.
  • Chuck Stetson, Private Equity Investors, U.S.
  • Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Director, Templeton Center for Thrift and Generosity, Institute for American Values, U.S.
  • James Q. Wilson, Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University, U.S.
  • Ajume Wingo, Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S.
  • Radwan Ziadeh, Syrian Center for Political & Strategic Studies, Washington DC
Malta Forum Participants