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February 2008
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May 2009

The Muslim Oprah

Amr_khaled I may be the last person interested in public diplomacy to have heard of Amr Khalid and I have no excuse.  Time magazine picked him as one of the world's 100 most influential people.  The New York Times Sunday magazine  described him as "the world's most famous and influential Muslim televangelist."  He's been compared to Rick Warren and Pat Robertson on that score, but Dalia Mogahed, who recently co-wrote an insightful analysis of the Islamic World (see Who Speaks for Islam), says he's really more like "the Muslim Oprah." 

His popularity is huge and, from what I've seen on his web site, Khaled seems to be just the moderate voice many have been looking (and hoping) for in the Muslim World. He rejects extremism and promotes faith-based community development.  He does not pretend to be a religious scholar (he's an accountant by training), but he stresses everyday actions to get closer to Allah such as honesty, humbleness, and being polite. His message strikes a particularly resonant chord among middle class young people across the Muslim World, who he reaches through satellite TV and the Internet.

A few hours of Internet research suggests that Khaled's audience is actually larger than Oprah's, as his influence.  Maybe she should start calling herself "the U.S.'s Amr Khaled."




Brand-Aid For America

Brand_america Jeff Yang, over at Salon, posted a piece analyzing which presidential candidate would do the most for Brand America if he/she won the election.  It must have hit a nerve because in the first few hours of its posting, it evoked 43 letters.  (Potential conflict alert: I'm quoted extensively, but Jeff brings his unique perspective to the issue and also quotes people far more qualified than yours truly. Even some of the letters present valuable perspective.)  Of course, improving America's image around the world isn't the biggest challenge the next president will face, but it's way up there.  And we've elected presidents for less noble reasons.