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(RNS) As Barack Obama begins his tenure as the first U.S. president with Muslim ancestry, a group of 300 young Muslim activists from 76 countries has asked him to promote policies that can help peacefully curtail religious extremism.
The Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, a grassroots movement aiming to foster a new generation of civic engagement, issued the open letter after convening the group’s first international conference last weekend (Jan. 16-19) in Doha, Qatar.
Participants, all between the ages of 20 and 45, included artists, academics, religious leaders and business owners. About 40 came from the U.S., including comedian Azhar Usman, journalist Souheila Al-Jadda and faith-based activist Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, who recently wrote the book “Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak.”
Among its recommendations, the group’s statement asks Obama and other world leaders to support human rights, youth participation in political and civil society, and mutual respect and engagement between civilizations.
“Healthy, well-educated, and engaged citizens are more invested in their societies and are less likely to be swayed by radical ideologies,” the letter states.
In addition to debating how to combat radicalization of Muslim youths, organize their communities and represent progressive values, participants discussed controversial issues ranging from Islam’s position on homosexuality to whether Islamic and Western values are in conflict.
The conference’s timing — with participants closely monitoring Palestinian deaths in Gaza and the birth of a new administration in Washington — added a sense of urgency to the discussions, organizers agreed.
“The time for change,” the letter concluded, “is now.”
By Nicole Neroulias
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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