USIP Event w/ MPAC’s Elshishtawy Airs Live on C-SPAN

October 25, 2012

On Monday, Oct. 22, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held a timely event on “Religion, Violence and Coexistence.” Inspired in part by the recent reactions worldwide to the amateur YouTube trailer “Innocence of Muslims,” USIP hosted George Mason University professor Marc Gopin, MPAC’s Legislative & Policy Analyst Hoda Elshishtawy and USIP’s Director of Iran, Iraq & North Africa programs Manal Omar.

SEE: C-SPAN's Coverage of “Religion, Violence and Coexistence" (

The event began with Ambassador at large on International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson-Cook’s remarks on the importance of working toward upholding and promoting religious freedom worldwide.  She stressed that now is the time that governments and civil society organizations must work together to advance coexistence.

Elshishtawy spoke about the need for governments and civil society organizations to hold media accountable when mainstream voices are left out of coverage and important conversations dealing with international religious freedom issues.  

“Civil society needs to hold media accountable for highlighting only one extreme narrative,” she said. “We’ve got to push back against the media’s often one-sided portrayals and work to find mechanisms that give incentive to highlighting peaceful and mainstream voices over sensational voices.”

Gopin spoke about finding common shared values of understanding when working to promote religious freedom. Often, advocating for religious freedom is mistaken for advancing one religion. Working collaboratively with all groups represented allows for more cooperation and understanding.

Omar discussed her work on the ground in countries like Libya, Tunisia and Iraq. She stressed the importance of allowing local civil society organizations to have a voice when outside governments wish to help with issues like advancing international religious freedom.

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