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Amend Patriot Act to Ease Travel Restrictions for Muslim Artists, NYU's Center for Dialogues Urges in New Report

December 8, 2009
N-171, 2009-10

The Obama Administration and Congress must alter visa restrictions and elements of the USA Patriot Act that inhibit organizations from bringing Muslim artists to the United States, urges a new report issued by New York University’s Center for Dialogues. The report stems from a center conference, “Bridging the Divide between the United States and the Muslim World through Arts and Ideas,” held this June in New York City.

“In order to bring about the ‘new beginning’ between the United States and Muslims around the world that President Obama advocated during his June address in Cairo, the federal government must amend legislation that hampers cultural exchanges,” said Mustapha Tlili, director of NYU’s Center for Dialogues. “Certain visa restrictions and parts of the Patriot Act currently discourage U.S. organizations from bringing Muslim artists to the U.S. and limit U.S. funding institutions’ ability to make grants in the Muslim world.”

Congress is currently considering the extension of selected provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at the end of the year.

The Center for Dialogues, a forum for constructive debate among the various religious, intellectual, economic, and political sectors of American, European, and Islamic societies, aims to bridge differences between western nations and the Muslim world.

“Commentators in the Muslim world have been cautiously optimistic about improved relations with the U.S.,” added Tlili. “But they are looking for real change on the ground before they start celebrating. We are confident the recommendations in this report will help those in the West understand more about the Muslim world, and vice versa. Arts and culture can create common ground and relationships between people that will outlast political realities.”

The report also calls for the establishment of a semi-autonomous government institution to support arts and culture-similar to the role the BBC and the British Council play in the United Kingdom.

Among the conference participants were: Mohd Anis Md Nor, a professor of ethnomusicology at Malaysia’s University of Malaya; Margaret Ayers, president of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation; Tahar Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan poet and writer and winner of France’s Prix Goncourt; Vishakha Desai, president of Asia Society; Frank Hodsoll, chair of the Center for Arts and Culture at George Mason University and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts; and Anne Imelda Radice, president of the Institute of Museum and Library Studies.

To download the report-“Bridging the Divide between the United States and the Muslim World through Arts and Ideas: Possibilities and Limitations”-please click here.

The June conference, part of “Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas,” a summer festival co-sponsored with Asia Society and BAM, brought together more than 50 artists, producers, religious and community leaders, scholars, and policy makers from the Muslim world, the United States, and Europe. The conference examined artists’ place in the Muslim world and their access to audiences and venues and considered how to harness cultural capital through cultural exchanges and new arenas for U.S. cultural diplomacy towards the Muslim world.

Editor’s Note:
New York University’s Center for Dialogues: Islamic World-U.S.-The West emerged from the tragedy of September 11th, which highlighted the need for greater communication among and about the United States, Europe, and the Muslim world. The Center was founded as a forum for constructive debate among the various religious, intellectual, economic, and political sectors of American, European, and Islamic societies. It brings contentious issues between the Islamic world and the West into a more rational plane and promotes this approach to a wide audience, including the important constituencies of policy and decision-makers, policy analysts, the media, and educational institutions. The Center is located at 194 Mercer Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY, 10012. For more, go to

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