America’s economic and strategic opportunities are among the most compelling in the Asia-Pacific. The U.S. rebalance to Asia is focused on deepening strategic, economic, and diplomatic ties with the region commensurate with its importance, as the region is home to four of the U.S.’s top ten trading partners, five of the U.S.’s seven treaty alliances, and the world’s largest and fastest growing economies—including 40 percent of overall global growth and nearly two-thirds of the global middle class. Among the challenges present in the region, countering violent extremism has certainly captured the world’s attention in the past two years, a phenomenon recently associated with the establishment of a so-called Caliphate by the Islamic State group. Home to sizeable Muslim communities and encompassing a wide variety of Islamic practices and traditions, countries in Asia find themselves challenged by fractionalization of Islamist political outfits, growing rates of Islamophobia and youth radicalization.
In light of this, the region struggles to address some of its political limitations, such as the mischievous exploitation of race and religion for electoral and political purposes, the failure to focus on sustainable development and education, and the failure to craft policies aimed at enhancing multiculturalism. In this seminar, the speaker will explain how the USA engages Muslim communities in Asia, to address the challenges posed by violent extremism, to enhance its relations with the Muslim communities and to find innovative solutions to the common challenges faced by the US and Muslim communities in Asia.
About the Speaker:
Shaarik H. Zafar was appointed as the Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the U.S. Department of State in July 2014. He is responsible for driving Secretary Kerry’s engagement with Muslim communities around the world on issues of mutual interest, in support of shared goals, and to advance of U.S. foreign policy.
Shaarik recently served as the Deputy Chief of the Homeland, Cyber, and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Group at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) where he coordinated strategic planning and collaboration with Federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, allied nations, and community stakeholders on efforts to strengthen homeland and cyber security; build resilience against terrorism; and integrate all elements of national power on efforts to counter violent extremism.
Prior to that he served as Director for Global Engagement at the White House National Security Council (NSC) where he drove comprehensive engagement policies that leverage diplomacy, communications, international development and assistance, and domestic engagement in pursuit of a host of foreign and domestic policy objectives. At the NSC, Shaarik led the development of the first ever national strategy that addresses violent extremism in the United States, which President Obama signed in August 2011, and the first ever national strategy on integrating religious leader engagement into U.S. foreign policy, which Secretary Kerry announced in August 2013.
He also served as Deputy Chief of the CVE Group at NCTC and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he led the CRCL Engagement Team – now known as the Community Engagement Section – and provided proactive policy advice to DHS leadership on issues at the intersection of civil rights and homeland security. Before joining DHS, Shaarik served as the Special Counsel for Post 9/11 National Origin Discrimination at the U.S. Department of Justice where he led the Initiative to Combat Post 9/11 Backlash. Prior to his government service, Shaarik worked as a civil litigator at one of the oldest law firms in Houston, Texas.