(MENAFN - The Peninsula) DOHA: A key Arab delegate to the US-Islamic World Forum yesterday called on Washington to wage a war on illiteracy in the Arab and Islamic world saying it would help foster better relations between the two sides.
Some 40 percent of the Muslim population in the world is illiterate. Besides, there is brain drain from these countries to the West, said Amr Khaled.
He was one of the panelists at a post-lunch debate on 'Towards a More Robust US-Muslim Engagement: From Concept to Concrete Outcomes' at the Forum.
The three-day event opened at the Doha Sheraton yesterday. The forum is held annually by the Brookings Project on US Relations with the Islamic World and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in collaboration with the State of Qatar.
The panelists at yesterday's post-lunch discussions included Farah Pandith, Special representative for Muslim Communities, US Department of State; Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, Vice-President for Education, Qatar Foundation; and David Chavern, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice-President, US Chamber of Commerce, besides Amr Khaled.
The moderator of the session was Hady Amr, Director of the Brookings Doha Center.
According to Amr Khaled, poverty and diseases are the other major woes facing the Arab world, so instead of focusing on its war on terror, the US must engage itself in the fight against these evils.
The cost of fighting illiteracy in the Muslim world is estimated at around 10bn. The sum isn't much considering the huge advantages.
The debate was interactive as Hady Amr posed questions to the panelists and asked them to give brief answers.
Pandith who has vast experience serving with the USAID in the Middle East, said she had been asked by Hillary Clinton to socialise the US Department of State.
"We are embarking on people-to-people contact in order to develop long-term relationship at the grassroots level," she pointed out.
Since 45 percent of the world population is under the age of 30 years engaging with young people is one of Washington's priorities. "With our embassies around the world we are talking to the people," she said.
"This is not a short-term goal to be popular," she explained and said interacting closely with the 'facebook generation' was important.
Dr Abdullah Ali Al Thani, while introducing Qatar Foundation to the audience, said six major US universities were in the Education City and its students came from 60 nationalities.
Some 75 percent students are women and Qatar Foundation provided scholarships to needy and deserving students, he said.
An interactive question and answer session followed the debate. The questions were so many that the organisers had to extend the duration of the session by 15 minutes.