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By Jessica Schulberg

When Obama came into office, he appointed Dalia Mogahed to his advisory council on faith-based partnerships and gave her a seemingly impossible task: improve Muslim perception of the United States. In 2009, the U.S. was fighting two wars in Muslim countries, imprisoning hundreds of Arab men without charge at Guantánamo Bay, and another Israel-Gaza battle had ended with Palestinian civilians bearing most of the casualties. U.S.-Muslim relations seemed irreparably bleak, but Obama promised to be different.

At the end of her one-year term, Mogahed, who moved from Cairo to Wisconsin when she was five, contributed recommendations on Muslim outreach for a final advisory report to the President—but with some limitations. Anything to do with foregin policy was off the table. Instead, she advised the administration to travel the country, meet with Muslim-Americans, and use their feedback to shape engagement with the wider Muslim world.

Mogahed, who at the time headed Gallup’s Center for Muslim Studies, was one of only two Muslims on the council. (“The last two actually, we’ve never been replaced. I guess we’re the only two vett-able Muslims ever,” she joked.) She left the White House in 2010, and now works as director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She met me for coffee (though, she opted for tea) for a discussion that was aimed at answering one big question: Has Obama lived up to his promise to the Muslim world?  [Read more…]