* Several passages in this paper have been adapted from Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009), a coauthored book written in collaboration with Abdul Aziz Said, whose contribution to the substance and forms of expression is gratefully acknowledged.
The advent of the Obama administration has opened a window of opportunity for improving U.S.-Islamic relations. After years of deepening antagonism between the United States and the Muslim world and decades of drift and deterioration, there is an opportunity to advance new strategic approaches to the many vexing problems that beset the relationship. Although there is much resistance to change — cultures of policymaking, conceptions of national interest, and images of the other cannot be transformed overnight — the opening that has emerged invites bold and creative thinking. Years of destructive conflict cannot simply be wished away, yet the meaning of past events is subject to change if political leaders pursue a strategy of active and persistent peacemaking.