“For Karim Zéribi, the highlight was shaking the hand of the candidate Barack Obama. For Ali Zahi, it was meeting the basketball star, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, his childhood hero. And Mohamed Hamidi still cannot quite believe that the minaret of a mosque he saw in Washington was taller than that in the village of his parents in Algeria.
Hamidi, a well-known blogger, Zahi, a local politician and Zéribi, the founder of a recruitment agency, are all French, Muslim and under 42. Each grew up, and works, in suburbs that became emblematic of the rioting that rocked France for three weeks in 2005.
And, during recent months, all three joined the small but growing ranks of young minority leaders in Europe invited to the United States on 21-day, tailor-made trips organized by the U.S. State Department – tours that softened their view of a superpower generally distrusted and disliked in their communities.
‘Many young people think that America is waging a war on Muslims,’ said Zahi, 32, cabinet director for the mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, the Paris suburb where the 2005 rioting started after the death of two teenagers.
‘I tell them: America is many things,’ he said. ‘It is a country that has a black presidential candidate and a self-confident Muslim community. I tell them, the American people are hospitable and generous.’
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, this kind of American diplomacy has tried to embrace the estimated 15 million Muslims in Europe, and the often frustrated young men and women increasingly likely to help shape the future of the Continent.
American embassies have been instructed to court second- and third-generation immigrants from North Africa, Turkey or Pakistan. The International Visitor Leadership program, whose past beneficiaries included President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, have sharpened a focus on young Muslims.
While “de-legitimizing the appeal of terrorist recruiters” is one aim, Bullock said, another is definitely “getting to know the future movers and shakers of Europe, because these young people are part of the future of Europe.””
La pregunta es ¿por qué quiere EEUU el apoyo de los musulmanes franceses? La razón es curiosa: “Siendo la deslegitimación del atractivo de los reclutadores terroristas una de las razones, Bullock dice que otra es “llegar a conocer estos futuros instigadores y agitadores de Europa, porque estas jóvenes personas son parte del futuro de Europa“.