The Journey Begins

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today I embark on my 21-day trip studying U.S. relations with the Muslim world. I am joined by 15 fellow journalists from America, Asia and the Middle East. We begin in my town, Washington, D.C., where we will attend briefings by think tank analysts, State Department and Pentagon officials and faith leaders. We also have cultural and religious excursions planned.

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This Senior Journalists Seminar is sponsored by the East-West Center, whose mission is to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia and the Pacific through cooperative study, research and dialogue.”

On the U.S. leg of our trip, we will be focusing on American political, military and cultural engagement with the Muslim world as well as counterterrorism efforts. Then we fly to Malaysia and Pakistan where we hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of the diversity of Muslim societies. Most of my travel in predominantly Muslim countries has been in Arab societies, so this will be a new experience for me.

Throughout our journey, we will examine the media’s role in shaping public perceptions. We’ve already seen an example of how complicated these relations can be. Our colleague Kourosh Ziabari who writes for the Tehran Times in Iran was not able to get an American visa to attend the seminar. He’ll have to meet up with our group in Malaysia. Via Facebook, he told me this is a common occurrence for Iranian journalists and scholars who want to visit the U.S.

I am not traveling with a TV crew, just my trusted iPad. With it, I’ll try to share some of my experiences through text blogs, photos and videos. I hope you’ll join me here.