M. Osman Siddique

IntroAmerican diplomat
Is Diplomat 
From United States of America 
Type Politics 
Gendermale
Birth 1950 
Age70 years
Education
Indiana University

M. Osman Siddique (born 1950) is an American politician, former Ambassador, and author. He served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji and to the Republic of Nauru, to the Kingdom of Tonga and to Tuvalu from 1999-2001. He was the US Ambassador during the 2000 Fijian coup d’état. Siddique is the first American-Muslim to be appointed as an Ambassador from the United States and Chief of Mission anywhere.

Background

Siddique was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1950. He is the sixth child of a nine-child family. He attended various schools including Holy Cross, Trinity, St. Mary’s, and St. Gregory’s High School. He later attended Notre Dame College and Dhaka University. In 1972, Siddique was admitted to the Graduate School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he received his M.B.A. in 1974. Siddique married Catherine Mary Siddique and they have four children: Omar, Julene, Leila and Zachary.

Siddique started his professional life working for a fortune 500 company but soon pursued his American dream becoming an entrepreneur and a business owner. In 1976 he formed ITI/Travelogue, Inc., a corporate travel management company, which became “one of the top minority-owned businesses in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area and one of the largest travel management companies in the nation.” He served as its President and Chief Executive Officer before entering public service. He was also a founding member of CorpNet International, “a consortium of domestic and international travel management companies, with revenues in excess of $1.5 billion.” He also co-founded other ventures in banking, real estate and international trade. He has been featured in magazines and newspapers, including Forbes, Inc, Success and the Wall Street Journal. He has appeared frequently on CNN, VOA , Al-Jazeera and other international news media and interviewed extensively by the national and international press. He is a sought out public speaker on various contemporary geo-political issues including interfaith and cross cultural dilemmas.

Siddique served as a member of many prominent national and international boards and also served as strategic advisors to a number of them. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him as a trustee to the Board of Governors of the prestigious East West Center in Hawaii. He and his family continue to be active in several philanthropic and community-based organizations in the greater Washington D.C. area.

Public service

In 1995 Siddique served on several Presidential delegations including the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism and the First Hemispheric Trade and Commerce Forum. He also served on the National Democratic Institute’s International Observer Delegation to the Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections in 1996. In 1999, Siddique represented the United States as its Co-Leader to the First Meeting of the of the Conference of the Pacific Community held in Tahiti.

Siddique was nominated for ambassadorship by President Clinton on May 27, 1999. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 5, 1999 where he had been introduced by Republican Senator John Warner. On August 17, 1999, he was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji and to the Republic of Nauru, to the Kingdom of Tonga and to Tuvalu. He took the oath on the Bible and the Quran”. Siddique was “the first Muslim to be appointed to represent the United States abroad as an Ambassador. Following his swearing-in ceremony, Siddique said he believed he was the first American ambassador of the Islamic faith to take the oath of office with his hand on the Holy Qur’an. The Christian Bible is traditionally used to swear in US officials and Siddique said his wife, Catherine Mary Siddique, provided one for the ceremony.”

In 2000 Siddique accompanied President Bill Clinton a member of his cabinet delegation on his historic State visits to Bangladesh and India. After the election of George W. Bush as President in 2000, President Bush re-appointed Ambassador Siddique as Ambassador to remain in his post in Fiji and to continue with the critical work he had undertaken towards the reconciliation of its people, the reinstatement of constitutional governance and the reconstruction of its economy after the violent overthrow of its duly elected government.

Siddique a member of the Council of American Ambassadors where “He is at the forefront of discussions and policy debates towards greater understanding between US foreign policy and the Islamic world.”

The Fiji Coup of 2000

Siddique was the American Ambassador during the 2000 Fijian coup d’état; he was interviewed by Chris Masters of the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Four Corners about the situation. Siddique told Chris that as the government was losing popular support, America tried to inform Mahendra Chaudhry of the situation, “I had tried to tell, and a lot of people tried to tell — publicly and privately — Mr. Chaudhry, you know, the sensitive nature of the situation. But I guess it falls on deaf ears.” Siddique stated that at one point America, alongside other countries offered to intervene, “We offered some assistance but it was rejected on the grounds that Fiji would like to resolve its problem its own way. …I don’t want to go into details but it included hostage negotiation teams and training, etc.” Siddique announced the economic implications of the coup, saying that “Investment in Fiji will not take place unless democracy is re-established in the country. …Neither the people nor the private sector wants a future in which investors exist in a fortified island surrounded by seas of misery. Democracy gives us a chance to avoid that future. …I want more American investments in Fiji but before any American dollar can come in, you have to make sure that the commercial environment is fair and not exposed to undue risks.”

Faced with a coup it did not agree with on Saturday, July 8, 2000, the United States government took the step of recalling its ambassador, it announced that Siddique was “recalled to the United States for consultations with the United States government regarding the crisis in Fiji.” Explaining why they pulled the ambassador the State Department announced that they US deplores “both hostage taking and efforts to deny political rights to citizens of Fiji. …[protested] the appointment of an unelected government by the military, even if composed of civilians…[and noted] the absence of any Indo-Fijians or women in the interim administration”.

Political campaigns

Siddique has been intricately involved in the political process of his country having been mentored by Senator Ted Kennedy. During Kennedy’s senate re-election in 1994, a contest with the formidable Mitt Romney, Siddique stepped up and mobilized grass root campaigning in the crucial Boston suburbs and undertook major fundraising events. He was all in during President Clinton’s re-election bid in 1996 and was recognized by the DNC leadership for all his efforts and contributions. In 2004 Siddique campaigned on behalf of John Kerry for President. His appearances included speaking at an event to rally Asian Americans in Washington DC, and appearing at a Pompano Beach Masjid in an effort to rally American-Muslims to the Democratic ticket. At these events, Siddique “vehemently criticized the continuous repression of the Muslim community and stated that true believers of Islam wouldn’t engage in terrorism. He also told the audience that the time had come for the Muslim community to unite and vote collectively for John Kerry. He also urged the Asian community to do the same. Siddique told the group that the Democratic Party was a true friend of the Asian community and that he [being made an ambassador] was an example of that friendship”. At a rally in the basketball arena of Ohio State University, a question was asked by a student whether the attack on 9/11 was a response to our failed Mideast policy. Siddique responded directly to the student… “no matter how good or bad our policies have been….no matter how flawed our leadership may be, nothing—-nothing —- justifies such a heinous and dastardly attack on our soil—-on our city, and on our innocent people” …..(page 68 Leaps of Faith). In 2008, Siddique joined Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign for the democratic party’s presidential ticket but ultimately folded his effort to the eventual nomination and victory of Barack Obama. In 2016 he was all in again for Hillary working closely with her foreign policy team especially its middle east working group.

Letter on 9/11 anniversary

In 2006 on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks Siddique wrote an editorial for the Washington Times. In the editorial he condemned ethnic and religious profiling and called American-Muslims to action, saying “Too many American Muslims hold back from publicly speaking out against extremist ideologies that threaten us all because they fear being stigmatized by their coreligionists for cooperating with security agencies. Why is this? In part, it is because some Muslim immigrants are relatively recent arrivals from nations in which security forces were corrupt and could not be trusted. Some shy from cooperation because of their immigration status or the status of those around them. Still, others hold back because they disagree strongly with American foreign policy. They truly believe that the current administration is fighting a war against Islam under the guise of fighting terrorism. Regrettably, this sentiment is widespread among Muslims, more so abroad but to a substantial degree in America as well. Our government may act incompetently and unwisely. But I’m confident that it holds no animosity toward Muslims simply because they are Muslims. …It’s often said that freedom is never cheap. For American Muslims, the price we must pay is taking responsibility for serving as sentries in our community. Our primary communal allegiance must be to the nation in which we thrive.”

Statement on Pope Benedict XVI

During Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy Siddique wrote an op-ed discussing Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to quote a medieval Christian scholar who “denigrated the teachings of Prophet Muhammad as ‘evil and inhuman’ and further downgraded his ministry to one that was conquered by the ‘power of the sword.'” Siddique maintained that the Pope’s apology on the matter and call for dialog were valid and an honorable reply to Muslims concerns and that violence that was motivated by these comments was indefensible. He wrote, “Pope Benedict XVI has subsequently expressed his regrets and remorse several times. Unfortunately, the Muslim reaction was quick, violent and predictable. it is now time to move forward. Pope Benedict has demonstrated in word and deed his desire to do just that. Muslims must now show their respect for Catholics and other Christians. …Reciprocity is in order, as the Pope alluded to in his comments to diplomats from 22 Muslim nations and representatives of Italy’s Muslim community gathered at his Castel Gandolfo summer retreat. He said a “more authentic reciprocal knowledge” is required between the faiths. By that, he means that Muslims must show the same respect for Christianity, and must allow Christians living in Muslim nations the same rights, that they demand themselves from Christians and Christian-led nations. Why should it be any other way?” Siddique then criticized Saudi Arabia for building a $50 million Islamic Center in Rome, but forbidding “even a modest church to open in Saudi Arabia”. He took Afghanistan to task for making Muslims “subject to capital punishment should they embrace Christianity”. He concluded “It is time for Muslims to show Islam’s generosity of spirit not only toward Pope Benedict XVI but toward Christendom as a whole. As the Quran notes, Allah made us different so that we might get to know each other.”

Quote

“My proudest day as an American Muslim came in 1999 when I was sworn in at the State Department to be this nation’s ambassador to Fiji and its Pacific island neighbors Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru. Almost 30 years earlier I had come to the United States as a student from my native Bangladesh. Now, I was the first Muslim U.S. ambassador to serve as chief of mission. I swore to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution with my hand on a copy of the Quran. My pride in faith and country remain rock solid.”

”America is a land of opportunity. We hear this so much that I fear it’s become a cliché, falling these days on deaf ears. But sometimes, there is a reason that an assertion becomes a cliché and the reason is that an assertion is an undeniable trust. Lest you have any doubts, I submit my story as evidence of that truth. This is my testimony. The world is a beautiful, fascinating place full of extraordinary people and awe-inspiring wonders, and I’ve seen much of it. But whenever I travel abroad, I eventually find myself yearning to return home. And that home is the United States of America, the land that has given me so much. The land that gave me. Above all else, opportunity” Leaps of Faith page 187-188.

“At a time when U.S. global leadership has been questioned by the international community, a more engaged response to the Rohingya issue would reinforce the U.S.’ values-driven commitment to a rules-based order. There is no better opportunity to demonstrate this than at the heels of the UNGA where Vice President Mike Pence rightly said on the matter, “Keeping the peace requires more than peacekeeping — it requires action, reform, and lastly it also requires a willingness to call out senseless attacks on innocent people around the world.” It’s time to walk that talk.”

“In December 2011, in an op-ed for Singapore’s Strait Times, I made the case for boosting American engagement with Asia. The economic rationale for this is clear: the exceptional opportunities and competitive threats that the economic dynamism of Asia presents; and the need to astutely and proactively respond to China’s growing economic, political, and military footprint. The United States under its Hawaii-born President should indeed revitalize its engagement on the Pacific frontier.”

Sources

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