A Converted Muslim from the White House: Robert D. Crane
World Bulletin / News Desk
Since I started writing on DünyaBizim (and on the other websites I made translations for), I usually choose the topics outside the borders of Turkey. It is often because of my preferences; however, sometimes they tell me to do so. The good thing about focusing on some issues and regions by turning your interests into an article is that when you write an article about an issue, topics of your later articles can be easily determined. An unusual figure, such as Robert Dickson Crane, has recently appeared in a column that I translated from foreign press. The title of Robert Crane, whose name was mentioned in a tiny section in the article, was to be the “first Muslim US ambassador”. The title sparked my interest and when I googled his name, I realized that it was just the tip of the iceberg. He was a diplomat who had worked at the White House at the highest level, and moreover, he has served as the US Presidential Advisory. At the same time he was a converted Muslim. I then decided that Crane has a story worth to examine.
Statesman, academician, futurolog, author, and activist
Robert Dickson Crane, who was born in 1929, has the most important titles as an advisor to former US presidents Nixon (one of the most influential periods of US politics). Actually, I would say one of the two most important titles, because the original name was the Deputy Director of the US Security Council, the Deputy Director of the US Security Council, after the appointment of Nixon as president, and at least as effective as the advisory role. As well as many more senior government posts that can be added to this, he is also an academician who has worked in different fields at the same time, a kind of futurologist based on think thank history, and a writer and activist who has many works based on his later period.
In fact we should say that one of the two most important titles since the original title of him was the "Deputy Director of US Security Council", which he has served after Nixon was elected. Besides many important duties which can be added to these, he is an academician having studies in different areas; taking into account his background in think tanks he is a futurolog; and after conversion he became a productive author and activist.
When he was 16 years old he started his university education at the Harvard University Russian Language Department and 3 years later he was accepted by Münich University in occupied Germany. He is the first American student who get accepted to the German universities under siege. After education in Münich, he returned to United States, in which he continues to work in academy and grew interest in law. While studying university, he made his first attempts and was among the founders of Harvard University International Law Society and Harvard University International Law Journal.
In 1962 he became one of the four founders of the Center for Strategy and International Studies, and in 1966 he started working at the Hudson Institute, one of the famous think-tanks. In my opinion, Hudson is a place, where Crane started to become an analyst because that institute has gained an enormous reputation for this type of work. The period in which he worked in think-tanks and the period of his counseling by US President Nixon are the same. Crane, who stayed with Nixon for five years until the election victory in 1967, was appointed to the White House, which explained above. He was politically active until 1974, then he left White House in that year and in 1975 he founded his own consulting firm. One of the first breakpoints in the story that continues to that time as the career of an ordinary high-level diplomat/politician will happen next year. After being invited back to diplomatic corridors in 1976, Crane agreed to advise Bahrain's Finance Minister after requesting by the US government and went to the Arabian Peninsula. He helped in preparing Bahrain's 5-year development plan.
A Friday in 1980
During his mission in Bahrain, one day his wife convinced him to look around one of the old palaces. The city of the palace that can be reached by the chaotic roads is the first trade center in world history, according to the narratives. The couple, looking for this place, lost on the complicated roads. When they started to lose their hopes and the weather warmed up, they came across with a Bahraini man. He invited them to his house since he understood their situation. The man hosted Crane and his wife very well. The hospitable attitude of the Bahraini man astonished Crane since for the first time he saw such a “good” Muslim. Then they started chatting. According to Crane, they never talked directly about Islam. They talked about the deep issues such as what is good and bad in the world, and the role of God. This mysterious visit and engaging conversations deeply affected him; they spent the rest of the day in that house, and later Crane was inspired to research what Islam is, he should be on the road to “discover” something. Before this discovery and inspiration, Crane reminds us of the Makka mushriks who later became Muslims since he was against Islam. Even in one talk he said: “I got sicked by this religion and I never thought about learning it. This religion is very primitive. I proposed Nixon to Islam as an alliance against communism. Even if it was nauseous, it was useful against communism.”
The sprouting of seeds falling into himself in this mysterious adventure in Bahrain will be in his hometown in 1980. Continuing to strive with great interest in learning Islam, Crane attended a major conference in 1980 in New Hampshire, USA. A conference was being held in the United States where great Muslim opinion leaders and thinkers from different parts of the world were gathered, and Crane should give this godly coincidence its due. His aim is not just to listen what is told but also to learn as much as he can from the participants by tagging along with them. During the first afternoon, while all participants were going one way, he followed them. He was excited to have the opportunity to ask them anything at lunch. But things did not occur as he expected, people have not gathered for lunch. That day is Friday and everyone has come to the carpet-covered room to make Friday prayers together. He got disappointed since he thought that he missed an important opportunity. However, as he did not want to hurt anybody’s feeling, he decided to stay in the room until the end of the prayer. When Friday prayer began, the scene of prostration (sajdah) was shocked him. Immediately the parts of the whole picture constituted in his brain. The one doing sandal was the the leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, the famous scholar Hasan el Turabi. “I realized that he (Turabi) was doing sajdah to God. Then I thought that this person who is doing sajdah to God is ten times better than me” says Crane while explaining that moment. He obtained more than the possible talks he would. He felt like he had to do sajdah. And he did his first sajdah on this Friday afternoon…
Thus, Crane, who became a Muslim in 1980, says: “In fact, God has directed me to Islam at age 5 and then at 21 years old. But I did not know until I met the Bahraini man who told me that there were others who saw things shown to me too, and that I was worshipping ‘Allah’. I have comprehended at age 50.”
Got fired by the order of Kissinger
Crane, said that he was especially influenced by Ayat al-Kursi, is an activist since 1980 when he became a Muslim. However, it should be pointed out that before activism he was appointed to new state duties in the same years. We can say that the conversion to Islam has made it useful for the US foreign policy of that period and it did not change his official position in the state. In September 1981 he was appointed as United Arab Emirates Ambassador by President Reagan. He was asked to use a diplomacy called “track two diplomacy” emerged in that period. Track two diplomacy, emerged in the era when the general understanding of diplomacy has changed, is the use of unofficial intermediaries in resolution of the conflicts. It can be summarized as the addressing of the non-state groups, organizations, and individuals in diplomacy. It was believed that Crane, as a Muslim, could serve as an intermediary between the Islamic movements in the Middle East and Maghrib region.
Indeed, the influences of Crane’s activists on the preferences of the US policy during that period can be seen. Thus, there are very interesting theories and conspiracies in this issue. However, as this may also be a topic of long essay, let me just mention two very basic things: Supposedly, Robert Crane thought that the USA should abandon its pro-Israeli stance and support Palestine and King Faisal. He offered that the US policy should be directed towards cooperation with the Muslims, as opposed to the communism. It is even planned to use Crane's good relations with Muslim groups during the Afghan resistance, but this idea did not take place. Because Crane's foreign policy recommendation and attitude did not appeal to the top statesmen. Again, it is said that by the order of Foreign Minister Henry Kissinger, which is the star of the period.
He is on the list of 500 most influential Muslims in the world
I will try to summarize the post-80 Islamic dawa activities in a paragraph, as the article is getting longer. From 1983 to 1986, he was the director of the Da'wa Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue in DC. From this year onwards, he started to become an integral part of the Muslim community and became the director of publications at the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and also helped the American Muslim Council in their works. These two institutions are effective institutions in the United States and were established under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1994, Crane, whose links never breaks with those organizations, opened his own think tank, the Center for Civilizational Renewal, in Santa Fe. He was called by the Qatar Foundation in 2011 and went to Qatar to give lecture on how politics is done in Washington. Later he stayed there and took an important place at a major research center in Hamad bin Khalif University.
Among the activities of Crane in the recent past, one has great importance: standing with Muslims in the post-9/11 turmoil. In both his publications and statements he stood against Islamophobia and even claimed that after 9/11, Islam became the main agenda and because of that many people recognized this religion in a true way and converted to Islam. Also his brother chose Islam. As far as I can encounter, Crane came under attack because of this position and his advocates.
Crane has many books and publications and his works have a wide range of subject matter, reflecting his life, from the general topics such as religious pluralism, inter-religious affairs, Islamic social sciences, human rights in Islam, the difficulties Muslims face in America and the world, to the specific issues such as the future of Saudi Arabia, the role of Muslims in America's foreign policy, the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region post-Arab Spring occurred 2013-2014, Kosovo and Chechnya. He follows the agenda in the Muslim geography and continues to produce on the agenda to combine his political/diplomatic background and Muslim identity. For example, the last book of him in 2016 is named “Kurdistan: Pivot of West Asia?”
I am concluding this article by saying that Crane is now on the list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, whose interesting and inspiring story is tried to be narrated.
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