Oh to have been a fly on the wall:
"The Obama Administration secretly sent staff to Melbourne this week to ask religious leaders about winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world. The State Department's head of religious freedom, Peter Kovach, White House religion expert Mara Vanderslice and a Gulf states policy planning head [interesting!] arrived at the Parliament of the World's Religions unexpectedly and asked to meet delegates, senior parliament staffer Tim Mannatt confirmed last night. Mr Mannatt said there was a private meeting on Monday afternoon with a small group of interfaith leaders the staffers invited and a larger meeting on Tuesday afternoon. This one involved about 100 leaders from most of the religions at the parliament. The Age was told the doors were shut and guarded and the usual sign outside the room was absent. One of the Muslims, leading American imam Abdul Feisal Rauf, said the Administration staffers were looking for input and advice, and were extremely well received by delegates. 'It was a great indicator of hope, and an important part of the parliament', he said. 'Their position was 'we are here to learn from you'. They asked 3 questions: what should the Obama Administration do, what should it not do, and have you any immediate or long-term suggestions. They just listened and took notes'. Imam Rauf said he told the trio that religion was an extremely important part of the solution. Because the US formally separated church and state, it tended not to look at religion in its foreign policy. The Parliament of the World's Religions was closed last night by the Dalai Lama, who told delegates that the world faced a moral crisis that only inner values such as compassion could solve. Earlier, he challenged Victorian MPs to travel to Tibet and test China's version of life there*." (Obama team seeks enlightenment on Muslim relations, Benny Zwartz, The Age, 10/12/09) [*How naive is he? Our polly waffles are simply far too busy going to Israel to bother with places like Tibet.]
Now, apart from Imam Rauf's, I haven't the faintest what advice the 100 odd God-botherers actually tendered. Of one thing though I am sure - it wasn't what Bushama really needs to hear, which is, that to win Muslim hearts and minds, the United States needs to adopt a Three-Pull Policy: Pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan; Pull its tits out of Israel's and Egypt's mouths (maybe even just a little tug would do); and Pull its boofhead in at the UN (and elsewhere).
More likely, however, Ms Vanderslice (love the name, don't you?) and her companions will receive the kind of advice reportedly given by the Dalai Lama to brand-spanking new Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott when the two met in Sydney on December 3. Told by Abbott's spokeswoman that "the Opposition Leader was a 'spiritual person' and had long admired the Dalai Lama," His Holiness was described as "holding Mr Abbott's hand many times during the meeting" and "stroking his [exceptionally] hairy chest as he gave him a white shawl symbolising motivation and gentle behaviour." (One is a spiritual leader & the other is an exiled Tibetan Buddhist, Phillip Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald, 4/12/09)
Hm... Oh, yes, the advice: "I was reassured," quoth Abbott, "that provided [I] approach things in the spirit of truth and compassion [I] will be given the inner resources to cope with the difficulties of daily life."