M. Osman Siddique
M. Osman Siddique is an American politician and former diplomat. 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 believed to be the second American-Muslim to be appointed as an Ambassador from the United States; the first was Robert D. Crane, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 as U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
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, Shaheen 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. His eldest son Omar works for the United Nations Development Program. Elder daughter, Julene after receiving her Masters in Composition from the Royal College of Music in London, England, has become a formidable composer in her own rights. 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.
Siddique served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Bryant College, a member of the Board of Directors of Partner's for Development, and on the board of Directors for the National Center for New Americans. He and his family continue to be active in several philanthropic and community based organizations in the greater Washington D.C. area.
Siddique is the son of the late Dr Muhammad Osman Ghani, a former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, former Pakistan's Ambassador, and former Member of the Bangladesh Parliament. His brothers are Osman Yousuf a businessman and member of the Democratic Party National Committee and Dr. M. Osman Farruk a former Education Minister of Bangladesh.
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. He was nominated for an 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 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, with the Quran on top”. 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."
After his departure from the office in 2001 (at the end of Clinton's second term), his duties were temporarily filled by the embassy’s Chargé d'Affaires Hugh Neighbour until 2003 when David L. Lyon was appointed ambassador by President George W. Bush.
Siddique is currently a member of the Council of American Ambassadors where "He is in the forefront of discussions and policy debates towards greater understanding between US foreign policy and the Islamic world."
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 fall 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 want 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 un-elected government by the military, even if composed of civilians...[and noted] the absence of any Indo-Fijians or women in the interim administration".
In 2004 Siddique campaigned on behalf of the 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".
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 the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy Siddique wrote a letter critical of 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 was 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 toward Christianity, and must allow Christians living in Muslim nations the same rights, that they demand for themselves from Christians and Christian-led nations. Why should it be any other way?" Siddique than 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 Koran notes, Allah made us different so that we might get to know each other."
Siddique's company ITI/Travelogue, Inc. was honored with the Arthur Anderson and Washington Business Journal's FasTrack Award in 1994 as the fastest growing companies in the D.C. area. Siddique was also twice named as a finalist for Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
"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 Koran. My pride in faith and country remain rock solid."
- Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Muslim-American.
- Siddique's use of the Quran and the Bible at his swearing in ceremony was made into a point of contention in 2006 during the Quran Oath Controversy of the 110th United States Congress.
- "UNDP in Bangkok, Thailand - Staff Directory". Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "M. Osman Siddique Sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Fiji". United States Information Service. August 17, 1999.
- "Cryobanks International - Board of Directors". Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- Lablu Ansar (25 June 2004). "Kerry to Asian Americans". Weekly Thikana, translated by Voices That Must Be Heard. Archived from the original on October 5, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "Senate Digest July 20, 1999". Daily Digest of the United States Senate. July 20, 1999. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- Rob Hotakainen (November 30, 2006). "Lawmaker intends to take oath of office on Quran". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved December 6, 2006.[dead link]
- Mary K. Mewborn. "Real Estate News for December 2003". Washington Life Magazine. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "Who's Going? White House Travel Manifest For India, Pakistan & Bangladesh". White House Press Staff. March 18, 2000. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "M. Osman Siddique". Council of American Ambassadors. 2004. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "Cyclone George". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2000. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "NO DEMOCRACY, NO INVESTMENT, SAYS US AMBASSADOR TO FIJI SIDDIQUE". December 4, 2000. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- "News Release". EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Suva, Fiji Islands. July 8, 2000. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
- M. Osman Siddique (September 1, 2006). "Muslims must come forward". Retrieved January 6, 2007.
- M. Osman Siddique. "The Pope and Islam". Council of American Ambassadors. Retrieved January 7, 2007.