The other day, when asked to give a talk at the American University in Washington, DC on the issues surrounding Western-Muslim tensions, what was expected to be a 90-minute session got extended to three hours, largely because of the dimensions of the discussion and the lively participation of on-campus students. It offered some revealing glimpses. The discussion centred on the motives behind militancy, existing policy failures, and the search for viable remedies to reduce polarisation. During the concluding phase of the discussion, convergence was reached on key points. The students posited that the much-touted notion of the clash of civilisations was faulty in that it presupposed a perpetual conflict which, while suiting vested interests, was at variance with historic precedent, wherein Muslim culture traditionally had shown its capacity for pluralism and inter-religious coexistence. It was also brought forth that Judaism, Christianity, along with Islam stemmed from the same region and the first two were by no means European products. Accordingly, the term 'Judeo-Christian civilisation was itself misleading and loaded in that it excluded Islam. Also, the students felt that the media was prone to sensationalist coverage and, hence, stories depicting Muslims in an inflammatory light needed to be critically weighed instead of being swallowed hook, line, and sinker. There was also a sense that, since the youth had to bear the brunt of fighting and dying for the policies of their leaders, the onus was on them to strive for vigorous connections with Muslims and to acquire more knowledge about Muslim heritage and values. Others participating in the discussion tried to identify features which hindered progress in the field of Western-Muslim relations. Mutual ignorance showed up as a salient factor. The lack of outreach and crude attempts to impose ones own cultural standards on others were cited as additional obstacles. Among the US students was a sprinkling of American Muslim students who expressed dissatisfaction with the state of Muslims in America, bemoaning the paucity of performers and the surfeit of informers. They felt that the American Muslim community spent too much time talking among themselves and did not branch out enough to the mainstream community, thereby restricting its range and influence. They also ruminated on the lack of role models and a weak reading culture among young Muslims including insufficient browsing of newspapers. Throughout the discussion, what emerged loud and clear was the vital relevance of the Muslim world to the future of American youth who see their prospects intertwined with distant conflicts in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Based upon the foregoing observations, the environment seems rich for a robust discourse, particularly on campuses, on issues which divide, and yet mutually connect, Muslims and Westerners. Much of the interaction between the Christian West and the Muslim East is heavily elitist with negligible grassroots impact. But there is a silver lining. Anxieties generated amongst American youth about ongoing conflicts in distant Muslim lands are fostering a peace constituency. It provides, therefore, a leadership opportunity for responsible Muslims to press the US to reset policies which are at the root of Americas global difficulties. The writer is a barrister and senior political analyst.