He’s had a head start in making his case
The BBC seems to have momentarily forgotten that terrorism has nothing to do with religion. They report on the Rand Corporation’s plan for waging a diplomatic offensive against the jihadis. According to the BBC, the report urges support of moderate Muslims. Note that one of the problems is that moderate Muslims lack infrastructure. While there are moderate Muslims, it is harder to find moderate Islam; moderate Muslims do not have a significant organization or widespread theological justification for their positions.
A strategy for the West to counter Islamic extremism by supporting Islamic moderates has been put forward in a report funded in part by a conservative American foundation.
It says that the West should help religious “modernists” in the Islamic world in order to prevent a “clash of civilisations.”
It states: “It seems judicious to encourage the elements within the Islamic mix that are most compatible with global peace and the international community and that are friendly to democracy and modernity.”
The report, called “Civil Democratic Islam: partners, resources and strategies”, was drawn up by the Rand Corporation with financial help from the Smith Richardson Foundation, a conservative trust fund which hands out more than $120 million a year to universities and other research organisations.
It is a sign perhaps that some American conservatives, many of whom want to press democratic reform in Muslim countries, realize that a focused approach is needed.
It is a contribution to a debate well under way in the West. The latest manifestation of this debate was a recent speech by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, who wondered why Islam was “associated with violence throughout the world.” His conclusion is not dissimilar to that of this report.
“Is extremism so ineluctably bound up with its faith that we are at last seeing its true character? Or could it be that a fight for the soul of Islam is going on that requires another great faith, Christianity, to support and encourage the vast majority of Muslims who resist this identification of their faith with terrorism?” he asked.
The recommendations have also come as the Bush administration is proposing to use the G8 summit in the American state of Georgia in June to push the issue of democratic and social reform in the Middle East. The summit will coincide with the handover of power in Iraq to an interim Iraqi government.
The Bush initiative has raised suspicions in Arab countries and among some of America’s European allies who do not want anything imposed from the outside.
The report’s writer, Cheryl Benard, said: “The United States and its allies need to be more discriminating in the way they perceive and interact with groups who call themselves Islamic.
“The term is too vague, and it doesn’t really help us when we are looking to encourage progress and democratic principles, while being supportive of religious beliefs.”
The report states: “Islam’s current crisis has two main components: a failure to thrive and a loss of connection to the global mainstream. The Islamic world has been marked by a long period of backwardness and comparative powerlessness.”
It says that Muslims disagree on what to do about this and identifies four essential positions in Muslim societies:
Fundamentalists who “reject democratic values and contemporary Western culture.”
Traditionalists who “are suspicious of modernity, innovation and change.”
Modernists who “want the Islamic world to become part of global modernity.”
Secularists who “want the Islamic world to accept a division of religion and state.”
The report says that the modernists and secularists are closest to the West but are general in a weaker position than the other groups, lacking money, infrastructure and a public platform.
It suggests a strategy of supporting the modernists first. This would be done by, for example, publishing and distributing their works at subsidised cost, encouraging them to write for mass audiences and for youth, getting their views into the Islamic curriculum and helping them in the new media world which is dominated by fundamentalist and traditionalists.
It goes onto the say that traditionalists should be supported against the fundamentalists by publicising the traditionalist criticism of extremism and by” encouraging disagreements” between the two positions. It says that “in such places as Central Asia, they (traditionalists) may need to be educated and trained in orthodox Islam to be able to stand their ground.”
A third strategy would be “to confront and oppose the fundamentalists” by, among other things, challenging their interpretation of Islam and revealing their links with illegal groups and activities.
Support for the secularists would be cautious and very selective, for example by encouraging “recognition of fundamentalism as a shared enemy.”
The latest draft of the US government’s own proposals are reported to include the promotion of parliamentary exchanges, the offering of advice on legislation, support for literacy campaigns, and the promotion of more access to personal and development finance.
The Rand approach is more overtly political and has definite diplomatic gains in mind.
It’s a good approach, but it will encounter some opposition. In an essay that would be all to easy to dismiss as lunatic raving, one Abid Ullah Jan takes on “The Myth of Moderation.” He is upset that the West classifies Muslims as fundamentalist or moderate, and is angry that states such as Pakistan and Turkey would ally with America against their Muslim brothers.
It is wrong to assume that Islamic resurgence is a movement in response to the dominance of Western civilisation. The moribund Western civilisation is not dominating the Muslim world. It is the crusade-infected mentality of some in the Western world, who dominate the Muslim world through the use of deputy tyrants, fully supported by economic, military and technological might. The movement in the Muslim world is not for the revival of Islam but for revival of Muslims.