25 September 2010

Article: Engaging Muslim Communities

Zeyno Baran's article "Engaging Muslim Communities" – an excerpt from a 2009 testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – was published in "Defining Ideas" (no. 1/March 2010), a quarterly journal of the Stanford-based conservative public policy think tank Hoover Institution.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "I have written extensively about the difference between Islam (the religion) and Islamism (the political ideology) and how we need to expose the extremists' cynical exploitation of the religion as a means of convincing the moderate majority of their fellow Muslims that the current conflict is religious in nature – and that the only solution is for Muslims to come together as part of a single nation (umma) following its own legal system (sharia) in pursuit of a new and antidemocratic world order. Why is Islamism a threat to democracy? Because, according to its interpretations, sharia regulates every aspect of an individual's life; moreover, because it is considered God's law, no compromises are possible. The holistic nature of Islamist ideology makes it fundamentally incompatible with the self-criticism and exercise of free will necessary for human beings to form truly liberal and democratic societies. [...]

"The Islamist movement is much stronger today than it was in 2001. And it will continue to get stronger over the next decade until we realize we are faced with a long-term social transformation project designed to make Muslims an angry and fearful people who can then be easily controlled. [...] Throughout the world, liberal democracy is once again being challenged as a political system and, more fundamentally, as an ideology and as a set of beliefs. Whether we like it or not, we are engaged in an ideological struggle – and the United States is losing ground. [...] Faced with authoritarian threats in both religious and secular forms, the United States should not be questioning whether to promote democracy but how to promote it. [...] If not, the United States and its allies will continue to grow weaker as their opponents strengthen.

"In general, the United States looks for short-term successes when a generational commitment is needed (as originally stated by the Bush administration). But because the United States had to demonstrate success quickly, it went for the 'low-hanging fruit' – at points even sounding as doctrinaire about democracy promotion as those who oppose democracy. [...] Since September 11, anti-American movements, groups, and leaders – from Russia to Venezuela – have come together in a shared hostility to the Western liberal system. [...] I believe having President Obama in office will grant the United States only short-term relief. Islamists are working on new narratives and searching for new grievances; their need to undermine the United States and its democratic vision is incredibly strong. [...] Clearly, the United States cannot do this cheaply, especially given how much everyone else is spending on antidemocratic agendas."

Turkish-born Zeyno Baran is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC.

No comments:

Post a Comment