US tilts towards accepting Islamists’ political role

“A chorus of voices demanding the Bush administration to listen and talk with popular Islamists in Arab and Muslim countries has reached a crescendo with senior officials recognizing the faulty policy of giving the cold shoulder to a more representative current. Media reports have suggested that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will seek to meet with leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood during its upcoming visit to Egypt. The commission advises the US president, Congress and the State Department on international religious freedom worldwide.”

Islam Online, 26 April 2005

See also Islam Online, 13 April 2005 and 3 April 2005

Marc Lynch has also noted a rapprochement between the Bush administration and the Saudi monarchy, terming this “a pretty big setback for the neo-cons and hard-liners who have long identified Saudi Arabia and its export of Islamism as the premier threat to America in the region”.

Abu Aardvark, 26 April 2005

Or for a right-wing take on the change in US tactics, see David E. Kaplan’s article reporting that: “The White House has approved a classified new strategy, dubbed Muslim World Outreach, that for the first time states that the United States has a national security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. Because America is, as one official put it, ‘radioactive’ in the Islamic world, the plan calls for working through third parties – moderate Muslim nations, foundations, and reform groups – to promote shared values of democracy, women’s rights, and tolerance.”

US News, 25 April 2005

For an earlier indication of the shift in policy, see Condoleezza Rice’s speech to USIP on 19 August 2004, where she argued that the US government should “do everything that we can to support and encourage the voices of moderation and tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim world”.

US Consulate Mumbai press release, 20 August 2004

This prompted the question: “why is it that in the three years since 9/11 you haven’t given this kind of a speech to a Muslim audience in one of the five largest Muslim countries, nor has any senior administration official?” Rice replied: “That’s a very good question, maybe we should.”

Of course, this merely represents the adoption of a more pragmatic approach on the part of US imperialism. However, it does make things rather more difficult for the Islamophobes, right and left, who reject dialogue with any Islamists at all, or indeed with any Muslims less liberal than Irshad Manji.