The International Institute for Peace issued a new study, "American Foreign Policy and the Islamic Renewal". The modern study explains the role of USA in framing the nature of ongoing polemics within the Muslim communities about what is called the Fundamentalist Salafi movements and the Islamic reformation trends.
The author of the study is Dr. Abdul Salam Maghrawi who is an expert in the Political Islam and reformation affairs; he is also the head of "The Muslim World Initiative" program in the International Institute for Peace in Washington. The study is trying to attract Washington’s attention that the moderate Islamic movement all over the world; Islamic reformation movement represents a long scale all over the world.
The role of this movement according to USA is represented in its possessions for great faculties in furthering reformation and development besides it is trying to expose and eradicate the religious extremism that plagued the Muslim communities with hatred and negative emotions against the western culture. Washington’s report explains the main points of the study besides recommendations compiled by the author in order to ameliorate the American policy in fighting the religious extremism in the Muslim World.
The Obstacles of the current American policy:
The study starts by evaluating the current American policy towards the Muslim World pointing to the failure in three aspects for Washington’s policy in confronting the extremist Muslim currents and their dangers that threaten the American interests on the local and international level, these aspects include:
1- The world war against terrorism
2- The initiative of the partnership of the Middle East including the financial and training programs to support democracy political reformation in the Arab world.
3- The general diplomatic efforts aim beautifying the picture of USA in the Muslim world.
The study stands on the main problem that faces this American strategy that is manifested in the contradictory approaches for the three afore-said policies from the point of targets.
For example, the success of US in fighting terrorism is associated with the co-operation of the Arab governments who themselves do really stand as obstacles before Washington because they do not further any political reformation in the political regimes that may result in proper political reformation that would marginalize the extremist Islamic groups in return through democratic methods.
In this case the American Administration is facing two contradictory choices whether to neglect the policy of supporting democracy to gain the support of autocratic regimes in the war against terrorism or to abandon a crucial ally in the strategy of fighting terrorism in order Washington would compel Arab governments to implement the general diplomatic policies: how can Washington then support moderate Islamic trends against the Salafi trend while every Islamic political group whether strict or moderate is under the tightened grip of fierce censorship from the local Arab governments and sometimes from the part of the American administration.
Away from all contradictions in concepts and different political targets the report says that Washington suffers a great misconception about the structure of the political culture in the Muslim world.
This is evident in Washington’s wrong interpretation for terms like Salafi, jihad and extremist because American policy look upon the majority of Muslim trends through one vision; the radical religiosity without taking into consideration the vast difference between the concepts, trends and ideologies of the different Islamic trends and without any merits to the moderate reformation trends that is adopted by many groups at the same time.
The study considers the Washington’s misconception for these differences between Islamic trends as a fatal mistake because the moderate movements, what the writer called "the movement of Islamic Reformation" weaken the extremist Islamic groups but if they are supported by USA.
However, if Washington continued its policies without differentiating between the moderate who seeks reformation and the extremist within Islamic movements, this American policy would empower the radical elements on the expenses of the "the movement of Islamic Reformation".
A clear example can be found in the Egyptian experience where in the seventies and eighties from the previous century when a group like Muslim Brotherhood weakened because the government refused their program for political reformation besides the government imposed a forcible siege on this moderate group as a result it weakened and consequently new Islamic groups branched out like Takfir wal Hijrah (Excommunication and Exodus) and the Group of Islamic Jihad. These groups were extremist groups who resorted to violence in order to achieve their political gains after all brethrens efforts were aborted to get any legitimacy from the governments for their peaceful program of reformation.
The author believes that Washington should not commit the same mistake while facing the Islamic groups not differentiating between the moderate and extremist.
American definition for the movement of Islamic Reformation
The question is what are these moderate Islamic trends that the author is speaking about? What are their goals? According to the study, movement of Islamic reformation consists of many prominent figures and bodies who aim the restoration of the Islamic heritage from the traditional scholars who are affiliate to the governments of political regimes through out the Muslim world. While extremist Islamic groups who restrict their goals through bigotry and violence, they exploit the democratic process in order to establish a non-free political system of narrow concept that restrict only Islam in implementing the Shari’a.
Although all moderates of the movement of Islamic reformation are not members in one direct league, yet it is clear that all their efforts are united in a bulk of one goal, among which modernizing the principles and values of Islamic societies and bodies in order to keep pace with modern world at the same time they adopt Islam as a cultural heritage.
Thus, this moderate movement for reformation are holding the hopes for political reformation through a modern tolerant Islamic and coping with time and the live historic heritage.
The study urges USA not to neglect its policies in Middle East because it is an important element represented in groups and moderate Islamic movements for reformation. Achieving the political American goals is represented in the necessity of the success of the movement of Islamic reformation in the battle against extremism, religious intolerance and political sluggishness.
Recommendations for American Decision Makers
Accordingly, the study propounded several recommendations to reform the American policy towards Middle East in order to fight the so-called religious extremism; this could be summarized in points as follows:
1- Establishing an independent association called "the International Islamic Association" to enhance peace, development, prosperity and open policies in Muslim countries and communities.
2- Providing scholarships for Americans to support researches and studies that express the modern Islamic works.
3- The participation of Islamic parties on the basis of a certain criterion, directing the dialogue towards the main political isues like the freedom of opinion and expression, woman’s rights and minorities rather than being occupied with the matter of free elections.
4- Asserting the necessity of reformations in social, economic, religious cases.
5- Re-devising the efforts of the general diplomacy programs, supporting democracy and aids in order to enhance the reformation process and especially the Islamic reformation
American Foreign Policy and Islamic Renewal