March 28, 2007

RAND: Building Moderate Muslim Networks

The RAND organization has come out with another report on how the US government should deal with the Muslim world. The report can be downloaded here, both the full (216-page) report and a summary version. I've skimmed through a few parts of the book and read the chapter on SE Asia. The authors have gone back to past history for inspiration as to how to deal with the Muslim world:

What is needed at this stage is to derive lessons from the experience of the Cold War, determine their applicability to the conditions of the Muslim world today, and develop a "road map" for the construction of moderate and liberal Muslim networks—what this study proposes to do.

The goals of the report and some of the specific tools listed are:

Principal goals
  • Link Muslim liberals and moderates
  • Begin with a known and solid core group and build outward from there
  • Exceptions should only be made knowingly, selectively, tactically
  • Reverse the flow of ideas (instead of Arab heartland > periphery, moderate periphery > Arab heartland)
  • Focus on areas of maximum obtainable success
  • Elsewhere, concentrate on holding ground and waiting opportunities

    Some key implementation tools
  • Convene a small workshop of boots-on-the-ground liberals moderates to help identify what they would need to become more effective
  • Tailor a set of pilot programs on the basis of these needs
  • Launch an international network of liberal and moderate Muslims, convening them in a location of symbolic salience
  • Reconfigure programs to concentrate on true moderates locations that hold promise
  • Ensure visibility and platforms for them. For example, ensure that they are included in congressional visits and meetings senior officials to make them better known to policymakers and to maintain support and resources for the effort.

    Now, insha'allah, I'll write some more specific comments in future posts, but I wanted to make two general comments now. One, the chapter on the "Southeast Asian Pillar" was generally accurate and "decent." There wasn't much there to offend or even that goes against local attitudes about Islam and how it should be presented to the outside world.

    On the other hand, the chapter about "Secular Muslims," the so-called "forgotten dimension in the war of ideas," is largely crap as far as I'm concerned. I think one of the things these non-Muslim ideological types at RAND can't understand is that most Muslims will not work with the so-called "Secular Muslims" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). The likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, et al (who are mentioned in the report) will turn away the very moderate Muslims RAND wishes to work with. Any reform of the Muslim world MUST be done ONLY by Muslims - apostates need not apply. Far better for RAND to work solely with Muslims and ignore the "Secular Muslims" altogether, even if they are ideological bedfellows.

    Altogether I am very mistrustful of RAND's work. I think activist Muslims should read through the report, though, borrowing what little that is good and using its ideas to develop counter-strategies to block or divert that which is bad.

    Update: Jinnzaman has a very good analysis of the Rand report here.

    Ann said...

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    I also think it's a good idea to read these reports, because they do have a big influence on U.S. policymakers. I looked through it breifly, and it seems like they realize that their ideas for influencing the Middle East haven't worked, so now they're suggesting a focus on other Muslim regions. And yeah, the idea that a Hirsi Ali (who acknowledges that she's not a Muslim but an atheist) or an Irshad Manji is going to have a big impact on Muslims is pretty misguided.

    Ann said...

    Oops - "briefly", not "breifly"