- November 4, 2009
Engaging the Muslim World
Emile NakhlehPresident Barack Obama’s election and post-inauguration statements on political Islam and his speeches in Turkey and Cairo have resonated well in the Muslim world, reflecting a willingness to move beyond the confrontational policy of the previous administration to a new era of “smart diplomacy”.
Obama’s Cairo speech and his elaboration on his vision of future relations with the Muslim world helped put to rest the perception that many Muslims held during the previous administration that the war on terror was a war on Islam.
Islamization of politics has changed qualitatively and quantitatively after 9/11, with growing demands for economic, educational, political, and social justice in Muslim societies, and numerous Islamic political parties and movements have become more engaged in the political process through elections.
By engaging mainstream Islamic political parties and other civil society institutions on the basis of mutual trust, respect and common values, the United States will help promote international peaceful cooperation and in the process further their interests and the interests of Muslim societies.
Protest in front of al-AzharReaching out to the vast majority of people requires deep expertise, a thorough knowledge of the cultures involved, a coherent and carefully crafted message, and utilisation of credible indigenous Muslim voices. Islamic political parties in the Middle East and elsewhere are central to engaging the Islamic world.
As the Obama administration proceeds with implementing some of the principles enunciated by the US president in the Cairo speech, policymakers will have to find ways to convince regimes that engaging civil society institutions and non-state actors in those societies will not necessarily undermine those regimes.
If the people in a particular country have the right to choose their government freely, they will be more invested in social peace and political stability, which in the long-run such a development will minimise the tensions between state and society.
In the final analysis, engaging Muslim societies must go through Islamic parties and movements in those societies.