Islamism: Can the U.S. prevent Islamist Victories?
Islamism: Can the U.S. prevent Islamist Victories?
Sunday, February 21,2010 11:28

 Co-written by Khairi Abaza of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Dr. Soner Cagaptay from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the piece dismisses the notion that engaging or empowering moderate Islamists can be a useful counterbalance toward those who subscribe to a more extreme Islamist brand. “The term ‘moderate Islamist’ is offensive to all Muslims,” the authors claim. “It does not matter how Washington qualifies Islamists; once it acknowledges them as partners, parties who believe in liberal democracy will see this as a sign that Washington has allied itself with the Islamists,” which ostensibly creates an environment of disaffection and perhaps stagnation.

Using the history of post-WWII U.S. policy toward Italy as a guide, Abaza and Cagaptay analyze the tools used by U.S. officials to discourage and eventually reverse the proliferation of popularly-elected Communist politicians, and modify them to fit a Middle Eastern context. This leads them to four general recommendations:

  • Do what Islamists do, and do it better. Fund what the Islamists fund, and fund it better. To combat the pervasive influence of Islamist groups, who use their phenomenal level of financial support to marginalize and squeeze out competition, the authors believe that the U.S. should sufficiently resource secular and liberal groups so they can establish quality educational and healthcare facilities to challenge the Islamist monopoly on social services.
  • Apply different speeds: The piece maintains that the U.S. must understand the political and cultural differences among Arab countries in order to appropriately identify entry-points for engagement.
  • Create a cost for being Islamist: Piggy-backing off the U.S. approach toward mid-20th century Italy, the authors advocate banning the immigration of Islamists to the U.S. “Immigrating is a privilege that should be granted only to America’s friends.”
  • Take bold steps at home: This includes restructuring the U.S. government to meet the challenges of “Muslim-majority countries” and investing heavily in “area and language studies of Muslim countries” to “create tens of thousands of experts who are fluent in the politics and languages” of the region.