March 18th marks the first anniversary of formal release of the Rand Corporation report on Islam, entitled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies.
The report has two fold agenda: 1. Try to create a version of Islam that suits the post 9/11 western agenda. 2. Creating divisions in the Muslim society at home and abroad.
The Rand Report recipe to achieve this objective is to encourage and promote the so-called modernist Muslims and play one section of the society against another to split the society. In another report released in December 2004, the Rand Corporation elaborated on the second point and recommended playing the two major Muslim sects Sunnis and Shiites against each other to achieve policy objects.
We are not sure what impact the Rand report has on the 1.5 billion Muslims living in independent Muslim countries as well as minorities in many other countries.
However, we can see some reaction in the American Muslim community where the so called progressive or modern Muslims are trying to benefit from the current atmosphere of fear and siege caused by the arbitrary arrests, FBI interviews, racial profiling, surveillance of their mosques, closing down of Islamic charities and constant anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propaganda in the mainstream media.
We are experiencing the re-emergence of Orientalism of the 19th century aimed at forcing the Muslims living in US to abandon the basic tenets of Islam. This neo-Orientalism is coming in the shape of such research documents as the Rand Report which questions the authenticity of Islam’s holy scripture, the Quran. Even a fake version of Quran is now available in print. It was distributed in a private school in Kuwait.
At the same time, we see cropping up of some Muslim groups such as Free Muslims Against Terrorism, Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA) and Center for Islamic Pluralism which are not only challenging the basic tenets of Islam but also challenging the established Muslim organizations.
Free Muslims Against Terrorism, established by Kamal Nawash who ran for Virginia State Assembly in November 2003 as a Republican candidate. One can well understand his political ambitions and hidden agenda of his organization. Just one example, how it is working against the American Muslim groups. In January this year the Executive Director of Free Muslims Against Terrorism, wrote an e mail to Enver Masud of an Islamic website, Wisdom Foundation, saying: We are very disappointed in your site and it should be taken down…. I will recommend to our extremist watch committee that we place your site on our list of extremist sites or sites that support terrorism. Here is the website address of Wisdom Foundation where one can see what kind of message Enver Masud has: www.twf.org
The Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA) was formed on November 15, 2004 by some professed moderates who embrace the simple proposition that “you are a Muslim if you say you are a Muslim — for whatever reason or set of reasons — and that no one is entitled to question or undermine this identity.”
The PMUNA is now forcing mainstream Muslim organizations to take positions on even non-issues in order to put them at odds with their own community, and if don’t take a position they would be considered as the “bad or extremist” Muslims. Sarah Eltantawi, one of its co-founders is demanding the major Muslim groups and organizations to take position on a non-issue, i.e. if a woman can lead Friday prayers. It is not an uncommon knowledge that the status of woman in Islam is now being used by the West to defame Islam.
“I demand to know where the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stands on this issue. I demand to know where the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) stands on this issue. And KARAMAH, the American Sufi Muslim Association, Women in Islam, Azizah Magazine, and other groups who speak for Muslims and Muslim women,” Eltantawi asks.
The PMUNA is not alone in working against the major American Muslim organizations. The first goal of Center for Islamic Pluralism established by Stephan Shwartz, a Muslim convert, is the removal of CAIR and ISNA from monopoly status in representing Muslims to the American public because, according to CIP, as long as they retain a major foothold at the highest political level, no progress can be made for moderate American Islam. By the way, Shwartz claims to be a Sufi Muslim and the Rand study recommends promotion of Sufism in Islam for US policy objectives.
The Rand Report is silent on the reasons of discontentment in the Muslim world. The report does not address any of the core issues that are central in developing the perceptions of the Muslim world like; Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya issues and the exploitative political systems supported by the American or European elites. No reference is made to the West’s support for totalitarian secular Muslim regimes, Israel ‘s endless pogroms against the Palestinians and ethnic cleansing perpetrated against Muslims in Eastern Europe and Chechnya.
A number of recent studies have reaffirmed that the reason for anti-American sentiments in the Muslim masses is because of American policies. Pentagon advisory group, Defense Science Board, in its November 2004 report pointed out that Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies. “American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.”
To give a helping held in the daunting task of countering the anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world some ‘moderate’ Muslims established the American Muslim Group on Policy Planning (AMGPP) on December 13, 2004. “The AMGPP is willing to play a very active role in helping improve US image and counter the tide of extremism and anti-Americanism in the Muslim World, the AMGPP founder explains. Now one may ask does this group supports Bush administration’s policy objects such as the occupation of Iraq, the war against Afghanistan, torture in Guantanamo Bay, Baghram and Abu Ghraib and support of undemocratic Muslim governments.
In this context, I would like to refer to a report “Understanding Islamism” issued earlier this month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group: “The failure to address the Palestinian question and, above all, the decision to make war on Iraq and the even more extraordinary mishandling of the post-war situation there have unquestionably motivated and encouraged jihadi activism across the Muslim world.”
According to the report (the quotation of which does not mean its endorsement), Sunni political Islamism, is definitely modernist in most essential respects, favoring non-violent over violent strategies, open to dialogue and debate and interested in democratic ideas. The report adds: that the West can encourage this evolution. But should it choose to do so, it will need to drop or at least moderate its more activist and interventionist impulses where Muslim countries are concerned, display greater respect for their sovereignty, understand their ambition to renegotiate their relations with it over a range of issues and come to terms with and take account of their viewpoints on the most controversial questions in the current relationship, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq and the modalitie! s of the “war against terrorism” in general.
The report warned that if “moderate” is defined to mean “co-optable”, it can only really refer to groups and tendencies which fail to articulate the frustrations and expectations of the mass of “ordinary decent Muslims”, have little or no purchase on their political reflexes and will prove unable to promote either significant reform in Muslim countries or a substantive modernization of their cultural and ideological outlook. “Rather than reducing the appeal of extremist currents, the patronizing of “moderates” in this sense by Western governments risks reinforcing it, while undermining the modernist tendency in Sunni Islamism to the benefit of fundamentalists and jihadis,” the International Crisis Group report concluded.
Returning to the Rand report, Civil Democratic Islam: partners, resources, strategies, the suggestions of its author, Cheryl Benard, are nothing more than a Machiavellian manifesto that seeks to enforce Western hegemony and cultural imperialism through the policy of “divide and rule.” The type of Islam that Benard espouses is a passive and weak Islam that can be easily penetrated and hence reformulated to suit the West’s agenda.
The report may be seen as the latest in a long series of policy papers by the “embedded intellectuals” dedicated to further the military and economic objectives of the West as well as cultural onslaught on the Muslims.
In a briefing – entitled Taking Saudi Out of Arabia – given on July 10, 2002 to a the Defense Policy Board, former RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec described Saudi Arabia as the “kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” to US interests in the Middle East. He argued that Washington should demand that Saudi Arabia stop supporting “terrorism” or face seizures of its oil fields and its financial assets in the US. Murawiec urged a multi-stage Grand strategy for the Middle East, beginning with Iraq as the tactical pivot, continuing to Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot and finally to Egypt as the prize.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective www.amperspective.com