Barack and Islam: the to-do list
Written for menso.wordpress.com, the Menso Guide to War, on June 6, 2009President Barack has just given a speech in Cairo intended for an audience of the entireMuslim world. The speech was a good one--sincere, inclusive, friendly--but there is a lotmore to be done.Though I do not think Islamic terrorism is America's biggest problem, nor will it ever be,I do think Islamic extremism poses a serious threat to American interests. Those interestsinclude free markets, secularism, democracy and peace. And contrary to popular belief,extremism is caused far less by poverty and religious pluralism than by perceivedinjustice with no outlet through which to vent. And on this note, we begin Barack's To-DoList for Better Relations with the Islamic World.
#1: Encourage freedom and support pluralism in Muslim countries
The Barack administration needs to work with its allies among Muslim countries toensure everyone has a voice. With so many repressive states that are nominally Islamic,and so many of them (again nominally) aligned with the US, Barack and Hillary need tocontinue the pressure on people like the House of Saud to allow freedom of expression.Eliminating extremism is not a question of democracy per se; indeed, the idea of democracy has become a laughing stock among many Middle Easterners. The unpopular Bush administration promoted democracy as a panacea, and as soon as an Islamic party(Hamas) was "democratically" elected, it refused to recognise it.But pluralism and freedom are still ways to promote peace--if you disagree with me, youcan say so without getting arrested. To say they are not suited to Islam is nonsense: theywere part of Islamic civilisation for at least 500 years during the Islamic Golden Age.Without pluralism and freedom of expression, Muslim civilisation would never havemade such great scientific advances. Saying pluralism and Islam cannot coexist is likesaying Muslims speak with one voice. Yet these values are at the root of the debate going