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Rand Corp: New Designs for Muslim World

By TMO | April 26, 2007
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By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The semi-official U.S. think tank, Rand Corporation, suggests creation of
networks of the so-called moderate Muslims to promote US policy objectives
in the Muslim World.

In its latest report, Building Moderate Muslim Networks the Rand Corp
advocates that the building of moderate Muslim networks needs to become an
explicit goal of U.S. government policy, with an international database of
partners and a well-designed plan.

Just as it fought the spread of communism during the Cold War, the United
States must do more to develop and support networks of moderate Muslims who
are too often silenced by violent radical Islamists, according to the Rand
Corporation report issued on March 26, 2007.

The lead writer of the report, Angel Rabasa, says that the United States has
a critical role to play in aiding moderate Muslims, and can learn much from
the way it addressed the spread of communism during the Cold War.

³The efforts of the United States and its allies to build free and
democratic networks and institutions provided an organizational and
ideological counter force to communist groups seeking to come to power
through political groups, labor unions, youth and student organizations and
other groups.²

The report defines a moderate as a Muslim who supports democracy, gender
equality, freedom of worship and opposition to terrorism. This looks an
amplification on its two previous reports - ³Civil Democratic Islam:
Partners, Resources, and Strategies² (March 2004) and ³US strategy in the
Muslim World after 9/11² (December 2004) - which also suggested supporting
moderate Muslims and exploitation of inter-Muslim religious differences.
Interestingly, a novelist turned research scholar, Cheryl Benard, is the
author of Civil Democratic Islam and co-author of the Dec. 2004 and March
2007 reports.

In the December 2004 study, Rabasa had suggested to exploit Sunni, Shiite
and Arab, non-Arab divides to promote US policy objectives in the Muslim
world. Echoing this theme, the latest report recommends reaching out to
Muslim activists, leaders and intellectuals in non-Arab countries such as
Turkey as well as in Southeast Asia and Europe.

The report recommends targeting five groups as potential building blocks for
networks: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals; young
moderate religious scholars; community activists; women¹s groups engaged in
gender equality campaigns; and moderate journalists and scholars.

The report warned that moderate groups can lose credibility­and therefore
effectiveness­if U.S. support is too obvious. Effective tactics that worked
during the Cold War include having the groups led by credible individuals
and having the United States maintain some distance from the organizations
it supports. ³This was done by not micro-managing the groups, but by giving
them enough autonomy,² Rabasa said. ³As long as certain guidelines were met,
they were free to pursue their own activities.²

To help start this initiative, the report recommends working toward an
international conference modeled in the Cold War-era Congress of Cultural
Freedom, and then developing a standing organization to combat what it
called radical Islamism.

The recent summit, termed the ³Secular Islam Conference,² in St. Petersburg,
Florida, almost coincided with the release of the latest Rand Report. A
small group of self-proclaimed secular Muslims from North America and
elsewhere gathered in St. Petersburg for what they billed a new global
movement to correct the assumed wrongs of Islam and call for an ³Islamic

The St. Petersburg conference, held on the sidelines of the Intelligence
Summit, was carried live on (Islamophobe) Glenn Beck¹s CNN show. Some of the
organizers and speakers at the convention were well-known thanks to the
media spotlight: Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble With Islam, and Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch parliamentarian and author of Infidel were but a
few there claiming to have suffered personally at the hands of ³radical²

One participant, Wafa Sultan, declared on Glenn Beck¹s show that she doesn¹t
³see any difference between radical Islam and regular Islam.² Other
participants were the now public ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq and self-proclaimed
ex-terrorist Tawfiq Hamid.

Surely, the ³moderate² Muslim agenda is promoted because these ideas reflect
a Western vision for the future of Islam. Since the Sept. 11 attacks,
everyone from high-ranking officials in the Bush administration to
anti-Islam authors have prescribed a preferred remedy for Islam: reform the

The Rand Reports about Islam appear to be part of a grand strategy to
³change the face of Islam² as revealed by US News and World Report on April
15, 2005. The report entitled Hearts, Minds, and Dollars: In an Unseen Front
in the War on Terrorism, America is Spending MillionsŠTo Change the Very
Face of Islam­reads: ³From military psychological-operations teams and CIA
covert operatives to openly-funded media and think tanks, Washington is
plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only
Muslim societies but Islam itself.²

According to the well-planned leaks to US News and World Report, this
strategy for the first time stated that the United States has a national
security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. The report also
confirmed that it is, in fact, the US which has been funding an American
version of Islam, called ³Moderate Islam.²

The Rand reports try to create a fictitious vision of Muslims and of Islam,
where it is antihuman, uncreative, authoritarian, and intrinsically against
Western societies. It is an ethnocentric view of Islam that dominates
current representations of Islam that are reductive, predominantly negative,
and encouraging a culture of Islamophobia.

The complexities of the so-called fundamentalism and extremism in the past
100 years or so, whether it be Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, need to
be understood in the context of modernization, the process of
secularization, the changing nature of religious institutions, the
post-colonial experience in developing countries, globalization, the divide
between wealthy and poor, contesting political power, and the impact of
totalitarian regimes on civil society.

What is not mentioned in the RAND reports is that the reason for the
alienation of Muslims from the West is the ³double standards² the West so
brazenly practices when dealing with Muslim nations. America already has a
very tarnished image in the Islamic world. It has already alienated a great
majority of Muslims throughout the world through its misguided foreign
policy. Who in their right mind will believe that this asinine assault on
Islam and Muslims will win America friends in the Islamic world?

Now a word about the Washington-based semi-official think tank­the RAND
Corporation. Among other government departments, the Rand Corp conducts
studies for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the
Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy and the
U.S. intelligence community. Obviously, writers of the three reports on
Islam may be considered neo-Orientalists with clear intention to undermine

When the European nations began their long campaign to colonize and conquer
the rest of the world for their own benefit, they brought their academic and
missionary resources to help them with their task. Orientalists and
missionaries, whose ranks often overlapped, were the servants of an
imperialist government who was using their services as a way to subdue or
weaken an enemy.

The academic study of the Oriental East by the Occidental West was often
motivated and often co-operated hand-in-hand with the imperialistic aims of
the European colonial powers. The foundations of Orientalism were in the
maxim ³Know thy enemy². This equally applies to the modern day Orientalists
of such semi-official think tanks as the Rand Corporation.



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