On Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute hosted a conference on Islamic extremism, reformism, and the war on terror, which included a panel entitled Options for the Islamic World and the United States. Panelists included: Zainab Al-Suwaij, American Islamic Congress,
Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute and former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and Mohamed Younis, Gallup. Danielle Pletka, AEI, moderated.
Pletka spoke of the need to be more frank about Islamic extremism. Political correctness has dominated our national conversation. Both parties say Islamic extremism is not Islam.
But ISIS is a form of Islam, just not a positive form. There is also bigotry. There needs to be an intelligent debate.
Al-Suwaij noted that President Obama states that the US is not at war with Islam, but doesn’t distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islamism driven by ideologues and extremists. We need to address these issues wisely, but firmly. The majority of the problems in the Muslim world come from the lack of human rights. Authoritarian rulers are the basis of extremism and support extremism. The Muslim public realizes that radicalism is the biggest threat to them. If they see the US doing nothing about it, they assume that the US works with these groups.
Haqqani explained that Islam is not monolithic. We are dealing with a problem of those Muslims who are engaged in a war. Muslims in the West are sensitive to criticism of their religion, but Western publics are not criticizing Muslim piety; they are criticizing beheadings. The US made a critical error in the Cold War by using Islamic fundamentalism to counter Communism. It worked in the short-term but backfired.
On Monday, David Cameron outlined a strategy for countering extremism, in which he stated: “We’ve got to show that if you say ‘yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior’, or ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ – then you too are part of the problem.” Haqqani wants a similar statement from President Obama. Islamic extremism has to do with Islam because the extremists self-identify as Muslims. An ideological counter-narrative is needed. US policy must include military, intelligence, ideological and law-enforcement components, but the ideological component is missing. Haqqani argued that Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Muslim community of India don’t produce extremists because these countries allow more freedom for Muslim scholarly debate. The West needs to give a voice to unheard Muslim voices and protect pluralism.
Younis said there is not a war on Islam, but a war within Islam. The US needs to support diversity of opinion in the Islamic world. There is a need to increase jurisprudential literacy among Muslim masses; there are plenty of Muslim scholars who counter extremism. People have been convinced that joining the Muslim Brotherhood will get them into heaven, but this is not in the Quran. There is a conflation of sharia (the ideals of Islamic law) and fiqh (the worldly implementation of sharia). The premise of Islamic schools of thought has been debate; ISIS is antithetical to this and takfirism (excommunicating fellow Muslims) is not a traditional approach.
When Gallup polled Muslims about 9/11, the the minority who felt it was justified gave political reasons, not religious ones. Younis has observed three main grievances:
- The perception of US political hegemony–the US doesn’t support self-governance for Muslims.
- Conflicts in the Middle East, including Iraq and Israel-Palestine.
- The perception that Islam is not respected in the West.
Younis asserted, however, that increased jurisprudential literacy cannot come from the the US government because it is not expert at reforming religion. If we openly support pluralist voices, they will be accused of working for the West. We need to address the ecosystem that breeds extremism. The Brotherhood appealed to Egyptians because it was the only group addressing the needs of much of the population. We should focus on job creation, human capital, and youth engagement.
Al-Suwaij claimed that the US can help since we spend millions annually on promoting civil society, helping to catalyze the Arab Spring. That did not turn out well, but we could use a similar mechanism to bring religious reform.
Haqqani thought extremism comes partly from grievances and partly from conspiracy theories. The works of Sayyid Qutb argue that the West is corrupt and controlled by Jews. The narratives that the Islamic world declined because of colonialism or that Islam is under threat are false. The Islamic world was colonized because it was already weak. The West must fight conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and sectarianism; American academia, NGOs, and think tanks, can play a role. The US government can facilitate.
Al-Suwaij asserted that a few years ago, the American Islamic Congress discovered that curricula at many Islamic schools taught hatred, anti-Semitism and violence. Many Islamic groups on college campuses encourage Muslims to be more extreme or join radical groups abroad and encourage non-Muslims to convert. Younis asserted that on one side, there are those who ask Muslims to condemn radicalism, despite the fact that Muslim groups have been doing so for years. On the other side, there is the “Islam is peace” argument, which ignores the fact that some commit violence in the name of Islam. This “food fight” is unhelpful. Al-Suwaij noted that many of the condemnations that Islamic groups make in public don’t apply in small groups behind closed doors. Even though Muslims have equal rights in the US, there is still anti-Western rhetoric.
1. Iran and the Future of the Regional Security and Economic Landscape | Tuesday, July 21st | 9:00 – 12:00 | CNAS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Under the deal, Iran will put significant limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief from the international community. But the details and effects of the agreement are far from simple. Iran’s regional rivals, who are core U.S. partners in the Middle East, are deeply concerned about how the deal will change regional power dynamics. There are also questions about economic competition, particularly in energy markets, in the aftermath of
the nuclear deal. Keynote address by: Dr. Colin H. Kahl, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President. Panelists include: Dr. Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, CMEP, Brookings, David Ziegler, Distinguished Fellow and Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process, WINEP, Melissa Dalton, Fellow and Chief of Staff of the International Security Program, CSIS, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics, and Security Program, CNAS, Colin McGinnis, Policy Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Sean Thornton, Senior Counsel, Group Financial Security BNP Paribas, and Caroline Hurndall, Head of Middle East Team, British Embassy. Moderators include: Ilan Goldenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program, CNAS and Zachary Goldman, Executive Director, Center on Law and Security, NYU School of Law and Adjunct Senior Fellow, CNAS.
2. Women and Countering Violent Extremism: Strengthening Policy Responses and Ensuring Inclusivity | Tuesday, July 21st | 9:30-12:30 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Women worldwide suffer disproportionately from violent extremism and conflict. Women’s key roles in society put them in ideal positions to prevent extremist violence. Yet, 15 years after the United Nations Security Council vowed to reverse the broad exclusion of women from leadership in security and peacebuilding, they
remain marginalized. On July 21 at USIP, experts from civil society, the United Nations, academia, and the U.S. government will discuss ways to include women in efforts to counter violent extremism. The debate will directly inform U.S. government officials preparing for major international conferences on these issues this fall. The U.N. Security Council recognized in 2000 (in its Resolution 1325) that we need women to help lead in global efforts at resolving violent conflict. Several current wars and conflicts underscore how the recent surge in violent extremism has given new urgency both to protecting women and including them in solutions. The U.N. secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence, Zainab Bangura, will discuss that imperative, having recently visited Syria and Iraq. Speakers include: Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN, Timothy B. Curry, Deputy Director, Counterterrorism Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Eric G. Postel, Associate Administrator, USAID, Robert Berschinski, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, Carla Koppell, Chief Strategy Officer, USAID, Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP, Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President, Women in International Security, Susan Hayward, Director, Religion and Peacebuilding, Governance, Law and Society, USIP, and Jacqueline O’Neill, Director, Institute for Inclusive Security. Moderator: Kathleen Kuehnast, Director, Gender and Peacebuilding, USIP.
3. Islamic extremism, reformism, and the war on terror | Tuesday, July 21st | 10:00 – 12:00 | AEI | REGISTER TO ATTEND | President Barack Obama has said that the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and other extremist groups do not represent true Islam. The extremists, however, dispute this.
This leads to a basic question: What role, if any, does Islam play in fomenting terrorism? As extremist forces increasingly sow destruction, how should policymakers respond? How prevalent are moderates, and how serious are regional calls for a “reformation” within Islam? What role, if any, can the US play to encourage reform? How do anti-Islamic polemics undercut reform? Panelists include: Jennifer Bryson, Zephyr Institute, Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution, Abbas Kadhim, Institute of Shia Studies, Zainab Al-Suwaij, American Islamic Congress, Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute and Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, and Mohamed Younis, Gallup. Moderators include: Michael Rubin, AEI and Danielle Pletka, AEI.
4. Negotiating the Gulf: How a Nuclear Deal Would Redefine GCC-Iran Relations | Tuesday, July 21st | 12:00-2:00 | The Arab Gulf States Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was recently finalized, few in the international community have more at stake than Iran’s Arab neighbors across the Gulf. Will the agreement usher in a new era of detente in the Middle East? Will Iran emerge as a more responsible partner, not just to the West but also to
regional powers? Can Iran and the GCC states begin to identify areas of cooperation to bring about more stability and security to the region? Will the agreement truly prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or does the Middle East stand on the brink of another, particularly dangerous, arms race? Speakers include: Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow and the director of the Iran Initiative at New America, Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel, Nadim Shehadi, director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Fletcher School, Tufts University, Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, fellow, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and, assistant professor, Department of International Affairs, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.
5. Russian Expansion – A Reality or Fiction: A Conversation with Elmar Brok | Tuesday, July 21st | 12:30-1:30 | German Marshall Fund | REGISTER TO ATTEND | With the Minsk II ceasefire in eastern Ukraine looking increasingly shaky, Europe risks a frozen conflict for years to come. However, is Russian President Vladimir Putin finished in Ukraine? Can the United States and Europe expect more aggression from the Kremlin or is consolidation Russia’s strategy now? What do the future of Russian relations with the European Union and Germany look like and what role do sanctions play in this calculation? Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, will answer these questions and provide analysis of U.S.-European views toward Ukraine and Russia. GMF, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the European Parliament Liaison Office are pleased to jointly host this conversation.
6. Saudi Arabia’s Scholarship Program: Generating a “Tipping Point”? | Tuesday, July 21st | 1:oo | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Westerners most commonly associate the Kingdom with oil, religious conservatism, and a deeply unstable region. Our panelists will challenge such conventional perceptions by examining the seismic economic, social, and governmental changes underway, many of which evidently result in part from the deliberate Saudi government investment in its human capital. The panel will present the thesis that, having sent over 200,000 Saudi youth abroad in the past ten years with the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, the Kingdom is already experiencing powerfully transformative economic and social advances. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Atlantic Council Vice President and Director of the Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, will moderate the discussion. Hariri Center Associate Director Ms. Stefanie Hausheer Ali will present key data and analysis on the scholarship program’s origins and size as well as its costs and benefits from her case study for the King Salman Center for Innovative Government. Dr. Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President of the Institute of International Education (IIE) and Director of IIE’s Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact, will discuss the Saudi scholarship program within the context of other international scholarship programs and the types of impacts such programs can have. Ms. Samar Alawami, an American University graduate of the scholarship program and researcher at the King Salman Center for Innovative Government, will discuss how the scholarship is impacting her generation. Ambassador James Smith, President of C&M International, will reflect on the changes in Saudi Arabia he witnessed during his tenure as US Ambassador from 2009 to 2013.
7. Rebuilding Afghanistan: Transparency & Accountability in America’s Longest War | Tuesday, July 21st | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm | PS21 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As the longest running and one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history winds down, just where did the money go? PS21 is delighted to present a discussion with the man looking into that very question, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko, and Just Security. Speakers include: John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, and Andy Wright, Founding Editor, Just Security
8. Nigeria: A Conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari | Wednesday, Jul 22nd | 9:45 – 11:15 | Located at USIP but sponsored by NDI | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Please read: Important information for guests attending public events at USIP. In a milestone for Nigeria and multi-party democracy in Africa, Muhammadu Buhari was elected president in March, becoming the first opposition candidate to unseat an elected Nigerian president through the ballot box. Following a vigorous political campaign period, Nigerians successfully managed a relatively peaceful electoral process and government transition. As the new government begins its mandate, political, economic and security pressures remain intense, including the escalating insurgency of Boko Haram and unresolved conflicts across the country. President Buhari’s remarks at USIP will come on the last of his three days in Washington, following his July 20 meeting with President Obama. All guests should arrive no later than 9:45 am to pass through security. Doors to the event will close promptly at 10:00 am.
9. Arbitrary Justice in Saudi Arabia: How Activists Have Organized against Due Process Violations | Wednesday, July 23rd | 11:30 – 1:00 | Located at Open Society Foundations but sponsored by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain and Amnesty International | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Amnesty International are cosponsoring an event to shed light on the absence of Rule of Law in Saudi Arabia. The discussion will outline the specific deficiencies within the Saudi criminal justice system that lead to the
commission of human rights violations, including judges’ lack of independence, practices of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and a catch-all anti-terrorism law. Discussion will then turn to highlighting the cases of those activists, including members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who have sacrificed their independence to raise awareness of human rights abuses and bring reforms to this system. Panelists include: Abdulaziz Alhussan, Visiting Scholar at Indiana University’s Center for Constitutional Democracy and former attorney for several ACPRA members, Hala al-Dosari, Saudi activist and women’s health researcher, Sunjeev Bery, Director of MENA Advocacy at Amnesty International USA, and R. James Suzano, Acting Director of Advocacy at ADHRB.
10. On Knife’s Edge: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s Impact on Violence Against Civilians | Wednesday, July 23rd | 12:00-1:00 | Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The post-Cold War era has witnessed horrific violence against non-combatants. In the Bosnian War alone, tens of thousands of civilians died. The founders of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)—and then of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC)—hoped these courts might curb such atrocities. However, we still know very little about their actual impact. This talk will draw on the ICTY’s experience as the first wartime international criminal tribunal to provide insight into how and when these institutions might affect violence against civilians. Speakers include: Jacqueline McAllister, Title VII Research Scholar, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Assistant Professor, Kenyon College and John R. Lampe, Senior Scholar Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park.