[Marxism] Rand Corporation on Islam

usman x sandinista at shaw.ca
Wed Aug 4 17:34:26 MDT 2004

Cheryl Benard's report, 'Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources and
Strategies', is available on the web, and can be accessed on

Link for article below (only the first part, you have to subscribe to be
able to get the rest)


-----Original Message-----

Dear friends:

Orientalism of the 19th century scholars, helping colonial powers of Europe
to conquer and rule, is not dead. It is very much alive, at least, in the
Rand Corporation. They have recently released a  report called "Civil
Democratic Islam" - cutting up the Muslim world in pieces to suit the
desperate agenda of their masters in the US establsihment.

Here is an insightful article by Farish Noor, sent to us today by our
friend Yogi Sikand from India.

hari sharma

Why I Ain't No "Moderate" Muslim

By Farish A. Noor

Reading the recent RAND Corporation report on ëCivil Democratic Islamí by
Sheryl Bernard, I could not help but feel as if I had fallen into some
time-warp and had been transported back to the 19th century when
Orientalist scholarship was at its peak and Orientalist scholars and
policy-makers like Snouk Hurgronje were working closely with the colonial
governments of Western Europe, formulating strategies on how to divide and
rule the Muslim world.

The fact that the RAND report is meant to serve the needs and aspirations
of American power is clear when we look at its contents and see who is was
written for: Conceived within the RAND National Security Research Division
and commissioned by the Smith Richardson Foundation, this is no mere work
of a poor post-grad researcher trying to earn some money to pay off his
car loan. RANDís intimate links with US power is well known to all, and
the RAND corporation has also worked closely with the US army, as its RAND
Air Force Project testifies.

The RAND report by Sheryl Bernard divides the global Muslim community
according to a typology of Islamist types or categories, ranging from
ëFundamentalistsí and ëTraditionalistsí to ëModernistsí and ëSecularistsí.
It then proposes a number of crude strategies to get the fundamentalists
and traditionalists to slog it out against one another, while keeping the
modernists at bay and the secularists close at hand. Interestingly, the
report states that moderate Muslims should be kept apart from
ëleft-wingersí and anti-glonbalisation activists who are opposed to US
economic, military and political interests. The overall aim, as the report
puts it, is to ëfind strategic partnersí in the Muslim world to help in
the promotion of ëdemocratic Islamí, which the author hopes will be the
antidote to the problem of ëmilitant Islamí (or, as the term is
increasingly used today, ëJihadismí).

Those who are familiar with the language and discourse of the colonial
powers in the 19th century should be familiar with the imperial semantics
at work here. Then, as now, crude typologies such as the one being
proposed here served the purpose of instrumental fictions that laid the
foundations for concrete policies that were in turn applied with vigour.
It led to the colonial powers actively seeking compradore agents and
clients among the subjugated Muslim masses who could be co-opted into
their grand strategies, and then made to play the dubious role of cultural
go-betweens and contact points between the colonial masters and their
subjects; giving a ëMuslim faceí to what was really western colonial power
imposed by violence and force of arms. (For a contemporary example of this
sort of nefarious shadow politics at work, one only has to look at Iraq
and Afghanistan.)

In the report the author recommends a ëmixed approachí in providing
ëspecific types of support to those (Muslim actors or groups) who can
influence the outcome in desirable waysí. Just what the ëdesirable
outcomeí is becomes clear when the report talks about the need to pacify
anti-American elements and currents in the Muslim world that threaten US
hegemony and its global projection of power and force.

As expected, there are the usual platitudes and lip-service paid to the
thorny question of the underlying causes of Muslim anger. Yet a closer
reading of the report reveals that the question of the root causes of
terror are hardly addressed at all; any more than the role of the US and
its foreign policy (most notably its continued support of Israel) in
complicating matters on the global stage and fuelling the unrest and chaos
in the Muslim world.

Rather, the report talks about how US policy should be aimed at promoting
ëmoderate Islamicí currents and ideas and how moderate Muslims should be
helped in their struggle to promote democracy in their respective societies.

Here lies the crux of the problem: While there is nothing wrong with being
a ëmoderate Muslimí per se, one could argue that moderate Islam cannot and
will not be born in the laboratories of US think-tanks and policy
institutes. Nor should the US or its allies be so cavalier in their
issuance of ëfatwasí as to which state or government is ëmoderateí and
which is not, according to its own jaundiced criteria. Thus far we have
seen at least three cases where Muslim states have been bestowed the
much-coveted honour of being ëmoderateí Islamic states: Pakistan, Malaysia
and Indonesia. Yet in all three cases it is clear that the classification
of ëmoderate Muslim stateí has more to do with the needs of US foreign
policy than any real commitment to moderate Islam on Islamic terms.

How, pray tell, can Pakistan be seen to be a moderate Islamic state when
it remains fundamentally allied to US strategic goals and when then
harassment of Islamist opposition parties and actors has become so
routinised? And how can Malaysia be seen to be a moderate Muslim state
when repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act which allows for
detention without trial remain in place? The classification of Indonesia
as a moderate Muslim state is the most baffling of all, when its generals
are back in power and military hardliners like Gen Hendropriyono ñ accused
of the slaughter of hundreds in South Sumatra ñ be made the head of the
countryís anti-terror unit.

ëModerate Islamí can only emerge from within the corpus of Islamic thought
and Islamic norms and praxis. It has, in other words, to be a step in the
natural evolution of Islamic society itself, on its own terms and at its
own pace. Yet the Muslim world today cannot and has not been allowed to
evolve on its own due to the constant interference and meddling in its
internal affairs by external powers bent on securing tactical leverage as
well as protecting their own selfish material interests- be it in the case
of oil and gas, or other military-strategic interests.

Taken against this context, the RAND report reads as a clumsy, almost
farcical document that attempts social engineering at its crudest. No
Muslim academic, intellectual or activist worth his or her salt would want
to be stained by the Midas touch of such a report, or the contaminating
feelers of Washington and its neo-Con coterie. For most Muslims being a
ëmoderate Muslimí means, first and foremost, being committed to the values
of democracy and human rights the world over, and opposed to the
unilateral militarism and hegemony of the USA. Contrary to what Sheryl
Bernard may think, genuine moderate Muslims are the last people she and
the USA can turn to for support and patronage. And thatís why I ainít no
ëmoderate Muslimí by her standards, and thank God for that!

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