Leveraging Islam

Leveraging Islam

by Author(s): Amitai Etzioni

Beyond schooling, in dealing with the community at large the State Department's practice of bringing leaders from the Muslim world to experience life in American suburbia has not produced the types of changes we would want. To promote moderate Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would be better off inviting moderate mullahs from nations such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and other largely Muslim nations in which such mullahs (and other Islamic scholars) are found in large numbers.

In short, for democracy to take root and survive in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere, the United States must recognize the importance of moderate Islam as the keystone for constructing a moral culture that can sustain free institutions; merely advancing secular values (such as human rights and democracy) will not suffice. Major changes must be introduced in the ways the United States conducts public diplomacy, foreign aid and other elements of foreign policy to favor moderate religious values while rejecting only extremist ones. These changes are essential if the moral culture of newly liberated nations is going to be shored up in ways that persuade people to abide by democratic tenets rather than relying mainly on security forces and secular values.

Amitai Etzioni is professor of sociology and international relations at The George Washington University and author, most recently, of From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations (2004).

Essay Types: Essay