Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a Muslim activist who appeared in the Clarion Project’s Honor Diaries documentary about the oppression of women in the Muslim world, asked President-elect Trump to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in a new op-ed in Newsday.
She recommends designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, just like its Palestinian wing, Hamas, has been designated. This is a necessary step in waging a broader ideological war against Islamism rather than just against a few specific Islamist terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Dr. Ahmed writes:
Trump can start by outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood, as President Sisi did in Egypt. He must designate it a foreign terrorist organization and acknowledge that it is at the very least an indicator of extremism. Then, he must follow the money. If Islamism is to be exposed in America, forensic financial investigations must scrutinize all institutions where Islamism can flourish without scrutiny — mosques, charities, and advocacy groups. There can be no exceptions.
The pushback against those advocating designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and making Islamism the target of U.S. strategy is that it will be perceived as—or even qualifies as—a war on the faith of Islam.
The West’s embrace of the Brotherhood and other Islamists is motivated by a false impression that they are “moderate” and a desire to avoid the appearance of a war on Islam where we fail to distinguish Muslim friends from Muslim foes.
Yet, Ahmed rightly points out that the current stance towards Islamism, is exactly that—a “profound inability by the United States to distinguish Islam from Islamism.”
On the contrary, the current administration’s set-up of terrorist vs. non-terrorist allows Islamists to fill the “non-terrorist” slot in the struggle, leaving genuine Muslim reformers out of the picture.
The U.S’ narrow focus on the symptoms of terrorist groups overlooks how the Muslim world itself is starting to discuss the diseases of Islamism as well as Islamism’s rejection of modernized interpretations of the religion.
This narrow focus on the part of the U.S. is partially rooted in the assumption that the Muslim world will be alienated by a broader ideological delineation (Islam vs. Islamism). Ironically, the West has been so fixated on declaring what will alienate prospective Muslim friends that it has failed to listen and observe what will actually alienate them.
As I recently wrote, “Overlooked allies amongst Muslims and non-Muslim minorities will surface as U.S. policy forces the Muslim world to take stances on Islamism and its adhering organizations. New allies will be born as the discussion of Islamism leads to rejections of it. If messaged correctly, the U.S. will end up with more Muslim allies of better quality.”
Dr. Ahmed argues that supporting “pluralist Muslims” against Islamism will allow the U.S. to build ties with this constituency:
Like Eisenhower, Trump will be at the right place, at the right time, in the right history. Trump will do battle with Islamism at a time when a disparate Muslim world is finally unifying with enormous political will to join that effort.
A petition has been launched urging President-elect Trump to meet with the Muslim Reform Movement, a pro-Western alliance of Muslims who want to challenge Islamism. You can sign the petition here.
The Trump administration’s strategy towards defeating Islamism will be the biggest factor deciding the success of U.S. foreign policy in the next four years.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.