The confrontational standoff between America and the Muslim world, the two most vital camps of humanity, indispensable to one another, remains a failure in our time. The consequent unfolding events for the last several decades have become tragedies and liabilities in our world, and have victimized both the East and the West.
There is potentially a powerful agent that exists within America today that could help this state changed in our time. America should reach out to the American Muslims—the common denominator between America and the Muslim world—to help build trust and goodwill with the Muslim world.
The power of trust is enormous. But the evil effects of distrust and cynicism could be even greater: Many well-meaning endeavors and engagements have been marginalized or ruined in the past because of the cynicism and hatred promoted by the extremists and the vested interests alike.
Transnational alliances of citizens and civil societies could help bring about countervailing forces to defeat counterproductive affairs in our time.
Recently the PEW survey established that 65% of American Muslims were born in foreign lands, and therefore they have close ties and increased understanding regarding these societies. They come from more than fifty countries around the world, and many of them are the cream of the crop of those lands. The Pew further exposes, they are well-educated and well-established in America. The other 35% of American Muslims, born and brought up here in America, have deep connections with the society. Many of this group are African Americans who experienced another struggle—the Civil Rights movement here in America—to establish their own rights and dignity in this country. This extraordinary combination of predispositions, characteristics and the context make this group a vital group from whence a powerful leadership of dialogue and diplomacy can be raised.
Given America’s current difficulty with the Muslim world, a heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of American Muslims. They are at a key place in a critical time in history to spearhead an international movement to promote constructive engagement and conflict resolution.
Who could be a better bridge-builder than the common denominator? Who could be a better promoter of trust and goodwill between the conflicting parties than the ones who are a part of both?
America is the most open and pluralistic society in the world governed by powerful due process of self-rule. This nation was founded on the principles of equality, liberty and dignity of all people. Remaining committed to these ideas this nation has charted an amazing course of changes that makes it the most versatile and changeable society in humanity.
This characteristic—and not its military power or wealth—is its true strength. The secret of this nation’s enormous success is that it is the most self-reflective, self-critical and self-correcting society in the world.
The problem is that this side of America is completely unknown in the Muslim world. The vast young generation, comprising as much as 70% of the Muslim world, judge America by its failed policies only.
Even though many Muslim majority societies were victims of such policies, particularly during the Cold War, if Muslims fail to assess the capacity of America to do good, Muslims will do terrible disservice to their own interest and welfare. American Muslims could help the Muslim world towards a constructive mindset.
It is also the moral responsibility of this minority to remind America to apply the same standard of human rights and dignity to others beyond its borders, as it has so struggled to uphold for its own people. Otherwise it would lose its true leadership in this intensely interdependent and interactive global society.
It is extremely important to note that at any given time on any given issue, neither the American people nor its government is monolithic. This is a powerful backdrop for a catalyst of change to help shift the delicate balance towards constructive engagement and diplomacy.
This superpower could be a leader in constructive engagements. In modern times it indeed has taken some visionary steps to set new paradigms in human affairs. Through the Marshall Plan this nation—by building the defeated and devastated enemy countries in WWII—helped set a new standard of constructive engagement in the world. By taking the breathtaking diplomatic initiative with China in 1972 when China was closed-door and utterly repressive during the “Cultural Revolution” America helped China to become a global partner to make this world a better place. By abandoning the proxy wars of the “Containment Policy” and initiating the constructive engagements of ‘détente’ America defeated the Cold War and helped the Soviet Union transformed. These are giant leaps in the pursuit of cooperation and diplomacy.
It is a moral imperative for American Muslims to initiate a soul search in America as to why America failed that vision for the Muslim world which is one-fifth of humanity controlling 76% of oil reserves of the world?
And how costly is this failure? If America could have retained the trust and the goodwill it once had with the Muslim world several decades ago perhaps it could have achieved many of its objectives at the fraction of the price it already paid and still failed on many fronts.
Recently, General Jim Jones has declared that al-Qaeda is defeated and Taliban could be defeated as well. That is well and good. But the main issue is what happens next?
Given the confrontational state between these two polarized worlds can a military bring about a long-term solution? All prominent US and European generals have commented otherwise emphatically pointing out that success necessitate diplomacy.
American Muslims, for the sake of the Muslim world and for the sake of the nation they belong, should spearhead the paramount transnational undertaking of establishing goodwill and constructive engagement between the Muslim world and the Western world.