Rethinking the Battle of Ideas: How the United States Can Help Muslim Moderates

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Abstract

There is little disagreement in Washington that the United States is losing the so-called Battle of Ideas, and there is a surprising consensus on what needs to be done: "reach out" to Muslim moderates. Bolstering moderate voices in the Muslim world is indeed crucial to the fate of the War on Terror, but "reaching out" to them is no solution. In fact, it is the last thing Muslim moderates need, since it deepens their legitimacy problems. The West's criticism may do more to help Muslim moderates become a political force to be reckoned with than its love ever could. This "cruel to be kind" rhetorical strategy can, and should, be combined with open material support for Arab and Muslim civil society, but crucially without regard to political orientation. Such a policy has its drawbacks and it will be a difficult sell, but it is the only way to make progress in the Battle of Ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-346
Number of pages15
JournalOrbis
Volume52
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

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