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The United States and the Muslim World: How Engagement Will Improve Relations

Published on: November 2009​
Genre: Comparative Middle East Politics​ Category: Policy Brief/ Policy Note​

Throughout most of the present decade, many Muslims have become increasingly troubled by the state of relations between the United States and the Islamic world, and even more concerned about the future of these relations. Polls by numerous organizations bear out the fact that America’s standing in Arab and Muslim countries in the past half decade has reached an all-time low. Yet the election of Barack Obama seems to herald a warming of Muslim-American relations.

This brief analyzes the changed American approach toward engagement with the Muslim world, based on the assumption—documented by numerous polls—that disagreements between the Muslim world and the United States have been driven by policies, not values. It calls for a robust policy of US engagement with a variety of actors in the Muslim world, including Islamist parties and grassroots organizations, and outlines the changing dynamic between mainstream Islamist/nationalist groups and the "radical paradigm" as exemplified by al-Qa’ida. The brief concludes by examining the factors that have driven the rise of radicalism, and urges US policy makers to find "common ground" with mainstream Islamic parties and engage with their legitimate representatives.

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