RAND Study Report
- Rand Corporation Study Conducted on behalf of the US Air Force
RAND Study Report
American Muslim Perspective
Abdus Sattar Ghazali
June 25, 2005
A new Rand Corporation study suggests that Sunni, Shiite and Arab,
non-Arab divides should be exploited to promote the US policy
objectives in the Muslim world.
The recently released Rand study - titled "The Muslim World After
9/11" was conducted on behalf of the US Air Force. One of the
primary objective of the study was to "identify the key cleavages and
fault lines among sectarian, ethnic, regional, and national lines and
to assess how these cleavages generate challenges and opportunities
for the United States." The research brief was issued by the Rand
Corporation under the title: US strategy in the Muslim World after 9/11.
"The majority of the world's Muslims are Sunni, but a significant
minority, about 15 percent of the global Muslim population, are
Shi'ites .. The expectations of Iraqi Shi'ites for a greater say in
the governance of their country presents an opportunity for the United
States to align its policy with Shi'ite aspirations for greater
freedom of religious and political expression, in Iraq and elsewhere,"
the study said.
The study pointed out that with the moves toward rapprochement between
Tehran and Riyadh, there are reports that Saudi Arabia's Shi'ites are
now turning from Iran and placing their hopes on the United States.
"Their expectation is that any move toward democracy in Iraq would
give the Shi'ite majority a greater say in the politics of that
country and increase their ability to help their brethren in Saudi
Arabia. Such expectations could present an opportunity for the United
States to align its policy with Shi'ite aspirations for greater
freedom of religious and political expression and a say in their own
affairs in countries controlled by others."
On the division between the Arab and the non-Arab worlds, the Rand
Study pointed out: "Arabs constitute only about 20 percent of the
world's Muslims, yet interpretations of Islam, political and
otherwise, are often filtered through an Arab lens. A great deal of
the discourse on Muslim issues and grievances is actually discourse on
Arab issues and grievances. For reasons that have more to do with
historical and cultural development than religion, the Arab world
exhibits a higher incidence of economic, social, and political
disorders than other regions of the so-called developing world."
"By contrast, the non-Arab parts of the Muslim world are politically
more inclusive, boast the majority of the democratic or partially
democratic governments, and are more secular in outlook. Although the
Arab Middle East has long been regarded (and certainly views itself)
as the core of the Muslim world, the most innovative and sophisticated
contemporary work in Islam is being done on the "periphery"in
countries such as Indonesia and in Muslim communities in the West,
leading some scholars to ask whether Islam's center of gravity is now
shifting to more dynamic regions of the Muslim world."
The Rand Report holds the post independence political and economic
failures responsible for the current political environment of the
Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular. "Many of the
ills and pathologies that afflict many countries in this part of the
world and that generate much of the extremism we are concerned about
derive fromand contribute toeconomic and political failure."
This situation, the study argued, leads to the concept of structural
anti-Westernism (or anti-Americanism). "This concept holds that that
Muslim anger has deep roots in the political and social structures of
some Muslim countries and that opposition to certain U.S. policies
merely provides the content and opportunity for the expression of this
According to the Rand study, "outside the Arab Middle East,
Islamization has involved the importation of Arab-origin ideology and
religious and social practices a phenomenon that we refer to as
The Rand study said that a number of critical or catalytic events have
altered the political environment in the Muslim world in fundamental
ways. "Catalytic events include the Iranian revolution, the Afghan
war, the Gulf War of 1991, the global war on terrorism that followed
the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the Iraq war of 2003."
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir conflict, the study
said, are not catalytic events per se but rather chronic conditions
that have shaped political discourse in the Middle East and South Asia
for over half a century, the study said.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir have retarded the
political maturation of the Arab world and Pakistan by diverting
scarce material, political, and psychic resources from pressing
internal problems, the study added.
The Rand study called for madrassa and mosques reforms in the Muslim
world and suggested that US should "support the efforts of governments
and moderate Muslim organizations to ensure that mosques, and the
social services affiliated with them, serve their communities and do
not serve as platforms for the spread of radical ideologies." In
chapter on Islam & Politics in Pakistan, the Rand Study even suggested
that there should be government appointed and paid professional imams
in all mosques to promote "civil Islam".
"While only Muslims themselves can effectively challenge the message
of radical Islam, there is much the United States and like-minded
countries can do to empower Muslim moderates in this ideological
struggle," said Angel Rabas, RAND senior policy analyst and lead
author of the report. "The struggle in the Muslim world is essentially
a war of ideas, the outcome of which will determine the future
direction of the Muslim world and profoundly affect vital U.S.
security interests," he added.
The Rand Study also calls on the United States and its allies to
support efforts in Muslim nations to:
Create a strong and vocal network to unite the fractured voices of
moderate Muslims. This can provide moderates with a platform for their
message and provide alternatives to extremist movements. An external
catalyst may be needed to give life to this goal.
Support Muslim civil society groups that advocate moderation and
modernity. The United States may have to assist in the development of
civil society institutions where they do not currently exist.
Disrupt radical networks. Engage Islamists to participate in the
political process, and strengthen relations with the military in
Muslim nations. In the war against terror, the U.S. should demonstrate
that its efforts are meant to promote democratic change.
Reform Islamic schools. Educational systems have long been a vital
component of radical Islamic indoctrination and recruitment. The best
way to counter this is to help Islamic schools ensure they are
providing modern education and marketable skills for future generations.
Create economic opportunities in Muslim nations, particularly for
young people. Economic assistance programs will not guarantee an end
to extremism or terrorism, but could reduce the perception that the
U.S. relies solely on military instruments. Creating jobs and social
services would also give young people an alternative to radical
In March 2004, the Rand Corporation released a report - titled "Civil
Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies" that called
for supporting the modernists Muslims against "fundamentalists and
traditionalists" and promoting Sufism to formulate a market economy
version of Islam.
Angel Rabasa, RAND senior policy analyst, is the lead author of the
567-page new study. Other authors of the study include Cheryl Benard,
author of "Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and
Strategies" and Christine Fair, formerly of RAND and now at the U.S.
Institute of Peace heading by Daniel Pipes.
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© Copyright Abdus Sattar Ghazali, American Muslim Perspective, 2004
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