The West Is Launching a New Cold War, but This Time It's a Muslim 'Enemy'

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Ebrahim Bham

The 40 years of occupation campaign, aimed at highlighting the suffering of Palestinians, is a moment to reflect on related issues of international concern.

In addition to the suffering of the people of Palestine, the conditions under which Muslims have to live, work and travel in many parts of the world, leave significant room for improvement.

The suspicion with which Muslims are treated and profiled became glaringly obvious recently when Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool was body-searched at London's Heathrow Airport. According to Rasool, he was searched because he is a Muslim.

The irony, as one reporter pointed out, was the fact that Rasool was invited to address the Islam and Muslims in the World Today conference by the British prime minister himself. At this same conference, Tony Blair said Britain should make a bigger effort to listen to moderate Muslims.

The ordeal suffered by Rasool shows how a senior South African politician can bear the brunt of profiling tactics used by Western law- enforcement and security agencies. This raises some questions about the increased emphasis Western governments are placing on the need to interact with so-called "moderate Muslims".

The appeal by Blair for Britain to interact with moderate Muslims is clearly not being practised by immigration officials there.

The experience of Palestinians and the incident involving Rasool are not isolated. A recent Rand Corporation report, entitled Building Moderate Muslim Networks (2007), re-states the oft-repeated mantra of how extremism in Islam poses a grave threat to the West.

The policy question this report grapples with is how best to engage with, influence and co-opt "moderate Muslims" into programmes funded by the US government.

On a disconcerting note, the report suggests that lessons should be taken from the Cold War, when the US funded and assisted "liberal networks" to counter the political influence of the Soviet Union in the Eastern Bloc and other regions of the world.

The report goes into great detail to ascertain what lessons the US can learn from the Cold War, and how best to promote Islamic moderates around the world today.

The report highlights the grand strategy the US adopted during the Cold War to counter Soviet political expansion and influence. This can effectively be read as a declaration of ideological war, with the US playing the role as arbiter of what acceptable Islamic thought is. …