A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America's Relations with the Muslim World

A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America's Relations with the Muslim World

A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America's Relations with the Muslim World

A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America's Relations with the Muslim World


In A Necessary Engagement, the CIA's former point man on Islam makes a vigorous case for a renewal of American public diplomacy in the Muslim world. Offering a unique balance between in-depth analysis, personal memoir, and foreign policy remedies, the book injects much-needed wisdom into the public discussion of long-term U. S.-Muslim relations.

Intelligence insider Emile Nakhleh argues that an engagement with the Muslim world benefits the national interest of the United States. Therefore, the next administration should discard the terrorism prism through which the country has viewed political Islam since 9/11 and focus instead on the common interests of America and mainstream Muslims. Nakhleh investigates recent U. S. policy toward Islamic nations and offers the new administration a ten-point plan for rebuilding America's relationship with the Muslim world. The author demonstrates that winning over Arabs and Muslims requires a thorough knowledge of Arab and Muslim cultures and languages within our intelligence community, as well as a long-term American commitment of personnel and resources. While the success of these efforts will be incremental and hard to measure, Nakhleh believes that the current low standing of the United States in most Arab and Muslim countries can be reversed.

Stressing that effective public diplomacy must be a serious, coordinated effort pursued at the highest political levels, A Necessary Engagement charts a new course for future ties between the United States and the Islamic world.


My experiences at the Central Intelligence Agency and within the corridors of power in the nations capital as director and senior analyst of political Islam and often solo briefer to senior policymakers on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue confirmed my suspicions that our government lacks deep knowledge of the Islamic world and of the diverse ways Muslims understand their faith, their relations with each other, and their vision of, and attitudes toward, the non-Muslim world. According to media reports and public opinion polls, many Muslims believe that the U.S. government continues to view the Islamic world through the prism of terrorism, and many senior policymakers remain unwilling to entertain the notion that vast majorities of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims do not support terrorism or that many Muslims support ideas of good governance and are in fact ready and willing to enter into productive dialogue with the United States.

While standing at a book stall in downtown Amman and discussing with the bookseller the available titles on every conceivable Islamic topic, he turned to me and said, “If American leaders read half of these books; they would not be attacking Muslims all over the world. They would be speaking to us instead.”

To deepen my expertise and strengthen my analysis of political Islam, I visited more than thirty Muslim countries in subSaharan Africa (Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia), in the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan), in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Australia), in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan), and in the Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina). I also visited several European countries that have Muslim populations, which in recent years have witnessed . . .

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