Thus we now have a third wave of Westernization. This one is very Western in the sense that its proponents are at home with our technology and have attempted to transform Islam itself into a Western-style ideology. Just as with imperialistic Euro-American ideologues, they are extremely intolerant of other ideologies”€”in this case, religions.

Our leadership must do something probably impossible for them: They must see reality as it is and act upon it. Their relentless hatred of first-wave folk (most recently expressed by Mr. Bush in Afghanistan) needs to be reversed, and the remnants of first-wave adherents must be supported as well as we can. So too with minorities persecuted under the third wave”€”not only Eastern Christians, but Druze, Alawites, Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians. Moreover, we must explore and exploit divisions within Islam normally invisible to secular-minded policy makers. This includes identifying potential allies”€”the Sufi and other groups such as the Bektashi, Naqshbandi, and Ismaili“€”who eschew violence against “€œunbelievers.”€ Our policy should also support Shia in Sunnite countries and Sunnis in Shiite ones. 

Above all, we must give up forever the dream of remaking the Middle East. Rather than transforming the region into Ohio, we should concentrate on making it livable for its people on terms they can accept. A good example of what our State Department ought to be working toward is Jordan. Kings Hussein and Abdullah have both been canny survivalists, managing to hold onto power while maintaining a pro-Western political stance. Claiming descent from Muhammad, Jordan’s Hashemites are deeply rooted in Islamic tradition, yet their minority policy is quite enlightened. Aiding the welter of such nationalities and beliefs would be better than anything we have done so far.

Image of mosque courtesy of Shutterstock



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