U.S. Policy Toward Political Islam

[Alternet.org, September 12, 2001; Download PDF] The perceived growth of radical Islamic movements throughout the Middle East and beyond has not only caused major political upheaval in the countries directly affected but has placed political Islam at the forefront of concerns voiced by U.S. policymakers. One unfortunate aspect of this newfound attention has been the way it has strengthened ugly stereotypes of Muslims already prevalent in the West. This occurs despite the existence of moderate Islamic segments and secular movements that are at least as influential as radicals in the political life of Islamic countries. Even though the vast majority of the world’s Muslims oppose terrorism, religious intolerance, and the oppression of women, these remain the most prevalent images of the Muslim faith throughout the Western world. Such popular misconceptions about Islam and Islamic movements—often exacerbated by the media, popular culture, and government officials—have made it particularly difficult to challenge U.S. policy.