The struggle against terrorism in the Middle East, and the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in its use of social media to spread its ideas, has led to a search for new messages to counter the appeal of violent extremists.
Thus far, United States counter-messaging has failed to articulate a normative position that
is compelling to its target audiences. The US has also not found an effective way
to speak to and with other parts of the Muslim world. The article shows that these
failures are not accidental but reflect profound factors in American culture and
society. The US’ normative position has also failed to take into account the crucial
differences between ‘liberals’ and ‘moderates’ in the Muslim world. To proceed
one must acknowledge that there are two fundamentally different interpretations
of Islam, both of which are supported by a close reading of the Qur’an and other
major texts. To draw on that difference, the article shows, requires drawing on
voices and resources not available in the US. The article proposes a way forward
that both acknowledges the inherent weaknesses and liabilities of the US government
as a messenger and points to more credible messengers within the Muslim
Talking to the Muslim world: how, and with whom?
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