So much for the "tiny minority of extremists who hijacked a great religion".
In the past few weeks, the Arab media have been buzzing with shocking news: the West is engaging in open talks with Islamists. While this is not really unexpected coming from the European Union, which has always been quite appeasing with Islamists, it is all the more surprising coming from the Bush administration.
It all really started with reports in the Arab press of a "secret" meeting in Beirut on March 22 between US officials and representatives of terrorist organizations. In attendance: Musa Abu Marzuk, Sami Kheter and Osama Hamdan from the Palestinian Hamas; Nawaf Mousawi from the Lebanese Hizbullah; Ibrahim al Masri and Assad Harmouche from the Lebanese Gamaa Islamiya; and three representatives from the Pakistani Gamaa Islamiya. Eli Lake from the New York Sun is among the only journalists in the US media who has reported at length about this meeting.
At the same time, the European Union was on the same active path of engaging dialogue. At an EU meeting in Luxembourg on April 16 foreign ministers decided it was high time to get into talks with "moderate" Islamists. They regretted that in the past they only dealt with the seculars in the Middle East.
Finally, some Arab newspapers -- including Al Quds al Arabi, TelQuel and At Tajdid -- reported that another "secret" meeting occurred between April 17 and 21 in Marrakech, Morocco, between US officials and members of the Islamist opposition, in particular leaders of the Egyptian and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
Interestingly a passionate debate on Saudi TV Al Arabiya on April 19 -- translated by Proche-Orient.info -- touched on this new dialogue. One of the panelists was the Islamist, Azzam Al-Tamimi, head of The Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London. Tamimi, who took part in that now infamous Beirut meeting, made clear that it was an all-Western initiative. He explained this American change of heart by a new realism: Americans know that in a democratic process, the Islamists will win.
As usual, there's one smart Arab living amongst the jihadis trying to beat sense into the heads of our pointy-headed diplomatic corps.
Indeed, as Rifaat al Said, the President of a leftist opposition Egyptian party, said it: "The moderate Islamists do not exist. To be moderate is to accept the Other. And the very Muslim Brothers' doctrine is based on the non respect of other religions." Said deemed it a major mistake to think -- like Europeans and Americans do -- that democracy in a Muslim country has to go through a "moderate" Islamist power phase.
But don't tell experienced U.S. diplomats or CIA policy wonks how to do their jobs. "Damn the facts, full speed ahead!"
In the face of a growing threat which is bent on our destruction, and rapidly acquiring the means to destroy whole cities, what should the tough-talking Texan do?
Have a meaninful, sharing dialogue with those who want to kill us, silly. The author concludes with the appropriate disdain for this new, 'realistic' approach.
At least, before engaging Islamists, the US should wait that they stop, once and for all, terrorism and lay down arms. By dialoguing with our very own enemies so early in the War, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The Bush administration is on a very slippery slope: how can you justify speaking with Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood? Where is the "We don't negotiate with terrorists."? What kind of credibility will the US have? If on one hand, we are fighting terrorism but on the other we are talking to these very same terrorists…We went from "Shock and Awe" to "Charm and Talk" and thus we just handed ourselves our first defeat in this war.
I'm sure negotiations will improve once another dozen nuclear nations join the "club" with half of them in the Middle East.