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From the Blog
The West is wrong about Islam -- an insiderâ€™s view
VANCOUVER, Canada -- After a career gathering intelligence on the stormy front lines of global Islam, Graham Fuller is not eager to disrupt the pastoral, small-town life he and his wife, Prue, have been enjoying the past few years in Squamish.
Few know Fuller remains active as one of the world’s foremost experts on political Islam, a specialty he developed as a top official (read "spy") with the Central Intelligence Agency and later with the Rand Corp., the world’s largest non-profit think-tank.
To cut to the chase, the former Washington, D.C., player and author of six books and scores of widely disseminated articles on Islam and power is appalled at the way the George W. Bush administration is waging an assault on the Muslim world.
He believes the U.S.-led war in Iraq and on other Muslim-dominated soil is the wrong way to go. It’s making Muslims feel "under siege," and it’s the main reason he believes there has been a rise in Islamic terrorism.
As a senior intelligence officer in Asia, Fuller lived with Prue throughout the Muslim world: Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, North Yemen and Afghanistan. With a knack for languages, he learned to speak Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Turkish.
To put it mildly, Fuller is not pleased with the direction the CIA has taken since Sept. 11, 2001. He is upset the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security, in the name of the "war on terrorism," are now brazenly engaged in kidnappings and extraordinary renditions (the forced transport of suspects to countries where they can be tortured.)
Fuller retired from the CIA in 1988, when he began working as an Islamic expert for the 1,600-staff Rand Corp., which is respected for its non-partisanship.
His writing began in earnest at Rand, where he again focused on Asian Islamic politics, religion and ethnicity. His many powerful articles have appeared in scholarly journals and everything from The New York Times to the Christian Science Monitor.
Fuller’s many regrets about the war on terror reflect the views of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who this month protested the fourth anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, who said in his Easter declaration, "Nothing positive comes from Iraq."
Fuller believes the West’s approach to terrorism is creating a "self-fulfilling prophecy" by deepening suspicions about U.S. imperialism among the world’s one billion Muslims and forging more extremists in a culture that did not until recently have many.
"Muslim anxieties, fears, frustrations and anti-American anger are now at all-time highs. The policies of the West, and particularly the U.S., only serve to exacerbate these convictions," Fuller writes in a short, penetrating article in the Harvard International Review.
"In Muslim eyes, the western imperial tradition is now spearheaded by the United States in its explicit drive for global hegemony and its determination to weaken the political power of Islam -- the last major bastion of resistance to the global American agenda."
Fuller is aghast at Americans’ misunderstandings about Islam. There is a well-developed cottage industry in the U.S., he says, in which pundits "cherry pick" Muslim texts to argue there is an implacable "clash of civilizations" occurring between Islam and Christianity.
"Such ‘methodology’ is tantamount to a selective reading of the Old Testament, identifying the more intolerant passages about what punishment God will visit upon the enemies of the Jews, and from there commenting on the essence of Jewish character and how Jews will behave in the future .... All these approaches are shallow and ultimately offensive."
What does the West need to do?
Nothing short, Fuller says, of withdrawing virtually all U.S. military forces from Muslim soil, where they present a provocation. The U.S..has lost its cachet as an "honest broker" on global affairs.
The U.S. must drop its crude military reaction to terrorism, which simply creates more enemies, and return counter-terrorism to the arena of intelligence and police work, he says.
The West, working with other powers, also has to find ways to authentically support the mostly peaceful, moderate and pro-democracy Islamist movements that already exist.
Furthermore, Fuller says North Americans desperately need access to broader media coverage of global events. He recommends North Americans get much more ready access to CNN International (instead of the parochial national channel), BBC and al-Jazeera networks, as well as English-language versions of Chinese, Russian and Indian news coverage.
Fuller is one former CIA man (among many, past and present, he says) who has what he considers both a liberal and realistic vision of the world.
"I’m interested in the welfare of countries other than just my own. I still care about what happens to the Afghans, the Indians, the Palestinians. I think that vision has been lost in the U.S.," he says. He believes most Canadians share the values he laments are being forgotten in the U.S.