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The Contest of Ideas with Radical Islam

Nina Shea

All jihadist orthodoxies hold the core animating belief of absolute intolerance for the religious “other,” that is other religions and faith groups, as well as other Muslims, whether members of other Muslim groups or individual Muslims who dissent from intolerant orthodoxies. The contest of ideas requires a U.S. soft power response that advances religious freedom and tolerance in the Muslim world. The new administration should prioritize this effort in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq because of their foreign policy significance. It should press Saudi Arabia to end its sponsorship and spread of religious hatred; undertake real textbook and education reform; end persecution of and discrimination against Shiites and individual Muslims accused of apostasy and blasphemy by its clerical establishment; and allow non-Muslim places of worship inside the Kingdom. In Iraq it should urgently adopt a comprehensive policy to specifically help endangered communities of Christians, Yizidis, and Mandeans. It should use its considerable leverage with Egypt to end official discrimination and repression against Copts, Quranists, Shiites and those accused of apostasy and blasphemy. It should oppose the trend to universalize blasphemy laws, including through bans on religious defamation now being considered at the UN; and recognize the diversity within Islam in its own Muslim outreach programs here in America.

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