Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies
and Chair, Political Science Department at Adrian
College in Michigan.
Dr. Khan is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings
Institution in Washington DC.
He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations,
Political Philosophy, and Islamic Political Thought,
from Georgetown University in May 2000.
Khan is also associated with the Center for the
Study of Islam and Democracy and the Institute for
Social Policy and Understanding.
is the author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith
and Freedom (Amana, 2002), Jihad for Jerusalem:
Identity and Strategy in International Relations
(Praeger, 2004). His forthcoming book is titled
Beyond Jihad and Crusade: Rethinking US Policy in
the Muslim World (Brookings Institution, 2004).
Khan frequently comments on BBC, CNN, FOX and VOA
TV, NPR and other radio networks. His political
commentaries appear regularly in newspapers in over
20 countries. He has also lectured in North
America, East Asia, Middle East and Europe.
Dr. Khan's column has appeared in The New York
Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal,
Newsweek (Arabic), New York Post, Newsday, Arizona
Tribune, Duluth News Tribune, The Daily Telegraph
(London), The Daily Star (Lebanon), The Daily Times
(Pakistan), Dawn (Pakistan), Q-News (UK), Al Ahram
weekly (Egypt), Hindustan Times (India), Outlook
India, The Sun (UK), Jakarta Post, Jordan Times,
Manila Times, Outlook India, Palestine Times,
Calgary Herald, The Daily Telegram (MI), San
Francisco Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, Detroit
News, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, The
Muslim Democrat, The Christian Century, Islamic
Horizons, The Message, The Globalist.com,
Beliefnet.com, Arabies Trends, Al-Mustaqbal, Saudi
Gazette, and many other periodicals world wide.
a comprehensive resume click here: Resume
resume click here:
Recently Posted Articles
I am happy to announce
the publication of my first book -- American
Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom For more details about
the book go to: Book
1. Islam in America
2. American Muslims and American
3. American Muslims and American
4. American Muslims and American
5. American Muslim
6. Reflections on Islam and
7. The Attack on America ands its
8. An American Muslim Perspective of
to Main Page
Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom.
for American Muslims into
the Policy Process?
A. Muqtedar Khan
was first published as a book chapter in First Impressions:
American Muslim Perspectives (Washington DC: American
Muslim Taskforce, 2003). Op-Ed versions have appeared in The
Daily Times (Pakistan) 08.26.2004, Pakistan Link,
09.04.2004, The Muslim Observer 09.15.2004, and Muslimwakeup.com,
08.24.2004. This article was subsequently republished in the Homeland
Protection Professional in January 2005.
585-page report by the bipartisan-independent
9/11commission has been published and is now a best
The report, in great detail, confirms what is generally
considered as common wisdom in America today. Most of
what it reveals is already known and what it conceals is
also known. It therefore is really redundant from a
knowledge perspective. But it is a potentially powerful
political weapon that can be wielded effectively by
politicians of every hue. It enjoys the added appeal of
being supported by the families of the victims and in
that sense has acquired a sacred quality that people in
charge may ignore at their own peril.
also offers nothing new in terms of genuine strategies and
recommendations to make America safer; think tanks and experts
in the last three years have already recommended much of what
it recommends. Its value lies in its summation and
accumulation of a large body of facts in one place and will
remain a useful reference tool for all who are engaged in the
new enterprise of global Counter-terrorism.
report is comprehensive and its key points are:
1. The attacks of 9/11 were unexpected and unprecedented;
2. The American security establishment was ill prepared to
combat such an eventuality. Its security apparatus, including
the intelligence community, had not adjusted institutionally
to be able to anticipate and pre-empt what the report labels
as “the new terrorism”.
3. The report warns that an attack of even greater magnitude
is now possible unless America prepares and acts now.
4. It argues that the US needs to reconstitute its security
policies and institutions to facilitate coordination of
information, rapid decision-making and pre-emptive action on a
global scale. The report redefines American “national
interests” and recommends preparedness on a global scale.
5. It recommends foreign policy shifts acknowledging the
critical linkage between American security and its foreign
policy. The report does a disservice to the nation by not
examining this linkage in its laborious effort to explain how
and why 9/11 happened. Thankfully, the oversight is corrected
in its final recommendations.
6. The report systematically downplays the significance of US
support for Israel and its foreign policy in the Muslim world.
7. The overriding theme of its operational recommendations is
“unity of effort” in all arenas, from intelligence
gathering to politics, policy and policing matters.
8. The report repeatedly calls for the US to defend its values
overseas. It forgets to remind us that we must also practice
our values here and overseas. It lacks an adequate criticism
of US policies which undermine democracy in the US and
9. The report says it is not Islam but a small minority of
“Islamist terrorists” who constitute a serious threat to
10. One problematic aspect of the report is the absence of the
input of not only American Muslims but also of established
scholars of Islam and the Muslim world. Its analysis of
Islamic resurgence, the socio-political condition of the
Muslim World and the causes for the emergence of Islamic
militancy and groups such as Al Qaeda, are poorly studied.
11. It does not express any misgivings about American Muslims.
report broadly tries to answer two questions -- how? And why?
It first tries to explain how 9/11 happened and then why it
happened. It then seeks to recommend how the US can be
successful in its response and why. It provides a great deal
of detailed information about how the attacks were planned and
executed. This should be an eye-opener to those Muslims who
still deny the hand of Bin laden and Al Qaeda in the attacks.
report makes a distinction between old terrorism and new
terrorism without actually providing a satisfactory
explanation of what is different.
What it does accept is the paradigm shift from the Clinton
administration, which treated terrorism as a crime, to the
Bush administration that treats it as a war. The report
provides useful analysis and suggestions for this new
philosophy for combating terrorism. Indeed it is possible that
September 11 may fundamentally reconstitute America’s
defense doctrines and transform its military
capabilities. The report offers many tactical ways to deal
with the new invisible enemy.
One problematic aspect of the report is the absence of
the input of not only American Muslims but also of established
scholars of Islam and the Muslim World. Its analysis of
Islamic resurgence, the socio-political condition of the
Muslim World, and the causes for the emergence of Islamic
militancy and groups such as Al Qaeda are poorly studied. For
example John Esposito’s chapter on Bin Laden in his book, Unholy War, provides a more comprehensive
understanding of Bin Laden’s personality and his politics
than the report,
which had access to classified data.
American policy makers continue to ignore the American Muslim
perspective and the enormous wealth of understanding that the
American scholars of Islam and the Muslim World possess, then
they will make serious mistakes in understanding the present
The misunderstanding of the conditions prevalent in the Muslim
World will translate into more problematic policies
aggravating the situation globally and further compromising
American security and interests. American policies will face
the danger of being hijacked by policy entrepreneurs and
ideologues and lead the country astray.
report is astonishingly silent on the historical role of US
foreign policy in the Muslim World, which many argue
contributed to the rise of anti-Americanism in the Muslim
World. It was silent on the US role in Afghanistan.
We cannot understand how the “Mujahideen” became a
“Jihadi” without understanding US policies in the region.
This neglect does not serve American interests. If the
commission had consulted scholars it would have learned a lot
more. Mahmood Mamdani does a better job in his book, Good
Muslim, Bad Muslim, than the report on this score.
report sheds light on the involvement or lack of it of
American Muslims in the 9/11 operations. One can take home two
conclusions. One, that the community had really very little if
not nothing to do with the attacks and therefore the excessive
focus on Islam in America and American Muslims by the media
and many security agencies is unwarranted. But the report also
shows that some Muslims can be very stupid. Imagine allowing
the use of a mosque account to transfer funds from overseas to
an individual who you hardly know.
Hopefully after 9/11, American Muslim institutions will not
allow their “fellow Muslim brothers” from abusing their
institutions. American Muslims as a community must call for a
systematic review and revision of the management of American
Muslim institutions and implement real training
programs. They must focus on upgrading their legal and
security measures, revisit adherence to new post-Patriot Act
regulations, accountability mechanism, and oversight
best and the most useful part of the report is Chapter 12,
“What to do: A Global Strategy”.
Though not without certain limitations the chapter indicates
the commissions open and fair analysis of the problem and its
willingness to engage with the challenges posed by 9/11
attacks. The report identifies the threat as “Islamist
terrorism” and recommends a series of strategies to counter
it. The report argues that Al Qaeda and groups inspired by Al
Qaeda and its militant ideology are a threat to the US’
global interests and because they are party motivated by US
policies and partly by their radical Islamic ideas that seek
to either destroy or convert the US, they leave no option for
negotiation for the US.
would have been better if the report had used the word
Jihadism rather than Islamist to qualify the militant groups
and make a distinction between Islamists and rogue Islamists.
The latter runs the danger of throwing a much wider net
leading to repression of Islamists seeking socio-political
change through peaceful means. The identification of Islamism
itself as a potential enemy also runs the danger of alienating
and radicalizing all Islamists, who are easily the most
powerful and potent force in Muslim politics worldwide. Here
again they reveal the dangers of not consulting Muslims and
experts of Islam. The commission would have been more
enlightened if they had paid a little more attention to a
recent book, The Future of Political Islam, by Graham
Fuller, a former CIA analyst, which provides a fair analysis
of Islamism with a clear concern for long-term US interests.
report must be commended for its courage in pin pointing and
surgically defining the threat. It specially states that Islam
is not the threat. The report expresses concern with the
condition of politics within Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and
[pp.367-374]. I fully endorse the reports analysis of Saudi
Arabia and Afghanistan but regret its recommendation on
Pakistan that appear more like US policy towards Parvez
Musharraf than Pakistan. While it is interesting that the
report does not discuss Iran, Syria or Sudan in the context of
potential sanctuaries for anti-American Jihadi groups, the
report commits a gross error by not including Iraq in its
short list as a potential sanctuary for Jihadis. An
instable Iraq may well become the launching pad for
anti-American Jihadis. Perhaps the commission chose not to
discuss Iraq in this context to avoid underscoring the stark
contradictions in the policies it recommends and the policies
that the Bush administration has articulated and executed in
report advocates soft and tough, diplomatic and militaristic
strategies to combat terrorist organizations in the Muslim
World. They are practical and wise and the US government will
do well to implement several of them. The strategies
sensitivity to the absence of democracy in the Muslim World
and the socio-political plight of ordinary Muslims
deserves special mention. Its insistence that the US must
eschew compromising democracy in the interest of short term
strategic gains is noteworthy but it must also be pointed it
that their own recommendations vis-à-vis Pakistan violate
is an important report and will have a significant impact on
US policy. The report should not be taken lightly. I recommend
the American Muslim community to:
a public dialogue within the American Muslim Community to
understand what it reveals and recommends. Leaders should
ensure that irresponsible responses triggered by
“conspiratorial mind frames” are discouraged and
confronted immediately. Indeed a fatwa, by the North
American Fiqh Council, forbidding Muslims to opine on
it without reading it first may be very helpful.
American Muslims must eschew getting entangled in
disputes stemming from denials or semantic politics and must
focus on the substantive aspects of policy. If Muslims react
to this report by rejecting it, ridiculing it or engaging it
without paramount concern for American security, then they
will have only themselves to blame if their marginalization
from policy making continues. In case we are not aware, the
primary objective of the American foreign policy establishment
is to work towards the security and interests of the US, not
of Palestine or Iraq or Pakistan. American Muslims must never
forget that and also ensure that American policy makers also
never forget that. Special interests are antithetical to broad
Muslims must put together a conference of its leaders and
issue a comprehensive resolution on how American Muslim
organizations and individual citizens can work with the
authorities to realize many of the recommendations of the
report to make America safe. This should be the primary
purpose, criticism and suggestions to include the American
Muslim perspective must come in the form of the
above-described Resolution of Cooperation.
Muslims must think clearly and dispassionately about the
reports definition of the threat without rushing to judgment.
It is in the interest of American Muslims to ensure that
everyone understands that the threat is not Islam but Muslims
who are determined to use terror as a weapon against
America and American interests to pursue political ends.
If American Muslims see themselves as part of America and
American interests then indeed those who wish to undermine
America are also our enemies. American Muslims can be secure
and thrive only if American is safe and thriving.
ignoring American Muslim perspective the 9/11 commission
report actually opens a window of opportunity for American
Muslims to capitalize on this glaring deficiency and ride into
the policy process on its back. This is a God sent
opportunity; I hope American Muslims will not squander it.
The report offers
an excellent opportunity for American Muslims to participate,
rejuvenate and expand the debate on America’s continuing
response to the 9/11 attacks. It gives them an avenue with
which they can join other Americans in demanding
accountability from the government with regards to its
security and foreign policy. This is also a window in to the
nature of America in the near future. American Muslim
community can now develop anticipatory strategies to adjust to
unfolding realities. A
constructive response will secure the community and strengthen
its bond with the rest of the nation.