Exclusive: How Do We Reach Muslims who are Susceptible to Islamist Propaganda?

by DR. SAMI ALRABAA March 5, 2009
I think all of us, including FamilySecurityMatters.org, the Front Page Magazine, Jihad Watch, Faith Freedom, Islam Watch, Europe News, Islamist Watch, Canada Free Press, South Asia Forum, The New Media Journal and all the others, are preaching to the converts.
Who reads what Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Ali Sina, Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the other anti-Islamists? From comments on articles by these writers, you can tell that it is predominantly readers who already agree with these writers.
According to a survey by Bielefeld University, Germany, which was conducted in five Arab countries, in 2008, the majority of Arabs – all of them adult Muslims of different occupations, education, and social classes – more than 80% of them consume Saudi and Qatari- owned international TV channels, like Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and MBC. Seven percent read Arabic newspapers, and only 2% checkout diverse websites. 186 of them check out once in a while articles by the aforementioned writers.
Hence, the mass of Muslims – the great majority of them are illiterate – are easy prey for Islamist chaplains, who preach hatred and violence against non-Muslims all over the Arab media.
If we are really interested in rooting out Islamism, which is spreading like an epidemic disease across the world, we must find ways to reach ordinary Muslims and gain their hearts and minds.
Many of those ordinary Muslims told a media research team from Bielefeld University, they would like to check out alternative media to the oil sheikhs’ outlets – TV and Internet – but there are almost none of those outlets are around.
The only Arabic Internet websites available at present are Al Hiwar Al Mutammaden (Modern Discussion) and Shabaket Al ‘Ilmanieen Al Arab (Web of Secular Arabs). Both are provided for and run by selfless volunteers, living on meager donations. “Modern Discussion” provides translation to its articles.
I checked out both and found them balanced and enlightening and pose a real alternative to Islamist propaganda.  
As a sample, check out in “Modern Discussion” the articles of Kamil Al Najjar. He refutes many of Islamists’ allegations with quotations from the Koran and the Hadith.  
From here, I appeal to all those who are interested in really fighting radical Islam to support the aforementioned websites and help creating as many like them as possible. Only such sites could help gaining the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims before it is too late.
Arab liberal writers like Walid Phares and As’ad Abu Khaleel, who live and write in the West, and others could be a great asset to help limit the spread of the Islamist political virus, active the world over. Bilingual writers are needed.
In Bangladesh, where over 150 million Muslims live and where radical Islam is rapidly spreading, liberal enlightening publications like the Weekly Blitz can hardly survive. Such people need our concrete help, not just our rhetoric.
Dr. Richard Benkin, an American Jewish human rights activist, has been trying relentlessly to rally support for moderate Muslims in Bangladesh for years. He even affected the release of Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor in chief of the Weekly Blitz, a friend of Israel, and a liberal Muslim, from prison. But Dr. Benkin’s efforts remain a one-man show in a country which has suffered from Islamic terrorism more than any other. 
If my appeal does not meet any positive response then my belief will be confirmed that we are not serious and interested in effectively fighting Islamism. Our English-medium sites are maybe outlets to vent our indignation toward a virus, but not to out root radical Islam, the core of the matter.
Only enlightening the Muslim masses would make the Islamist propaganda shrink and push it into the insignificance. Only then we can help creating tolerant moderate Muslim societies.
If we are unable to establish alternative TV channels to those owned by Saudi and Qatari tycoons, we should at least support Arabic outlets on the Internet, the medium of the future, which more and more Muslims are turning to.
I wrote to all those well-known anti-Islamists who live in the West about the above, but I hit deaf ears. They never bothered to respond. I have the impression that some anti-Islamists in the West have found in this area a kind of “business” and they hate to have “competition.”
We eventually need both the Western public and the Muslim public in support of the fight against radical Islam. I would even say that we need the Muslim support more because it is susceptible to consume Islamism and join its ranks, and there lies the real peril of Islamism.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. He has taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for the Jerusalem Post.


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