European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

USLAMISM: The United States and Political Islam: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - USLAMISM (USLAMISM:The United States and Political Islam: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective.)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-08-31

USLAMISM is a novel effort to build on the lack of academic works examining socio-political phenomena, such as Islamism, within the broader narratives of American statecraft and diplomacy. Apart from major works led by Fawaz Gerges and Maria do Ceu Pinto in 1999, very few scholars have focused on this topic as an exclusive topic of their research since the Arab Spring and fewer still have mined archival resources to provide a current understanding of the US approach to political Islam.
Compared to the state-of-the-art, USLAMISM is underpinned by a rigorous empirical approach favoring substantial documentation, semi-structured interviews and strong archival research. By employing a prism of Global Studies to contribute to academic research on US foreign policy in the Arab world since the late 1920s, USLAMISM also fosters a more nuanced and multidisciplinary perspective to understand the construction of ‘otherness’ in the Islamic world and contribute to the ongoing debate between (neo-) realists and constructivists especially on the issue of ‘national interest making’; and through its practical aspect, clearly contribute to the interactions between academic and non-academic sectors. The desired output of this project would take the form of a monograph and multiple peer-reviewed articles on the US policy towards the MB.
Now, thanks to my research, we have, for the very first time, an in-depth investigation on the US State Department’s archives dealing with main Islamist movement, i.e. the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, I have collected a huge amount of first-hand discourses, interviews and reports on the US foreign policy towards political Islam, which allows me to be a leading research in the field of the US foreign policy in the Middle East and to deliver decisive breakthroughs in this field. Through my research, the academic sphere has at last one major manuscript (that I am now completing) on the whole history of the connections between the United States and the main Islamist movement in the biggest Arab country. This was never written before and the European Union is now the place where this research has been designed, produced and advertised. Two major fiels (International History and International Relations) are now characterised by a new topic (the US and Political Islam) and a new topic of research (States and Ideologies: how they interact and deal with each other, which is clearly a rising trend in the sphere of the Global Studies). Last but not least, in terms of policy-oriented expertise, the EU is now a place where a major researcher in touch with the best scholars and practitioners of the US foreign policy is doing innovative work and is able to generate op-eds, working papers, reports and policy-making approaches in the field of the US foreign policy, Middle East Politics and Radical ideologies.
It was mainly an issue of collecting the historical and diplomatic material I need for my research. As my project echoes two fields: International History and Contemporary International Relations, the two years I spent in Washington DC being based at Georgetown University were mainly dedicated to conducting interviews, collecting relevant archives from the US State Department in College Park (Maryland), and consulting all the reports relating to my topic.
In terms of interviews, I have met and questioned leading US diplomats and people involved in the US foreign policy making:
Elliott Abrams (former advisor to George Bush Jr), Dennis Ross (former advisor to George Bish Jr and Barack Obama), Robert Malley (Head of the International Crisis Group and former advisor to Barack Obama.
All these people have held key positions in the US foreign policy making ,process in the last couple of years and have been more importantly in the front stage of the US foreign policy in the Middle East, especially in the context of the Arab uprisings. In terms of archives, I have collected a huge amount of material relating to the period 1927-1979. After that, everything becomes classified and I have to apply for the right to consult whatever is relevant to my research after 1979.
In terms of reports, I have connected with all the same think tanks in Washington DC and consulted all their works in the field of the US foreign policy towards political Islam: Carnegie, Brookings, Cato Institute, US Institute for Peace… as well as other academic departments and institutes in leading universities (Department of History at Columbia University, Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University).
The three years that I have spent at Georgetown University (Edmund A.Walsch of Foreign Service), the London School of Economics and Political Science (Centre for International Studies) as well as Oxford University (Rothermere American Institute) have allowed me to collect all the diplomatic archives referring to the relations between the US and the MB in Egypt, and to interview all the relevant people I had to meet to complete my fieldwork. Here, I can mention key leaders, diplomats and advisers such as: Elliott Abrams (adviser to George Bush Jr.), Dennis Ross (adviser to George Bush Jr. and Barack Obama), Robert Malley (adviser to William Clinton and Barack Obama), Gordon Gray (former ambassador in Tunisia), Franck Wisner, Francis Ricciardone and Anne Patterson (all former ambassadors in Egypt) as well as many others. I have also travelled in several Arab countries and have been interviewing the MB’s leaders since 2009, including the period they were in power.
My manuscript will be submitted to Oxford University Press in late 2021 or later in 2022.
Outline of the book to be published: CHAPTER 1 The US and Political Islam: When States face Transnational Ideologies. A Theoretical Perspective CHAPTER 2 At the Prolegomena: The US and the MB at the time of Colonial primacy (1920s-1930s) CHAPTER 3 The enemy of my enemy? Dealing with the MB during the Cold War (1940s-1980s) CHAPTER 4 Between Arab authoritarianism, Regional Turmoil and Global Geopolitics (1980s-2000s) CHAPTER 5 The US and the MB since the 2011 Revolution: Taming the Islamists.I am The last draft for an article to be submitted to the European Journal of International Relations is titled:
Addressing Theoretically an Usual Relationship in International Relations: The Case of the United States-Muslim Brotherhood Relations.
On July 11, 2018 the US Congress’s Subcommittee on National Security organized a series of hearings on “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat.” The Egyptian MB was described in the congressional hearings as a “a radical Islamist organization that has generated a network of related movements in 70 countries,” including al-Qaeda. Many at the hearings clearly wanted the U.S. Government to officially designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. However, so far, no such steps have been taken by the US Government. Alternatively, the US could adopt a wait and see approach in its policy toward the Brotherhood in Egypt. If the US chooses this course, much will depend on whether the remnants of the Egyptian MB will have the capacity to survive in an increasingly closed and repressive political system. In that event, the old US debates about the Brotherhood and its brand of political Islam will become new once again.
The Foreign Policy of Islamist Political Parties: Ideology in Practice