In the United States, it is difficult to overstate the degree to which Islam has fallen off both the domestic and foreign policy agenda. In many ways, this is a welcome improvement over the near-constant preoccupation with American Muslims and Muslims abroad as objects of concern during the post-9/11 period. With the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban,” it seemed like it might never end, with each president having their own particular approach to the “problem” of Islam.

This appears to have ended with U.S. President Joe Biden. With the end of the war on terror, the securitization of Muslim identity is largely a thing of the past. American Muslims are increasingly part of the cultural mainstream, accepted and normalized to the extent that they sometimes appear to have been forgotten entirely.

That said, there is a dark side to America’s loss of interest in Islam and Muslims, especially since this indifference is tied to a broader apathy toward the Middle East. The Biden administration’s Middle East policy, as reflected in the recent National Security Strategy, is effectively one of telling regional actors to “keep calm and carry on.” The priority is to prevent the problems of the Middle East from crowding out attention towards more overarching problems, such as the threats posed by Chinese and Russian adventurism. (Whether policies toward particular regions can be siloed in this fashion is another matter).

To be uninterested in the Middle East is, by default, to be uninterested in human rights, political reform, and democratization in the Middle East. A policy of maintaining the status quo with only slight adjustments is inevitably a policy of turning a blind eye to human rights violations in the interest of “stability.” To anger regional partners with talk of their domestic political arrangements would require devoting more attention to assuaging that anger, which would distract U.S. officials from countering China and Russia.

Read the full Article By Shadi Hamid


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