Former Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Alberto Fernandez stepped to the podium at the Westminster Institute in McLean, Va. to examine the daunting challenges in defeating the aggressive Islamic ideologies that are currently raging in the Middle East and beyond. Although Fernandez said that he hoped for the emergence of a more tolerant and humanistic Islam, he warned that the process could take decades. ...
Beyond the battlefield, the Islamic State media machine is a juggernaut that produces a daily average of 46,000 pro-ISIS Twitter accounts and 100,000 tweets in a "cyber-Salafism" Internet subculture. While Fernandez said that groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Shabaab in East Africa pioneered English-language jihadist media, "they did not do it on the industrial level that ISIS did. Given how their message is incendiary and powerful, the interesting thing is how few people have joined them. Nobody does it the way the bad guys do it."
Fernandez described the jihadist domination in the public diplomacy realm. "Entities that put out poison dominate Muslim social media. Throughout the Middle Eastern publishing landscape, you can find the Islamic radical doggerel everywhere - but little is available from thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson." While liberal initiatives in the Middle East are often haphazard and poorly financed, a Syrian friend told Fernandez that "you can always get 50 grand for another kind of embossed version of the Quran in the Gulf States."
In criticizing various American public diplomacy efforts for the Arab world, Fernandez said that Alhurra TV was "very early on captured by vested interests like a Lebanese mafia and Shia mafia." And Alhurra's Iraq section put out pro-Shia Islamic party propaganda during the Iraq war. The channel's companion radio station, Radio Sawa - although it appears to be a success - merely "plays pop music and gives a little bit of news," something Al Jazeera already does in the region, but with various anti-American spins. "We need to reimagine the whole thing. Make it more pointed, make it more ideological," Fernandez said. ...
In the end, Islam's struggle to realize the latter message as a true religion of peace will be long.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."