Healing the Wounds between Islam and the West
By Patrick Seale
This week saw the formal launch in
A second launch is to follow in
The creation of Conflicts Forum is a development of major importance because it is the first systematic attempt by a new western institution to challenge the view propagated by
Ever since the terrorist attacks on the
These views were embraced at the highest level in the
The decision to wage war in Iraq followed, as did President George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’, a global manhunt in pursuit of anyone suspected of sympathy for the cause of militant Islam.
The same attitude inspires the current
It is widely recognised that the conflict between the
Almost every day brings news of a violent clash somewhere, whether it be the assault last Monday by al-Qa‘ida gunmen on the U.S. consulate in Jiddah, the destruction by U.S. forces of the Iraqi city of Falluja, or the murder by an Islamic radical of a Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, author of a provocative film on the treatment of women in Islam. His killing set off a wave of attacks on mosques in
Across Europe, not only in
Rebellion against Western Policy
Because it was waged on the basis of lies and false premises, the
The founders of Conflicts Forum denounce the ‘climate of fear’ promoted by
Alastair Crooke, one of the Forum’s founders, is a former British diplomat and
‘We need to demonstrate,’ he declares, ‘that there is an alternative relationship between the West and Islam other than one defined by laying waste of Falluja!’
Conflicts Forum is, in effect, a club of disaffected diplomats and intelligence officers, who have been joined by prominent figures from the fields of politics, business, academia and religion.
The Forum has raised funds from charitable foundations, companies, individual donors and governments. It is planning a major fund-raising drive in the
Conflicts Forum has set up a separate but linked body called Conflicts Forum Consultancy (CFC) to provide selected clients with strategic analysis of world problems and political risks.
Through an international network of contacts and offices, CFC is present in several world capitals. Over the past year, it has held meetings with the European Union, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of State, the National Security Council, as well as several international organisations. It has also briefed Western and Arab diplomatic missions in
Alastair Crooke, a founder and director of Conflicts Forum, will be in
The message Conflicts Forum is seeking to propagate may be summed up in a few simple propositions:
*The worsening estrangement between the West and Islam is a source of grave concern.
*It has brought suffering to Muslims in many parts of the world and has also damaged Western societies by severe restrictions on civil liberties.
*Muslim values pose no threat to Western societies. In fact, Muslims overwhelmingly share a desire for free elections, popular participation and effective, non-corrupt government.
*Caught in their ideological straitjacket, Western governments cannot remedy the situation. Ordinary people must act and speak out for themselves in support of dialogue and of a ‘listening’ between peoples.
*A basic belief of the founders of Conflicts Forum is the need to recognise the ‘Other’ and change the ways in which the West engages with the Muslim world.
*With this in mind, the Forum is undertaking a study of the various currents in political Islam and plans to share its findings with Western policy–makers and the public.
*A more controversial aspect of the Forum’s approach is what it describes as the need to stimulate a rigorous understanding in the West of the causes and varied nature of ‘armed political action’ by Islamic groups and to distinguish this from what is usually labelled as ‘terrorism’.
The Forum believes it is a fundamental mistake to label Hizballah and Hamas as terrorist organisations, and seek to isolate them – as the European Union has done under American and Israeli pressure.
On the contrary, Conflicts Forum argues that it is essential to bring these groups into the political process and, in the Palestinian case, to include them in the leadership of the national movement.
Swimming against the current is never easy. The coming year will demonstrate whether Conflicts Forum can convince the public, the press and policy-makers that a new Western perception of Islam is not only possible but urgently necessary. end