| ||Karen Armstrong (pictured), author of Muhammad: A biography of the Prophet and Islam a Short History, contributes a comment piece to the Guardian today on the Chilcot Inquiry and how it ‘will change the way Muslims see the west’ if the inquiry does not descend into a whitewash and permits the ‘acknowledgment of culpability’ for the UK’s role in the souring of relations between the west and Muslims. |
‘As we watch the unfolding drama of the Chilcot inquiry, we should be aware that this is not simply an act of domestic cleansing. Whatever the implications for our political and judicial institutions, it is crucial that the British people learn how we came to go to war. But Muslims are also waiting for the outcome of the investigation, and this makes the inquiry an opportunity that we can ill afford to lose.
‘Unfortunately, too many self-interested western policies in the Islamic world have soured that early enthusiasm. But not all Muslims have given up on the west. Gallup's unprecedented study of more than one billion Muslims, conducted between 2001 and 2007 in 35 countries, revealed, for example, that what many Muslims admire most about the west is its political liberty and freedom of speech.'
‘But in recent months the situation has become more serious, as I discovered, somewhat ironically, during a visit to Cairo last June – just three weeks after President Obama had made his landmark speech there, promising a new era in American/Muslim relations....Even though this was supposedly a religious conference, they all insisted that religion was not the issue. They were not concerned about differences in faith and belief: did not the Qur'an itself insist that religious diversity was God's will (5:48)? Instead, taking no heed of time constraints or the protests of the moderators, they deplored in detail and at length the sufferings of the Palestinians, the tragedy of Gaza, the conflict over Jerusalem, the crime of Guantánamo – and, of course, the horror of Iraq. The underlying message was clear: the west dominated the political discourse and did not take the Muslim viewpoint seriously; now it was our turn to listen.
‘So far, Obama has not given the concrete sign that we felt was essential. But the Chilcot inquiry has also raised hopes. If there is any hint of whitewash or cover-up, the consequent disillusion will only exacerbate an already inflamed situation. In Cairo, we discovered that a frank acknowledgment of culpability could turn things around. In our dangerously polarised world, we may not get such an opportunity again.’
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