Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thank Allah for Tony Blair

If Mr. Blair can stay the course he set in response to the deplorable London bombings, and if the people whom he calls as partners can rise to meet the challenge, what is called Muslim terrorism will end.

Mr. Blair offers the first intelligent response from a major Western leader to what is called Muslim terrorism. Mr. Blair’s clear and balanced 4 point plan introduced in Parliament promises to reverse our plummet into the blind and primitive militarism that nourishes escalating guerilla attacks on innocents.

Mr. Blair’s 4 point plan boasts simplicity rather than simple-mindedness. He calls for:

o New laws as planned against incitement and instigation of terrorism
o New measures to keep people inciting hatred out of the UK, or making it more easily to deport them
o Help for the Muslim community to counter the "evil" interpretation of their faith
o International effort to mobilize the "moderate and true voice of Islam"

He shifts focus from acts of terrorism to incitement and instigation of terrorism. “The laws,” reports BBC, “would focus on measures the police and security services believed necessary to combat the incitement and the instigation of terrorism as well as the acts of terrorism themselves." Additionally he includes a pledge “help for the Muslim community to counter the "evil" interpretation of their faith”, and to launch “an international effort to mobilize the "moderate and true voice of Islam"

The analysis and the plan are finely integrated. The deportation aspect flirts with the unimaginative, wholly ineffective impulse to “get rid of people.” But it is nevertheless reasonable and proper as it deals with the laws of his own sovereign state, and his responsibility to protect its citizens.

Otherwise here’s how “getting rid of people” works:

In July 2004, US Vice President Cheney stated "many of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. Those still at large are on the run, and we are going to hunt them down--one by one." In September, US President GW Bush stated “More than three quarters of Al Qaeda’s key members and associates have been detained or killed.” In the mean time the US government reports of 2004 stated, “The number of "significant" [terrorist] attacks grew to about 655, up from the record of around 175 in 2003.” “Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year's total.”

Mr. Blair instead correctly identifies the source of the problem as an ideology. He offers a clear and effective program in response by identifying the right allies, and promising resources to that community.

We do not find in Mr. Blair’s rhetoric references to a disembodied, non-defined bogey-man (terrorism) on which we “wage war.” He points out instead, “we are dealing with “an extreme and evil ideology whose roots lie in a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam.”

With Blair, the perpetrators of inhuman horror among us are no longer a science-fiction like, mercurial web of high-tech, inhuman demons lurking among us (maybe that 87 year old lady from Iowa getting her shoes scanned at JFK airport is one of them.) They are teachers, ideologues. They teach, they incite, they instigate, and they effectively recruit and promote “an evil interpretation of the Muslim faith.” They are not best identified by having a pair of finger nail clippers in their carry-on luggage.

Who do they teach? Muslims. What do they teach? “A misinterpretation of Islam.” Who best might be able to identify these evil-doers? Blair immediately met with Muslim members of parliament, and will host a summit of UK Muslim leaders. This is the correct read. In the same speech he warned that Britain's Muslim community should be protected from reprisals or suspicion following the bombings -- insisting that any attempts by the far right to use the attacks to stir up racism would be "particularly revolting".

Perhaps Mr. Blair is lucky he doesn’t have his country’s leading Christian shouting across the dinner table, “Islam is “wicked, violent and not of the same god.” (Asked by NBC News to clarify his statement, Franklin Graham stood his ground.)

Mr Blair while meeting with Muslim MPs on Wednesday said "this evil [is] within the Muslim community… In the end, this can be taken on and defeated only by the community itself."

Now that Mr. Blair has identified and pledged to support the international “moderate and true voice of Islam,” to combat perpetrators of “a poisonous and perverted misinterpretation of the religion of Islam,” maybe we can relieve corn-fed, Christian boys and girls from Arkansas of that duty.

In August of 2000, immediately prior to the bi-centennial General Assembly, (and well before 9/11) Dr. Sun Myung Moon delivered in the United Nations the speech, Renewing the United Nations and Building A Culture of Peace. After admonishing religious leaders, “Religious people have not been good examples in the practice of love and living for the sake of others … religious leaders [should] stand against the injustices and evils of the world... we [must] go beyond interests of particular religions, and put our love and ideals into practice for the sake of the world,” he then made the radical proposal, “World peace can be fully accomplished only when the world's religious leaders work cooperatively and respectfully with national leaders who have much practical wisdom and worldly experience about the external reality… Serious consideration should be given to forming a religious assembly, or council of religious representatives within the structure of the United Nations.”

This clarion call was all but ignored, horror replaced hope, and the “new millennium” became a time of war.

Since the UN is a membership organization, the establishment of the council called for by Dr. Moon should have been pursued member nation by member nation. That model could then have been mirrored in corresponding new structures for the world body itself.

In the throes of sadness, Mr. Blair rose to perfectly fulfill that vision in his 4 point response to 7/7. Now it is up to the ones he calls as partners, the ones whom Mr. Blair optimistically calls the "moderate and true voice of Islam, the ones to whom he has promised support at home and abroad.

In this he has done more than the politician’s job, and he has done so with a religion not his own! This is path breaking statesmanship in the face of a devastating crisis.

It is now up to Muslim leaders, not only in Britain, but world-wide to meet the this trust and optimism offered at the “West’s” highest levels. Muslim leaders must put aside all petty conflict and division, and rise to this call. Leaders of the “moderate and true voice of Islam,” have been offered respectful support from a mighty Western power, to effectively counter the “evil interpretation of their faith,” and remove the poison from their midst. This is a great challenge, but a precious opportunity for “Islam” to bring genuine benefit to all people of all faiths and all cultures.

Frank Kaufmann
July 17, 2005

Frank Kaufmann is the Director of the Office of International Relations of the IIFWP

This writing represents the personal opinion of the writer, not the position of the IIFWP