Responding to Martin Wolf,
from Dr Abdul Bari
15th August 2006
Sir, I am glad that our open letter to the prime minister has stimulated such a debate about the links between terror and foreign policy ("Why Britain's Muslim leaders should think again", Martin Wolf, August 14). However, I am less pleased with the deliberate misinterpretation of it. While it is undoubtedly easier to refute an argument that you have caricatured, it does not provide any insight into the issues we are all wrestling with.
Rather than arguing for the "assuaging of extremists", the letter - signed by 40 Muslim groups, MPs and members of the House of Lords - was expressly written to condemn the actions of such extremists. It states as clearly as is possible that "attacking civilians is never justified".
Neither did it call for the "abandonment of foreign policy". What it argued for was exactly the sort of renaissance that the prime minister has talked about, a foreign policy that can once again lead the world and show that "we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion". It is an argument for a foreign policy based on values.
Finally, neither did the letter argue that foreign policy was the "root cause of the problem". What it did argue was that, like it or not - and I certainly don't - recent policies over Iraq and Lebanon have made the job of those recruiting extremists easier. This is not a truth any of us relish or endorse but it is nevertheless areality that we all will have to acknowledge if we are to tackle it effectively.
We will continue to fight extremists in our communities but it would help us greatly if we all confronted these issues with a little more honesty and a little less distortion.
Muhamed Abdul Bari,
Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain