The prime minister’s statement on Wednesday that terrorists could strike anywhere, at any time, hardly provides any useful information, let alone induces confidence in the government or security agencies actually knowing what threat they claim to be facing or capable of successfully overcoming.
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One of the most interesting – often intriguing – aspects of any conflict is the role of language in either calming or inflaming feelings of apprehension, division, fear and hatred that lie between the conflicting parties. In the aftermath of 9/11, the world was introduced to the term “terrorism” and “terrorist” under a new definition – a considerably vague and loose one. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to be engulfed by, or engaged with the “war on terror” in one way or another. Parties on opposing sides of the same conflict would each claim to be fighting terrorists and waging war against terrorism. This evolved to include terms such as radicalism, fundamentalism and extremism, and the impact was to spread the net of suspicion and animosity much further and wider than was allowed by the term “terrorism”
Reading Hassan Butt’s piece in the Observer, “My plea to fellow Muslims: you must renounce terror”, I couldn’t help but think of how much his likes have to do with the dire security conditions we all face today. Despite his claim to have repented, I would ask to be forgiven for being less than sympathetic and congratulatory in my tone, as it was probably he and his comrades who stood outside mosques, community centres and lecture halls, heckling and, at times, physically attacking me and my colleagues for talking about the need for dialogue, for reaching out to all human beings and about promoting universal human rights that include all people, regardless of faith, race or colour.
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When a BBC online worldwide poll shows that a third of 27,000 respondents believed some degree of torture was acceptable when dealing with terrorist suspects, we should be seriously concerned.
That so many people from 25 countries can even begin to think that such methods can be of any tangible use in combating terrorism or any other crimes the world may be facing, is worrying, and should make us reflect on where we have arrived at as a human race and what we have become. It’s notable that among the highest rates of those who thought torturing suspects was acceptable or of benefit, were in the US (36%) and Israel (43%), with 24% of those polled in the UK agreeing.
When David Blunkett was home secretary, he came up with the extraordinary idea that the problems of social cohesion and integration could all be solved by calling upon parents, and he singled out Asian parents, to speak to their own children at home in English rather than in their native languages.
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When Pope Benedict recently delivered a lecture and managed to find the time and space to take a swipe at Islam, the Prophet Mohammed and effectively every Muslim, he must have expected the kind of reaction that followed across the Muslim world. If he hadn’t, then he has either been on another planet these last few years or he shouldn’t be in the high position he is.
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The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) held its official launch yesterday, exactly one year on fro the tragic London bombings, at the illustrious Islam Expo event at Londesborough Room in Alexandra Palace – London.
Attended by a distinguished line-up of experts and scholars, including Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor John Esposito, Dr Unaiza Malik from the Muslim Council of Britain and former Iraq hostage and Christian peace-maker, Dr. Norman Kember, the launch sent out a strong and uniform message of promoting dialogue and understanding between cultures, societies and thoughts.
Welcoming a very diverse audience consisting of experts, academics, scholars, the press and faith leaders, the founder and Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti explained the rationale in choosing the name ‘Cordoba’ and why “we should learn from the rich history of Cordoba in Spain where communities of diverse religious and ideological backgrounds lived in harmony.”
He stressed that “the civilisation that emerged from Cordoba, is not unique in itself, but is also a beacon of hope for all of us today; hence the launch of The Cordoba Foundation.”
Dr Norman Kember gave a poignant presentation about his experience in captivity in Iraq and the lessons learned from it; he stressed “the need for nonviolent methods in conflict resolution.” He also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Muslim community for the overwhelming support rendered towards him for his release from captivity and thanked the organisers of the launch, saying ‘I am delighted to be amongst this esteemed audience today.”
Professors Tariq Ramadan and Jon Esposito reinforced the need to dialogue and promote understanding. They both talked about the historical roots of dialogue in Britain (and Europe) and the myth of the clash of civilisations, both emphasizing the need to avoid the dialectic of ‘us and them’, which was the cause of conflicts and tensions between communities.
One year on from the July 7 bombings, we have some perspective on how our society is facing up to the challenges of a common future. From that tragic morning on which dozens were killed in a cruel act of murder to the recent arrests of two young Muslims, one of whom was shot, in east London, and the prime minister’s demands that Muslims should do more, it’s clear that relations between the Muslim community and society as a whole could be better, to say the least.
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The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) will hold its official launch on the 7th of July 2006, exactly one year on from the tragic London bombings, at the illustrious IslamExpo event at Alexandra Palace in London.
With the objectives of promoting the process of dialogue, providing unique insights of potential interaction and exchange between cultures, ideologies and intellects as well as training a new crop of specialists in the various fields of concern, TCF hopes to work hand-in-hand with other organisations and centres to promote better appreciation and understanding of ‘the other’.
A distinguished line-up of experts will be speaking or attending the launch, including Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor John Esposito, and former Iraq hostage and Christian peace-maker, Dr. Norman Kember.
Explaining the objectives of TCF, Mr. Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive and founder said: “in light of recent events, some have pushed the argument of the impossibility of a peaceful and constructive co-existence between the West and the Muslim World. However, not so long-ago, we experienced what was arguably one of the most splendid examples of unprecedented human advancement where communities of diverse religions, ideas and cultures not only co-existed, but also excelled in all walks of life. The civilisation which emerged from Cordoba, is not unique in itself, but is also a beacon of hope for all of us in these
difficult and trying times”.