Azara Blog: Muslim leaders criticise British foreign policy

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Date published: 2006/08/12

The BBC says:

Foreign Office minister Kim Howells has criticised Muslim leaders for condemning British foreign policy.

An open letter, signed by three Muslim MPs, three peers and 38 community groups, said the stance on the Middle East has put civilians at risk.

They went on to say that UK policy has given "ammunition to extremists".
Mr Howells told BBC News 24 the letter's comments were "facile".

He said: "I have no doubt that there are many issues which incite people to loath government policies but not to strap explosives to themselves and go out and murder innocent people.

"There is no way of rationalising that.

"I think it is very, very dangerous when people who call themselves community leaders make some assumption that somehow that there's a rational connection between these two things."

The letter urges the prime minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism, and change foreign policy to show the UK values the lives of civilians.

MP Sadiq Khan, who signed the letter, said British foreign policy was seen by many as unfair and unjust.

"Whether we like it or not such a sense of injustice plays into the hands of extremists," he said.

"As moderates we will do all we can to fight extremism. We hope the government will join us in this, not just by changing the rules on hand luggage, but by showing itself as an advocate for justice in the world."
A Downing Street spokesman responded to the letter by saying: "We should always remember that the terrorism affecting the West today has blighted Muslim countries for several decades.

"It certainly pre-dated our decision to support democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq and of course the September 11 attacks.

It is obvious that the foreign policy of the British government is dreadful, and has been responsible directly and indirectly for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people (largely Muslims). And this obviously encourages the extremist nutters. Howells might wish to dismiss this as "facile" but it is the truth. And the "Downing Street spokesman" is just repeating the usual ridiculous argument that Islamic terrorists existed before 9/11 and therefore everything the UK government has done post 9/11 is irrelevant. Of course Islamic terrorists existed before 9/11. The Palestinian problem is a long-running sore, and the proximate reason for 9/11 seems to have been the existence of American military bases in Saudi Arabia. Iraq, an unnecessary imperial war waged by Bush for party political reasons, has unfortunately added a huge amount of fuel to the fire. Perhaps Downing Street should reflect on its massive foreign policy blunders which have contributed to the mess we find in the world today, rather than release silly statements to the press.

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