Political Islam: An Exercise In Mutual Listening

In a very well written series of five articles, the authors Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry argue for the need for the West to engage in direct dialogue, or what they preferred to call an exercise in mutual listening, with the main Islamic Revivalists Movements in the Middle East.


The first two parts of the series deal with their engagement with the main Islamic movements in the region and the reaction to this engagement in political circles in the US and Europe. The meetings were with representatives from the Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood, Pakistan’s Jamaat e-Islami, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The last three parts are the most interesting parts; they deal with the religious, philosophical and intellectual concepts, which explain the inability of the western political class to engage with the Islamic revivalists movements. The historical material which the authors so eloquently discuss is very important for readers in the Middle East to recognize.


The views of the authors are not unique in the west, i.e. not rare, many progressive organizations and individuals, recognize the disastrous policies of their governments and have been calling for redeeming actions of these policies, but sadly these voices so far have no effect on the policies of their governments. Mainly blocked by the propaganda campaigns and influence of the major lobbies, be it the energy, the military-industrial complex or the Zionist lobbies. But also hindered by the almost Zero role of the civil society and the public opinion in defining the policies in the region, and thus prolonging this agonizing situation. And I say almost Zero role, because on rare occasions we saw the effect of public opinion on the policies of the region’s governments; an example of this is the response of Cairo, Riyadh and Amman to the outrage of the Arab street at the immoral US diplomacy on this summer’s Israeli aggression on Lebanon, when after implicitly supported the aggression by blaming Hezbollah they changed tact and distanced themselves from the Americans, and most significantly Beirut’s refusal to receive Ms Rice in the wake of the Qana massacre.


What is needed to affect the policies in the region is for the voice of the people to be heard clear and loud, not only concerning atrocities and injustices affecting the region or parts of it, but also concerning atrocities and injustices anywhere in the world. It was very sad to see that on the day millions throughout the world, some estimated it to be 30 million, came out on that historic day, 15th February 2003 to say no to war, the Arab streets were empty, with very few exceptions. We live in a small world, a world that needs Cooperation not Confrontation to co-exist.


Having said that, I commend the authors for their work and their carriage to take such an endeavor, for “speaking with the enemy” had adversely affected the carriers of many intellectuals and politicians who did so in the past. The articles are available in English and Arabic at www.conflictsforum.com.


Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry are the co-directors of Conflicts Forum, a London-based group dedicated to providing an opening to political Islam. Crooke is the former Middle East adviser to European Union High Representative Javier Solana and served as a staff member of the Mitchell Commission investigating the causes of the second intifada. Perry is a Washington, DC-based political consultant, author of six books on US history, and a former personal adviser to Yasser Arafat.

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Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, atimes , USA