We must engage with nonviolent Islamists
|Thursday, September 24,2009 16:43|
|By Inayat Bunglawala|
As President Obama prepared to address the UN general assembly about his plans for peace in the Middle East, the Institute for Public Policy Research has published a report called Building Bridges, Not Walls, which argues that "serious and sustained dialogue with nonviolent Islamists across the Middle East and North Africa is essential if progress is to be made towards political reform".
The IPPR report acknowledges that Islamic political parties and movements "often represent the best organised and most popular opposition to existing authoritarian regimes in the Middle East".
Andy Hull, a senior research fellow at the IPPR says:
The IPPR report makes a number of sensible policy recommendations to western governments including:
The IPPR's recommendations also appear to be in line with those made recently by the foreign affairs select committee, which in its report Global Security: Israel and the Occupied Territories stated:
But is anyone in the Foreign Office actually listening? Just last week, Ivan Lewis, the minister responsible for Middle East affairs, bizarrely saw fit to issue a statement criticising Ken Livingstone for publishing an interview in the New Statesman with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas's political bureau. Lewis said:
It is worth noting that Lewis did not appear similarly outspoken during the visits to the UK of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, and Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, despite the very credible reports of Israeli war crimes perpetrated in Gaza during the Israeli bombardment and invasion in December 2008/January 2009 as documented by Amnesty International, the Israel campaign group Breaking the Silence and, most recently, by the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.
Indeed, while the bombing of Gaza was going on earlier this year, Lewis attended an Israel solidarity rally in Manchester, where he declared: "It is essential that we send a clear and responsible message from the great city of Manchester that this community stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel."
I wonder if it is too much to hope that Lewis will now read and reflect on the IPPR report's recommendations.