• MB News
  • July 3, 2008
  • 6 minutes read

West slammed over failure to communicate with Muslim world

West slammed over failure to communicate with Muslim world

WASHINGTON: Western governments should engage those Muslims who matter, instead of simply pretending that no differences exist between Muslims and others, according to Islamic scholar Genieve Abdo.

She criticises those in the West, especially the growing number of scholars and politicians engaged in “interfaith dialogue”, who rather than deal with extremism, avoid the discomforting work of addressing global conflict that in hindsight makes the Cold War look like a small ethnic squabble. Those who emphasise the commonalities between Islamic and Western societies and among the three Abrahamic faiths, downplay or avoid completely the very real differences as if they don’t exist and make Westerners feel comfortable by convincing them that extremism is a temporary phenomenon that exists only on the fringes of Islamic societies.

“Happier narratives” about Muslims help large institutions as well as smaller organisations that focus on the benign and irrelevant exercise of “interfaith dialogue” raise millions of dollars from US foundations and governments in the Persian Gulf. The Saudi royal family has a great interest in downplaying the divide between Muslim and Western societies. “Merely embracing Muslims who are already converted to a Western school of thought while shunning and alienating those who have influence over the very extremists who challenge the West’s vision of the world is not only misguided, it is dangerous. By avoiding the fact that there are profound differences between Muslims in the East and non-Muslims in the West, we are hindering solutions that could prevent the next terror attack in London, Madrid or Washington, Abdo argues.

 “Mythical” idea: Abdo who worked on a report for the United Nations for the Alliance of Civilisations, also faults Muslim-American activists who try to tell Muslims in the Islamic world that their grievances against America are misplaced. When addressing American audiences, they promote the “mythical” idea that Muslims from Egypt to Pakistan actually have favourable notions of the United States. By deceiving the American public into believing that the “threat” is exaggerated, this Muslim-American lobby hopes to create more favourable views of Muslims in the eyes of Americans. She also calls interfaith dialogue another “culprit”, pointing out that a few dozen professors have signed letters to the Pope in an attempt to show that the Pontiff’s derogatory remarks about Islam have all been forgiven, when that is not true on the Muslim “street”.

 Abdo is of the view that interfaith discussion distracts from uncomfortable but necessary questions and should be considered a hindrance to concrete and effective foreign policy approaches to counter extremism.

 A far more effective effort would be to appeal to the disaffected youth in Europe and the Muslim world who “loathe the US and much of what it represents.” Official negotiations should also be begun, she recommends, with groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, since they are the future leaders in the Middle East, who must not be ignored. “Despite the overwhelming evidence of a decline in the West’s relationship with the Islamic world, it still has no effective foreign policy strategy for engaging Islamist leaders and Muslim societies in a meaningful way,” Abdo maintains.