On 4th & 5th June Blair is a keynote speaker at a University of Cambridge Conference ‘Islam and Muslims in the World today‘. it seems that our Foreign Office has decided the programme and attendees. A sarcastic Mr Chaudhry wrote in to ask for more information….
I was wondering why no British Muslims except Dr. Mona Siddiqui are included in your speakers list. Then I realised your topic of course is ‘Islam and Muslims in the World’, not about Islam and Muslims in Britain. Then again when you have world class Islamic scholars such as Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, why should you need any Muslims any way. If you really want a debate and not a monologue would it not be advisable to invite the Muslim Council of Britain? Of course if Mr. Blair and Mrs. Kelly permits.
Many thanks for your email and for your comments. As you will have seen from the programme, our intention has been to invite Muslims from this country and from abroad along with Academics working in Islamic studies to debate and discuss some of the issues facing contemporary society. What we want to offer in this conference is an opportunity to think about these issues (which I am sure you will agree are not new at the debate table) in slightly different terms. This conference hopes to encourage speakers and panelists to look at the resources within the Islamic tradition for dealing with these issues and we want to hear from experts in the tradition what they see those resources being. The conference seeks to open a debate between the experts and politicians and leaders and challenge ‘the West’ to consider what the 21 st century British state looks like and how Britain (and other western countries) might use the model of a religious and secular state that we currently have to look out how the host countries might build on that model and adapt or better accommodate religious communities. In a sense we are hoping to look at the debate from the other side of the coin, rather than constantly asking how religious minorities might adapt to fit into the majority we can explore how the host or majority might better accommodate those communities. We want to bring the religious firmly back into the debate rather than shy away from it.
It is with these ideas in mind that we have invited contributions from a number of respected scholars and religious leaders both from this country and abroad the majority of whom are Muslim (other British Muslims contributing to speeches include Timothy Winter from Cambridge and Asim Siddiqui from the City Circle),. The non-Muslim speakers are the politicians who might be challenged by the other speakers, representatives of other religious institutions (the Bishop of London) or academics working in the field (Professor Philip Jenkins).
I hope that gives a little more clarity.
Project Manager of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Faculty of Divinity
According to the grapevine, Mr Blair will be making a “historical speech”.
It will probably pick up his theme in last week’s Sunday Times – that his policies are above reproach: “We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims. What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us? ….This extremism can be defeated. But it will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it; it cannot be negotiated with; pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it; and only by confronting it, the methods and the ideas, will we win“.
No doubt Mr Chaudhry would like to see some slow clapping when Blair speaks – but don’t hold your breath.
A conference session is also chaired by Ruth Kelly MP, Blair’s minister who has done his bidding in picking a fight with Muslims. But what about her career prospects in a Brown regime – Minister responsible for rubbish?
Blair’s ambitions? The Richard the Lionheart of the 21st Century?