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Author Sherat Lin notes, "The only logical starting point for objectively examining the sequence of causes and effects is to begin with a watershed event that was clearly independent of any preceding military or political provocation. In 2006 that event was the Palestinian elections of January 25 [with victory to the nationalist-political group Hamas].
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."
Khalid Mahmood, MP - 15th August
"But one Muslim MP, Khalid Mahmood, who represents Birmingham Perry Barr, and who refused to sign the letter, said yesterday that his colleagues had engaged in a 'PR stunt'. He will call tomorrow for renewed government action to tackle extreme deprivation in all communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to tackle the problems".
Sadiq Khan, MP - 16th August
I am sorry Roy Hattersley (Comment, August 14) believes that our letter to the prime minister "is a matter for regret". Reading his article, I was aware of more similarity in opinion than disagreement. My co-signatories and I would agree that foreign policy should be constructed according to ethical principles and executed in a manner that is even-handed - that was one of the key points of the letter. Where I differ from Hattersley is that I don't believe we should ignore the domestic impact foreign policy is having. Unless we face up to some of the drivers of extremism, we will not be able to challenge it effectively. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
The fact that such attempts at honest and serious analysis "will be interpreted by the mendacious and malicious" as proof of Muslim support for terrorists must not stop us from attempting such sober analysis. Commentators would do better to expose such distortions rather than repeat them, only then will we be able to have a grown-up debate about foreign policy on its merits.
Menzies Campbell, MP - 19th August
"....Who would dare say that the Middle East is now a safer, more stable place than it was before the fighting began?
A ceasefire was not just the right thing to do - it was the only sensible thing to do. A ceasefire was rooted in principle and pragmatism. The government's failure to understand this was a major misjudgment, but we should not be surprised. It reflects, albeit in a lower key, the misjudgment of military action against Iraq. It springs from the Prime Minister's evangelical view of foreign policy.
Foreign affairs is a world of relative values; it is no place for evangelism, which elevates belief over knowledge, conviction over judgment and instinct over understanding. In the Middle East, knowledge, judgment and understanding are more useful allies than belief, conviction and instinct, particularly when all three are wrong.
The real argument over the Iraq adventure is not about its impact on the opinions of the Muslims living in Britain, but that it was wrong in conception and execution. The same evangelical impulse lumps together different situations that present different problems and require different solutions".[Extract]
Phil Woolas MP, 29th August
"The Government reacts tetchily to suggestions that British foreign policy has anything to do with the rise in radicalism among young Muslims.
When Muslim leaders wrote an open letter a fortnight ago suggesting just that, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells and Home Secretary John Reid fell over one another to condemn the comments as 'irrational' and 'facile'.
The Communities minister, Phil Woolas, has taken up the baton at Bolton Wanderers Football Club, dismissing a young Muslim woman's views as 'a load of crap'.
Woolas, launching the Government's "tackling extremism" roadshow, got into a heated 10-minute discussion with Komal Adris, 27, there on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.
'I told him that foreign policy was a real concern of mine,' explains Adris. 'He suggested I had an extremist view and my concerns were illegitimate. I accused him of patronising me.'
Civil servants tried to usher Woolas away - to no avail. The minister snapped: 'That's a load of crap,' before walking off".
"In the week when alleged Islamicist airline bombers were arrested, I wrote dejectedly about ordinary British Muslims who find themselves punished for the crimes of others and once again fall under generic suspicion of being the enemy within, especially if they question the powerful. How viciously this government turned on Muslim MPs and peers who raised legitimate concerns about New Labour policies. We must, it seems, surrender our democratic right to oppose political decisions, otherwise we are fair game.
quoted some of the racist e-mails I have received to illustrate my points. A cascade of unexpectedly supportive e-mails descended, almost all from white Britons, many from Middle England, including retired army men, chaplains and a farmer or two. (Thank you all. You drove away my dark pessimism.) They said they agreed with the Muslim parliamentarians and were highly suspicious of government propaganda and authoritarian policies...".
David Clark, 25th August 2006
"We know it. They know it. We know that they know it. So why do they continue to deny it? I am, of course, talking about the very obvious connection between British foreign policy and the rising terrorist threat, and the government's refusal to come to terms with it. Politicians rarely admit to their mistakes, but this mental block is more than just routine political obduracy; it is a serious issue of national security.
We have come to expect little better of Tony Blair, whose personal reputation now depends on such a falsified version of reality that he increasingly appears to inhabit a land of make-believe. But what was truly depressing about the response to the recent open letter from prominent Muslims warning that British policy is providing "ammunition to extremists" was the number of ministers - several of whom clearly know better - who lined up to parrot the mantra that it was "dangerous" to suggest a link.
Those same ministers must have been galled by this week's Guardian/ICM poll suggesting that 72% of the British people agree that our foreign policy has made us less secure, while only 1% accept the government's assurance that it has made us safer. That's as close to zero as it's possible to get in an opinion poll. There are probably more people in Britain who believe in Santa Claus or yogic flying.
The one thing that could always be said of New Labour was that it knew how to read and adapt to public opinion. Its detachment from the popular mood on national security encourages those who believe that its time in office is drawing to a close. It is the ministers, not their critics, who have lost the plot".
Madeleine Bunting, 16th August 2006
"...I've seen government ministers do "engagement": Paul Murphy, when he had the community-cohesion brief, listened carefully, answered questions patiently and got precisely nowhere. His young, angry Muslim audience heard him out but were profoundly cynical; their views didn't change a jot.
Events of the last few days will have immeasurably increased that cynicism: Muslim MPs and peers have been roundly ticked off by a succession of government ministers as if they were imperial vassals who should know their place. Yet they were simply stating the obvious - that British foreign policy is incubating (we can argue whether it's the root cause another time) Muslim extremism. Given that kind of opening salvo from her colleagues, perhaps Kelly should save herself the trouble and return to the beach for some more sandcastles and rock pools...".[Extract]
Michael Wolf, 13th August
British Muslim groups have, in response to recent events, written to the prime minister to ask for urgent changes in UK foreign policy. They argue, in particular, that the "debacle in Iraq" and the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to hostilities in the Middle East provides "ammunition to extremists who threaten us all". The government must abandon its foreign policy because it enrages a minority of a minority and so "risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad". Three members of parliament, three peers and 38 groups signed a letter advancing these views. How should the overwhelming majority of British citizens who are not Muslims respond? My answer is that they should reject these positions because they are undemocratic, false and dangerous. "Roy Hattersley, 14th August
I have been an opponent of the American occupation of Iraq ever since I realised that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction only existed in Tony Blair's imagination. And I am equally opposed both to Israel's disproportionate response to Hizbullah's rocket attacks and to the prime minister's support for the assault upon Lebanon. What is more, I have no doubt that tacit acceptance of the slaughter in Beirut and Baghdad makes this country a target for al-Qaida terrorists and provides the friendly hinterland of sympathisers in which all urban guerrillas need to take refuge.
That being said, I still regret that the letter sent on Friday to the prime minister by leaders of the Islamic community implied that the increased threat that Britain's foreign policy guarantees is in itself a reason for changing the government's position. The reason policy should be changed is the simple fact that the policy is wrong. To demand a shift because it will reduce the risk of suicide bombing is to diminish the case for altering course from a matter of principle to a question of self interest.
Polly Toynbee, 15th August 2006
The grand assemblage of Muslim MPs, peers and leaders of 38 key groups who signed an open letter to the prime minister last weekend are almost certainly right. British foreign policy has helped foment murderous extremism among British Muslims.
The London bombings a year ago might not have happened had Labour taken the French stand. If Tony Blair and his cabinet had never hitched Britain to George Bush's war chariot, it is unlikely that al-Qaida-inspired terror cells would plan mass murder from British airports. Before, Islamist terror was focused on faraway countries - Indonesia, the Philippines, Algeria, Somalia, Russia - and the twin towers. If we had only kept our heads down, terror's hot breath might have passed over us.
Every minister hotly denying this obvious truth sounds absurd - but makes the wrong point altogether. The point is that a democratically elected government's foreign policy can't be moulded by threats from murdering religious maniacs. There are 1,001 good reasons why we should never have supported, let alone joined, the war in Iraq. But the one truly bad reason would have been fear of terrorism.
Those signing the letter steer perilously close to suggesting the government had it coming.
"Polly Toynbee was right in stating that "British foreign policy has helped foment murderous extremism" (We can't let God-blinded killers set our foreign policy, August 15). She was also right in claiming that "there are 1,001 good reasons why we should never have supported, let alone joined, the war in Iraq. The one truly bad reason would have been fear of terrorism.
The open letter to the prime minister - which I signed alongside more than 40 Muslim groups, MPs and peers - has been subject to deliberate misinterpretation, suggesting a willingness among Muslim leaders to excuse violence and promote a simplified view of how extremism takes root. Toynbee's accusation - that the letter sails "perilously close to suggesting the government had it coming" - may be an unintentional misrepresentation but it is a grave one.
The letter articulated the need to base foreign policy on principle. It condemned attacks on civilians wherever they take place. It also sought acknowledgement that, though the causes and motivations are complex, British foreign policy contributes to the radicalisation of Muslims here and elsewhere. The welcome debate that followed the letter illustrates that this has been widely accepted. I believe there was merit in laying this fact on the table so that a consensus could emerge.
As early as May 2004, Michael Jay, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, acknowledged in a letter to the cabinet secretary that the perception of foreign policy was a "key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations". In this context, as Toynbee asserts, government denials of this reality are absurd.
But pushing for this recognition is not an argument that a priority of foreign policy should be "sparing us from threats by God-blinded killers". I do not advocate a policy of appeasement, tailoring UK foreign policy to win global popularity and insulate ourselves from threat. I yearn for a foreign policy that engenders a feeling of pride among this and future generations, and attracts respect from others. When difficult decisions are made, we must be ready to tackle the consequences that ensue. But these decisions must be principled and be seen to be so. Successive British governments' foreign policies, demonstrated recently by the refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, have left many Muslims and others feeling aggrieved and powerless.
As Muslim representatives, our letter sought to engage constructively in this debate and give voice to many Muslims who feel alienated. Toynbee is right that we are not alone, nor unique in this respect yet it is important that this widespread sentiment was aired.
The Muslim community is not homogeneous. Our response to the encroachment of extremism must address the diversity within the community as much as the
complexity of root causes. But Muslim leaders, parents and communities will be better positioned to defuse the potency of extremists' arguments once the impact of foreign policy has been acknowledged. Without a willingness to have an honest and open debate, the government is in danger of wishing to hear only echoes of its own voice".
Harris Rafique (Sufi Muslim Council), 12th August 2006
We are seeing a huge politicisation of faith rather than (economic) circumstances. An ideology is taking hold of our youngsters.