Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Islamic Movements
We must engage with nonviolent Islamists
We must engage with nonviolent Islamists
Political reform in the Middle East requires dialogue with Islamic parties, so why does the Foreign Office knock such efforts?
Thursday, September 24,2009 16:43
by Inayat Bunglawala Guardian

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 west has spent decades paying lip service to the idea of political freedoms while simultaneously propping up authoritarian leaders who lack democratic legitimacy across the region. This approach has hindered much-needed political reform ... Seeking by peaceful means a more plural politics in the Middle East and North Africa is in keeping with the UK's interests and with its values.

The IPPR report makes a number of sensible policy recommendations to western governments including:

• Rethink their political strategy for engaging with nonviolent Islamic political parties and movements across the Middle East and north Africa, and be more proactive in creating channels for serious and sustained dialogue with them.

• Engage with the political as well as the religious values of Islamic political parties and movements.

• Be more even-handed in condemning all human rights abuses in the Middle East and north Africa, including those perpetrated against members of Islamic movements by the region's authoritarian regimes.

• Display greater consistency in pressing authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa to open up their political systems.

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:

We are concerned that the Quartet is continuing to fail to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its position. We therefore reiterate our recommendation from 2007, that 'the government should urgently consider ways of engaging politically with moderate elements within Hamas as a way of encouraging it to meet the three Quartet principles'.

We further recommend that in its response to this report, the government should set out the specific indicators, if any, that would trigger a shift of British government policy towards engagement with Hamas. We further recommend that the government should set out the relevant differences between the cases of Hezbollah and Hamas that lead it to conclude that engagement with moderate elements within Hamas is not currently worth attempting.

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:

Ken Livingstone rightly earned praise for his strong and responsible leadership in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks on London.

It is therefore particularly regrettable that he learned the wrong lessons from history by handing a propaganda coup to the leader of a terrorist organisation.

Hamas has not only breached international law by firing rockets at civilian populations in Israel but continues to violate the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza.

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.

To see the report

tags: Moderate Islamists / Muslim democracy / Elections / Iran / Political Islam / Obama / Hamas / Cold War / Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Posted in Islamic Movements  
Related Articles
‘Engage’ moderate Islamists, but support Muslim democrats
The role of Moderate Islamists in the fight against terrorism, case study of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
Crackdown on Egypt’s Islamist bloggers
Cracking down on moderate Islamists
Mauritanian Islamists “A Comprehensive Enhancement Project for the Presidency”
Islamist policy shift?
The essence of Islamist resistance
Islamist radicalisation: the challenge for euro-mediterranean relations
Obama hints acceptance of elected Islamists
Will Islamists Be Part Of The President’s New Dialogue?
Islamists Lose Ground in the Middle East
Miliband Calls for Fair Engagement with Islamists