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Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that it is in order once more to express our admiration of the courage and professionalism of our armed services in fulfilling the task that is expected of them. I also hope that it is in order to express our concern for the wounded and the bereaved on all sides.
I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does she agree that the UN has a vital role to play in the co-ordination of humanitarian and construction work because many humanitarian agencies feel that they are able to play their part fully only if there is an international presence that is led by the UN? Does she also agree that this is not simply a matter of endorsing arrangements for the political future of Iraq but that if we are looking for stability not only in Iraq but in the Middle East and in the world as a wholeif we are to win hearts and mindsthe UN, with the global authority and impartiality that it will bring, is essential to the task of building that political future and bringing into being the arrangements that will be necessary for the Iraqis themselves to take control of their own affairs?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, I can agree with virtually everything that my noble friend said. I join him, as I am sure all noble Lords do, in the admiration that he expressed of the courage and professionalism of our Armed Forces. I add that many noble Lords will have seen with admiration the compassion and humanity of our Armed Forces when dealing not only with civilians but with many wounded combatants from the other side.
Of course the United Nations has a vital role; that was stressed forcefully by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. I say to the noble Lord that some international NGOs are already operating in Iraq. He will know that the Red Cross and the Red Crescent are already undertaking some important work. I point out to him that, in view of his passion about the United Nations, he will find a great deal of reassurance if he reads the account of the press conference yesterday, in which the President of the United States three times reiterated the importance of the role of the United Nations.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, following the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to hearts and minds, is the Minister aware that, according to the Financial Times this weekend, Mr Jay Garner, who apparently has been appointed interim governor of Iraq, has considerable experience of working in northern Iraq following the Gulf War but that his main business connections have involved the sale of L-3 missiles to Israel and he is on record as praising the Israeli Army's use of remarkable restraint in handling Palestinian unrest? Is that an example of sensitivity?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that we must look at what Mr Garner is being asked to undertake at present in Iraq and at what he is doing, together with his deputies. I remind your Lordships that one of those deputies is a United Kingdom Army officer, who is serving with particular responsibility for international liaison. I consider it to be most important that one of the people playing a vital role in relation to Jay Garner is British. We look to him to ensure that the values that your Lordships would wish to see brought to bear are in the forefront of minds.
Of course, people will want to raise all kinds of issues in relation to particular individuals. But we must consider the purpose of ORHA and the fact that, in answering Questions only today, my right honourable friend said that ORHA is only a stage on the way to establishing the Iraqi interim authority, which we hope will be in place very soon.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, reverting to the Question, does the Minister accept our view that, once it can be organisedit may take a little timeUN expertise will be both welcome and invaluable in all stages of Iraq's rehabilitation? But does she accept that the overriding aims of the coalition and UN agencies in working together must be to meet the immediate humanitarian needs, which are desperate, and to put in place the foundations of a civil administration, placing those operations in Iraqi hands as soon as practicable? Will the Government remind the French that, despite their remorseless hostility to fresh UN resolutions, a new resolution is needed here and nowimmediatelyto lift the sanctions on the new Iraq?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course I believe that the role of the United Nations will be, as the noble Lord put it, invaluable. I point out to the noble Lord that humanitarian needs have been covered by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1472, which allowed for the Oil for Food programme to resume and for aid to reach the Iraqi people.
So far as concerns our friends in France, perhaps I should say that President Chirac has expressed the view that, following a necessary stage of ensuring security, there will naturally follow a time of reconstruction with a command that the UN should play what he called a "central role". I do not believe that there is such a world of difference between what the Prime Minister said yesterday about a vital role and what President Chirac said about a central role. I am sure that, with good will on all sides, work can be done to bring about agreements at the United Nations.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the breakdown in law and order in Iraq was sadly predictable? Can she tell us what plans the Government had drawn up in advance to deal with that, and can she give us details of how, when and with whose help those plans will now be implemented?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe there is a period in any military conflict when what the noble Baroness described as "a breakdown in law and order" takes place. Like your Lordships, I have seen television pictures of a certain amount of looting. However, I do not consider that that amounts to a complete breakdown in law and order, and I believe that the noble Baroness should be careful not to exaggerate the situation of young people looting objects that they desire into a complete breakdown of law and order. Murder and mayhem are not taking place on the streets, as the phrase "a complete
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, thanks to many factorsinternational communication technology includedthis war has been more debated than any other in living memory? Is that not a further argument for healing the wounds of our own international friendships which have been severed and for ensuring that the United Nations is put back in the driving seat as soon as possible?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that 24-hour coverage has meant that we have seen on our televisions some very distressing pictures of what has taken place. I cannot help thinking that in many ways that is a good thing and that we should be confronted with the horror of war. We should know what is going on in our names. I, for one, have supported this military conflict; many of your Lordships have not. But I have not sought to turn my face away from what is being done in my name and I believe it is right that we face up to it.
In respect of the role of the United Nations, of course we need United Nations authority for what happens in the longer term. But it is also important that the coalition and the United Nations work together on this issue in the longer term. I have no doubt that there will be much argument about the precise role of the United Nationswe should not pretend that there will not be. But we can all believe in the principle of the United Nations playing a vital role or, to express it in the French way, a central role.
The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, although our immediate concern is the military conflict in Iraq, I believe, as many of us do, that the greatest long-term threat is global terrorism. Any study of Al'Qaeda reveals that this is a threat that we need to take very seriously indeed. Al'Qaeda is closely related to a range of independent terrorist groups now operating in some 80 countries, providing a global network with a sharply defined, ideologically motivated strategy. It appears to
One of the most disturbing aspects of the phenomenon is the misuse of religion. Even more than technical skill and training, Al'Qaeda seeks religious commitment from its membersa religious motivation that will steel them to kill and be killed without fear or scruple. So the concern that lies behind my Question and behind my asking for this debate is the effect that this has had, and is having, on the mainstream Muslim population in this country. My question is: what can we as a society do and what, in particular, can interfaith groups do to support the mainstream, moderate majority?
A book published a few years agoWar of the Fleaanalysed guerrilla movements since World War II. The strategy of those movements was not to win great military victories, which of course such groups could not do, but to stay in existence long enough and to be enough of a nuisance until political victory was assured. Winning the political struggle depended entirely on having the support of the wider community on whose behalf they claimed to be engaged in armed struggle. The parallel with Al'Qaeda seems uncannily close. In short, they will succeed only if what they stand for resonates with the wider Muslim world and, in particular, if the religious motivation to which they lay claim is recognised and validated elsewhere.
If the Muslim community around the world and in this country feel alienated from the society in which they live, what Al'Qaeda says and stands for will have reverberations within that community. If, on the other hand, Al'Qaeda is isolated, not just physically but ideologically, it cannot succeed. I return to my question: what can we as a society do and what can interfaith groups do to support the moderate mainstream majority in the Muslim world?
I would like to mention language. People sometimes talk and write of Islamic terrorism. As the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, pointed out in the House at another time, terrorists are terrorists so why dignify them with the name "Islamic". It is a matter of fact that Al'Qaeda claims that title, but there is no reason why the rest of society and the millions of moderate, decent Muslims should be complicit in its use. It besmirches the name Islam and reinforces any tendencies in our society towards Islamaphobia.
While on the subject of reporting, I make a plea that the media give greater prominence to the views of mainstream Muslim leaders and not just focus on the extremists. There were many Muslim condemnations of 11th September and there have been Muslim
So far as government policy is concerned, I believe that particular care is required to ensure that action is not taken against particular categories of people just because they are Muslim. Immigration policy is a particular issue here. People from Muslim countries should not be classified indiscriminately as a potential threat just because they are Muslims. That can arouse only resentment in the wider Muslim community that wants nothing to do with terrorism. Similarly we need to be vigilant that Muslim prisoners, such as those at Guantanamo Bay, are accorded the basic legal rights that apply to everyone in a civilised society.
Then, of course, there are the unresolved political questions like Palestine, which are a continuing source of anguish and grievance to the whole Muslim world and which allow a kind of sneaking sympathy for terrorists among some younger people. I am sympathetic to the fears and genuine security needs of Israel and I make no further comment beyond a hope that the kind of commitment that has been shown to win the war in Iraq might be put into winning a durable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
It is not for a Christian to say what the Muslim community might do to strengthen the forces of moderation except to recall that Islam has been one of the great civilising forces in history and that the Wahabi strand of Islam, especially its more extreme elements, is unrepresentative of Islam in history and in the world today. Only a couple of days ago it was reported that a new Muslim council has been formed in France to represent its 5 million Muslim citizens. I look forward to a time when a Muslim equivalent of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in this country can unite the different strands of Islam and help the whole community to speak with a single voice to British society today.
Even here I believe that the wider British society can help. We can try to ensure that on public bodies, major institutions and in all consultations responsible leaders and spokesmen are identified and invited to make their contribution. The religious broadcasting department of the BBC has, I believe, done that to some significant extent by ensuring that there are now regular Muslim speakers on "Thought for the Day". That is just one example of what needs to take place in every aspect of our civic life, for it is in that way that particular people are not only enabled to make their contribution but to become recognised and valued spokespeople for their community.
On the issue of leaders, there is just one question I would put to the Muslim community, although not in my own name because that would not be appropriate. Dr Zaki Badawi, who is one of the best known Muslim spokesmen in the country at the moment, has asked about some of the imams who come from abroad, often from very rural backgrounds, to minister in the mosques in this country. He asks what checks are made by the community to see that they are in fact properly qualified, not just from a religious point of
Finally, I turn to the contribution that I think interfaith groups, and perhaps particularly the Churches, can make to this issue. I am glad to say that many Muslim communities see the Churches as natural allies and we are glad to try to be such. In many of the cities of our country there are close relationships between Christian leaders and Muslim leaders. That was particularly evident after 11th September and at the time of community tensions a year or so ago.
The previous Archbishop of Canterburynow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey of Cliftonis associated with two initiatives that could have great value for the future. One is the Muslim-Christian forum, which is in the process of visiting our major cities in order to listen to Muslim concerns. As I understand it, there have already been visits to about five cities with large Muslim populations. I believe that it will be worth taking notice of what those taking part in the visits hear and eventually report on. Secondly, there is the initiative in the Middle East which brought together Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders at a very high level and which resulted in the Alexandria declaration. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, regrets that he is unable to be here to talk further about that; he is in the United States.
Behind the Alexandria process is a realisation that the peace process in the Middle East so far has not really engaged ordinary people. It has been a matter of leader speaking to leader. It was further recognised that if the process is to move out of political assemblies to engage populations as a whole, then religious leaders could play a key role. The Alexandria process continues and there is a permanent committee for its implementation. A particular contribution is being made by the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral.
Separate from those two initiatives, but not unrelated, is a meeting in Qatar this week, which was initiated by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury and is being carried on by the present one. I believe that such initiatives and the variety of forms of interfaith work that now go on in our society can play an important role in ensuring that Muslim communities are understood and enabled to play their proper part in contributing to the future of our society in all its aspects. I hope that the Government recognise that and that they will be able, in various ways, to encourage and to support such work. It is of course the initiative and work of the interfaith groups themselves. But government, with their proper responsibility for the health of civil society, can try to ensure that such work is not marginalised but recognised as a key component in enabling the Muslim community to make its contribution to our culture and society and to help British Muslims feel at ease with being such and indeed proud to be such.
Those are just a few points. I hope that other noble Lords will be able to complement them with more and perhaps better ideas. It is the question behind the debate that I believe is the important consideration:
Lord Desai: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford for tabling this Motion. I have only five minutes so I shall have to be very brief. I am sorry that he has done that. On the one hand, we say that Al'Qaeda is not Muslim terrorism and on the other hand we ask, "What are we going to do about Islam? How can we embrace our Muslim friends?". Why single out Islam? In my viewas an Atheist I am sorry to sayevery religion preaches peace and it is used as a cause for war. Every religionChristianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduismhas spawned terrorism. When terrorists adopt a religious garb they are fooling themselves as much as other people, because their purpose is political. It is very difficult to say to someone, "Go and kill a perfect stranger who has done you no harm". We do not do that, unless for crimes of passion. But say to someone, "Do it in the name of God", "Do it in the name of nationalism", or, "Do it in the name of communism", and they will. You need an ideology to cloak your desire to kill.
It is unfortunate that after a century of secularisation the world has gone backwards, and we now have religious movements. In my youthful naivety, I thought that religion might disappear in my lifetime, but it has not. I do mean it seriously. If we are serious about saying that Al'Qaeda is not Muslim terrorism, let us completely forget about trying to be accommodative to religions and so on. It is nothing to do with the Koran, nor with the Bible. By emphasising more and more faith and interfaith councils by having the Alexandria process and so on, we are doing exactly what we should not.
When Al'Qaeda struck, everyone started to read the Koran. It is a very good book. Like all religious books it is mildly boring. I have always found it very difficult to read such books, but some people like them. One would no more say that the Bible is a guide to solving the Northern Ireland problembecause it is notthan say one could fight Al'Qaeda by reading the Koran. Al'Qaeda is not doing anything which has a religious aspect of being Muslim. Its battle is with other Muslim kingdoms, especially the Saudi kingdom. Its battle is a political battle to undermine modernism in Islamic states. That has happened in Egypt for a century or more. There have been religious movements trying to destroy the secular modernistic movement in Middle Eastern countries.
For instance, why do we suddenly assume that Palestine is a Muslim problem? The PLO originally was a secular political party. There are many people in the Middle East and in Palestine who are not Muslims. They are Christians. The founder of the Ba'ath Party,
It will be difficult to do because the terrorists will insist more and more that the lead people among them are Muslimsof course they are Muslims. There are terrorists in India who worship the Hindu god and Buddhists in Sri Lanka who kill, despite Buddhism being a non-violent religion. So I feel that we should think very differently about this and not let faith into the problem. Faith will not solve the issue of terrorism. We will have to reinforce what I may call "secular" and "materialist" values. That is the only solution.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, for enabling us to discuss this absorbing and highly pertinent subject. I agree that it is most fitting that, as noted by the right reverend Prelate, our debate is taking place on the final day of the second Building Bridges seminar in Qatar.
The concept of so-called "sacred terror" is as far as it is possible to get from the true meaning of religion, whatever its denomination and its teaching of peace, forgiveness and tolerance. This debate poses difficult but necessary questions about the role of religious factors in the escalation of conflicts and the justification of violence in the name of religion. It asks what happens when liturgy and scripture are used to defend or to authorise violence and when clerical figures assume leadership roles in acts of bloodshed.
As is so often the case, the influence of religious leaders is heightened in times of crisis. As a result, they have the potential to moderate, mediate and defuse tensions on a local level within their own communities.
Equally, faith-based institutions have a similar role to play on a larger national and international stage, as part of a broad strategy to prevent the escalation of inter-ethnic, inter-cultural and inter-religious violence. The 9/11 terrorist attacks made it clear that, important though they are, military, political and legal measures alone will not eradicate the threat posed by terrorism. A broader, more long-term approach is needed as well, which takes into account the ideological and spiritual aspects of the influence of religion upon terrorism. The case for religion to be allowed to teach its true doctrine of love, peace and understanding, is overwhelming. Such teaching includes an understanding of the faiths of others, so that an end may be brought to those conflicts all over the world, which are inflamed by a poor understanding of religion, and exacerbated by ethnic, cultural and historical differences.
Religion has the potential to be a big tent under which many nations with differing cultures, spiritualities, devotional practices and theologies can gather in peace and harmony. For this reason, meetings of religious leaders, inter-religious academic dialogue such as that taking place in Qatar as we speak and mutual interfaith co-operation, such as lectures in each other's places of worship, are critical components.
Interfaith co-operation and dialogue can be approached in two ways. The first takes the view that, despite our superficial differences, we are all one people, one church and one global community. While acknowledging the diversity of faiths, it stresses the need for understanding, respect and tolerance. An excellent example of this approach is the annual meeting of the Community of Sant'Egidio.
Secondly, there is the need to address the real differences both within faiths and among them. This is the core idea of the World Faiths and Development Dialogue. It was born of an awareness of how complex dialogue across cultures, disciplines and worlds can be and how differently many religious institutions, for example, see the problems of poverty to that of development institutions. Its aim is to bring together at the table the voices and experience of those different worlds with the common aim of attacking the misery of poverty and helping to build a better world.
The events of September 11th and the dialogue since then have highlighted the complicated effect that poverty has on peace, stability, violence and social justice. There is now a far wider recognition that poverty is one of the major alienating factors in society, which in the right circumstances can nurture and breed terrorism.
Religion and faiths are very much part of this struggle, and must equally be part of the search for answers to the problem. With important exceptions, such as Jubilee 2000, religions have perhaps been too little part of the dialogue and work on global poverty issues and country strategies and programmes. We would be wise to expend more effort and energy in this direction.
I have stressed the central importance of dialogue in the pursuit of peace: dialogue between religions and states, between religions and within religions. It is essential. The twin evils of terrorism and extremism destroy the rule of law, human rights, basic freedoms and democracy and they threaten peace and security. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, rightly said, our struggle against terrorism is not a struggle against any religion, including Islam. Terrorists are enemies common to all societies. Men, women and children of all faiths and all cultures have been the innocent victims of terrorist attacks and they have a common interest in countering the global threat. It is time that religions and beliefs reclaimed their rightful role and contributed to the process through determined, resolute and ground-breaking interfaith co-operation, partnerships and initiatives.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, to the terrorist who is motivated by a particular kind of religious fanaticism, all existing governments are evil and all must be swept away. We have made little effort to understand the mind-set of people who reach that conclusion or the ideological basis of their thinking. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, implied, we cannot hope to eradicate that kind of terrorism by military action in Afghanistan or Iraq. On the contrary, as President Mubarak has said, we are creating 100 Bin Ladens by that process. Instead, we must consider the doctrines that motivate terrorists and the means by which they are spread around the Islamic world.
The mainspring of religious terrorism is the idea that only those who follow the Salafi or Wahhabi ideals are genuine Muslims, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out. The Salafis, who claim that Islam has not been properly understood by anyone since the time of the Prophet and his immediate followers, have their own interpretation of the Koran and the Sunna. The restShi'a, Sufis and even Sunnis who fail to come up to the standards set by those self-appointed guardians of Islam, are to be hated, persecuted and killed.
So although Saudi Arabia is nominally our ally in the struggle against global terrorism, Saudi money is paying for the establishment of the breeding grounds of terrorism. Ironically, the Salafist view is just as hostile to the rulers of Saudi Arabia as it is to the West. Those who call for the destruction of America do so as a prelude to the replacement of the Saudi regime with a pure Islamic government, the policies of which are not further defined.
The product of the hatred felt by the extremist wing of the Salafist movement is seen in events such as the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam; the killing of the French submarine technicians in Karachi; the nightclub bombing in Bali; the attack on the USS Cole; the suicide attack on the French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen; and, of course, 9/11 itself. Those are not isolated atrocities; but neither are they directed by a single, monolithic world organisation. They are the deeds of a number of different groups related to one another only loosely by a common jihadist ideology.
We should be looking for common ideological or quasi-religious origins behind all those movements, considering what can be done to stop the dissemination of religious hatred at source and helping Muslim states to offer a broader education to the children of the next generation.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I, too, welcome the initiative of the right reverend Prelate in introducing this important debate. Of course, I do not approach the subject from the point of view of a theologian, which I am not, but 30 years experience of living in and working with the Arab world and of seeing at first hand some of the tensions and suspicions that have led to what the Motion refers to as,
First, let us ask ourselves why religious people involve themselves at all in what their opponents describe as terrorism: whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant fanatics in Northern Ireland; Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia joining the ranks of Al'Qaeda; or extreme Zionists preaching the expulsion of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, from Samaria and Judea.
There are four considerations here, which apply in varying degrees to all of those so-called terrorists. The first is a misunderstanding, by both their co-religionists and by their adversaries, of the message of peace and tolerance that underlies all three great scriptures of the sons of Abraham. Secondly, fear of the threat supposedly posed by religions different from their ownoften fed by what I call the baggage of history; whether the Crusades, the Holocaust or the events of September 11th. Thirdly, vengeance for injustices, or perceived injustices, against minorities or their co-religionists, both present and past. Fourthly, the useor, I should say, the misuseof religion, often by secular leaders such as Saddam Hussein, to pursue their political ambitions, and the attribution of religious motives to what are essentially nationalist agendas.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, reminded us that the founder of the Ba'ath Party was a Christian. So was the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, George Habash. There are serious dangers in generalising on this diverse and complicated issue and in ascribing all four motivations of fear, mistrust, misunderstanding and vengeance to every incident of terrorism. But there is a generic problem that requires, as the wording of the Motion implies, a truly interfaith response.
In that context, perhaps I may say how much I admire the attempts made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has this week been in Qatar to try to achieve a greater reconciliation and mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned. We must all try to correct, or at least explain, the misunderstandings and seeds of intolerance that have their basis in historical conflictssome as far back as the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries, which I have found are still surprisingly fresh in the memories of some Muslim politicians.
Perhaps more importantly, we need an interfaith attempt to distance ourselves from the more extreme fundamentalism of religious leaderswhether the fanaticism of Sheikh Abu Hamza and Osama bin Laden; the racist "enophobia of the late Israeli Minister of Tourism, Mr Zeevi; or the extremism of the more fundamentalist Christian movements in the United Statesand to encourage those, such as the young on both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict, who are genuinely trying to work together for peace and whom some of your Lordships may have seen walking hand in hand during some of the remarkable five-minute programmes broadcast from Ramallah on Channel 4.
Most of all, we need unified and unwavering support for those political initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful settlement to current disputes, whether in Kashmir, Belfast or Gaza. It will not surprise your Lordships that I end with a familiar appeal: that, to whatever faith we belong, we continue to urge the United States Administration to put their full weight behind a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is not only causing such appalling hardship, deprivation and casualties for all those involved, but which lies at the basis of so much of the religious intolerance and terrorism which it is in all our interests to allay.
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