Prominent British Muslim leaders sent an open letter to PM Tony Blair August 12 stating that his policy on Iraq and the Middle East offers “ammunition to extremists” and puts British lives “at increased risk.” Appearing as a full page advertisement in newspapers August 13, the letter was signed by three of the four Muslim MPs, three of the five Muslim members of the House of Lords, and 38 Muslim organizations (for full text and list of signatories see para 10). Although the letter states specifically that “attacking civilians is never justified,” its signatories have used this sentence as a double-edged sword in defending the letter publicly, in effect equating civilian deaths in Lebanon with potential civilian deaths from terrorism. As MCB Secretary General Dr. Mohammed Abdul Bari told the press, “As Muslims, we condemn attacks on civilians wherever they happen. Civilians in the UK, the Middle East, and the rest of the world should all enjoy protection.”It is too bad that, perhaps subconsciously, world diplomats do exactly what they say they won't do: allowing their foreign policy to be dictated by fears of terrorism. But they do it a bit more indirectly, by blaming Israel for Palestinian Arab intransigence and not fulfilling impossible demands.
HMG reacted sharply to the letter. A spokesman for PM Blair (currently on holiday in Barbados), noting that al-Qaida terrorist attacks began well before Iraq, said, “To imply al-Qaida is driven by an honest disagreement over foreign policy is a mistake.” Home Secretary John Reid told the BBC, “I’m not going to question the motives of anyone who has signed this letter, but I think it is a dreadful misjudgment if we believe the foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part, or in whole, under the threat of terrorist activity if we do not have a foreign policy with which the terrorists happen to agree.” Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander echoed these sentiments, saying “No government worth its salt should allow its foreign policy to be dictated to under the threat of terrorism.” Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said it would be “the gravest SIPDIS possible error” to blame foreign policy for the threat of terrorism. “This is part of a distorted view of the world, a distorted view of life,” she said. “Let’s put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives.” Other ministers called the letter “facile,” “dangerous,” and “foolish.”
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