Monday, 4 June 2007

Controversy over Cambridge University Islam conference

There has been a lot of media coverage today of the conference being held in London. In his speech to the conference Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Muslims in the UK saying,
We have successful Muslims in all areas of our national life - business, sport, media, culture, the professions. We have our first Muslim MPs, first Muslim Members of the House of Lords; hopefully the next election will bring more and hopefully also the first women Muslim MPs.
However the conference has drawn criticism from some Muslims. Lord Ahmed, Britain's first Muslim peer, described it as being part of the "colonial-style policy of divide-and-rule". The radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir are equally dismissive, arguing that the conference is "not a real dialogue". In an article in the Guardian, the respected Muslim thinker and scholar, Tariq Ramadan, writes,
Tony Blair will make his last gesture toward the Muslims of Britain today at an international conference on Islam and Muslims in the World. The spirit of the initiative seems at first glance praiseworthy but, on closer inspection, it stands revealed as little more than an exercise in fence mending or public relations. While I have been invited to participate in the conference, not a single representative of the leading British Muslim associations has been invited to speak, not a single sensitive subject has been touched upon. It is as though these associations and their leaders were part of the problem, and could not become an active part of the solution. It is as though we could hope to solve deep-seated problems by refusing to see them for what they are. So many fine intentions and words about openness, while the facts speak instead of petty politics.

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