Author Archives: Rob Hart

Opinion: The Wisdom of Clare Short

Clare Short, in her book, An Honourable Deception?, talks about religious fanaticism. She makes the point that the Iraqi body count website calculates that between the 9/11 bombings and February 2004, there were roughly 3,500 deaths resulting from Islamic extremist attacks on Western targets. In comparison she points out that over 13,000 non-combatant civilians died as a result of the Iraq war, as well as another 3,000 in Afghanistan, and 3,000 Palestinian civilians.

Looking at these figures – and acknowledging that many more Muslims have died in violence in the Balkans, Pakistan, Chechnya – it is easy to see why young Muslims living in these countries have a view of the world that includes a sense that the world values their lives much less than those of, say, me, a typical western male…

Obviously any member of a western government would shout me down were I to make such a claim to their face. Any Western liberal democracy places the utmost value on human life, regardless of race, religion or gender. At least, so any Bill of Rights you care to read would tell you.

But that’s just the point. It’s easy to legislate for a concept, but to live up to that all the time is not easy.

We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that any democratically elected government that values its prospects for re-election jealously protects the lives and interests of its citizens. Couple this very understandable bias with the fact that none of the most powerful and influential governments in the world are Islamic nations and you get the situation that, in any multinational forum – be it the G8 or the UN – it is the interests of the richer, western liberal democracies that are put to the fore not those of the Islamic world.

Look at the Darfur genocide. Were that happening in the UK there would be an overwhelming response, not only to protect those being oppressed, but to bring the oppressors to justice. It is not outside our power to take such actions when these events occur -even in the Sudan, but our governments choose to take less action because there is no reason to take any action other than a moral obligation.

It is this narrow self-interest that is the major driving force behind every country’s foreign policy. However, it is arguably at the root of most of the problems in the world. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ has killed far more Muslims than it has anyone else. I say that we should forgive the Muslims of the world for thinking that the world doesn’t care about them. Fair point, really. This view is borne out of a dispassionate examination of the facts over the last couple of hundred years.

It is this feeling of impotence in the face of an unjust world that is at least partly driving young Muslims into the arms of extremist recruiters. If we are to overcome these problems, we could do worse than learn lessons from the UK’s attempts over the years to resolve the sectarian problems in Northern Ireland.

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Opinion: The office of citizen

As most will have heard the Prime Minister has gone through something of a transistion with his Cabinet appointments. However, Cabinet reshuffles will not address the deeper problem in British politics. This problem is voter disaffection with the entire political system.

MPs’ expenses have merely brought this issue to a head. It has provided much needed impetus for reformers, allowing the discussion of issues – like reforming the Lords, and introducing PR – some serious air time. The Prime Minister’s problem is that a reshuffle has all the effect of an extra coat of paint to cover …

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