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Alliance of Civilizations?

Kofi Annan believes that the United Nations can fix the misunderstandings between Western and Muslim societies through the sonorously named Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) - a UN-sponsored forum intended to promote inter-cultural dialogue. Yet when one examines Annan's words and actions - and the important issues that he sidesteps - it becomes clear that his sympathies lie on the Muslim side of the divide.

Annan was correct when he proclaimed at a seminar held last June at UN headquarters, entitled Confronting Islamophobia: Education for Tolerance and Understanding, that "Islam's tenets are frequently distorted and taken out of context, with particular acts or practices being taken to represent or to symbolize a rich and complex faith." However, he incorrectly blamed such distortions on the West, accusing Westerners of displaying what he called Islamophobia. To the contrary, the culprits are the extremists within the Muslim community who drink the poisons of hate dispensed by their rabid clerics and who are allowed by Muslim rulers to commit their reign of terror in the name of Islam so as long as the rulers themselves are spared. Nevertheless, Annan thinks that politically correct dialogue among the talking heads participating in the Alliance of Civilizations is all that is necessary to dispel the demons of Islamophobia.

The Alliance of Civilizations, upon which Annan banks so much faith, was established by Spain's socialist government and by Turkey's government, which is run by an Islamic party. Its members include former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Turkish Minster of State Mehmet Aydin, Federico Mayor, president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace and representing Spain, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, wife of the Emir of Qatar and Chair of the Qatar Foundation, and former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. A High-Level Group has been set up to draft a practical action plan, which is due to be submitted to the UN Secretary-General at the end of his term in December 2006. Annan appointed his long-time Pakistani deputy, Iqbal Riza, as Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for the Alliance of Civilizations - not a very clean start for this organization considering the fact that Riza previously had been embroiled in the oil-for-food scandal for allegedly shredding many UN documents that would have been useful in the independent investigation of the scandal. Annan apparently finds no irony in the fact that a forum intended to promote dialogue among equals, representing two fundamentally different forms of society, has no members to speak for the European Union or for Western-style democratic states such as Israel, the United States, Canada, or Australia. Said one of the Alliance representatives in response to a question as to why Israel in particular was not represented even though it is at the epicenter of conflict between the West and the Muslim world: "There are no representatives from Israel in the 18-member Group. The Judaic world is represented by a rabbi from the United States. In general, we focus not on conflict zones but on relations between the West and the Islamic world." It is no surprise that Israel would not be allowed to participate in the 'dialogue'. After all, why embarrass former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami, who may then have to explain to his Israeli counterpart on the High-Level Group why the current Iranian President's vow to wipe Israel off of the map has nothing to do with the Alliance of Civilizations' mission to build trust and understanding between Muslim and Western societies? Indeed, the Alliance of Civilizations is really not so much a dialogue to promote understanding between the Muslim and Western societies as it is yet another United Nations-backed platform for Muslims to play the victim and ignore the atrocities done by their own adherents on a regular basis. Kofi Annan is complicit in this charade.

For example, addressing a meeting held this past February in Qatar of the High Level Group of

the AOC, Annan showed his biases when he addressed the controversy surrounding the infamous Danish cartoons that Muslims decried as blasphemous against the Prophet Mohammad and that sparked widespread violent protests as a result:

"The offensive caricatures were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population and is not yet sure how to adjust to it. And some of the strongest reactions - perhaps especially the more violent ones - have been seen in Muslim countries where many people feel themselves the victims of excessive Western influence or interference…Whether or not those who published the caricatures were deliberately seeking to provoke, there is no doubt some of the violent reactions have encouraged extremist groups within European societies, whose agenda is to demonize Muslim immigrants, or even expel them."

Annan also participated in a joint statement with the secretaries-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Arab League, as well as Qatar's First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, which said: "Neither media, publications, nor places of worship should be used for incitement, or to spread hatred." Again, except for the Spanish Foreign Minister, this was largely an Islamic monologue, not an honest dialogue to bridge different points of view about the acceptable boundaries of freedom of speech and press. Indeed, the High Level Group held their own deliberations in secret, excluding all reporters from their discussions.

In short, Kofi Annan believes that Muslims are the victims of Western stereotyping and that the press should be kept in their place. The provocative cartoons, in his view, were meant to humiliate Muslims, rather than to comment on the perversion of Muslim values by the bombings, beheadings, and other acts of mass murder committed in the name of the Prophet. In doing so, Annan lends credibility to the complaints of Muslim leaders at the United Nations and elsewhere that the Western media unfairly associates "terrorism" with Islam.

Of course, it is true that many of the billions of Muslims around the world do not engage in acts of terrorism. However, it is also undeniable that the vast majority of terrorist acts today are committed by Muslims, who claim that it is their religious duty to do so as part of jihad. Spain and Turkey - the two co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations - have seen the tragic loss of innocent lives as a direct result of such Islamo-fanatic terrorist attacks. The silent majority of Muslims who may well deplore the horrible violence and destruction committed in their name are too afraid to speak out.

If the Secretary-General truly wants to promote understanding, he should start by encouraging an honest dialogue within the Muslim community about what besets it. However, instead of urging responsible Muslim political and religious leaders to condemn the egregious daily statements and actions that originate with their own fellow Muslim jihadists, Annan issues bromides about how 'we all need to get along'. Instead, he might consider using his bully pulpit to address the moral consequences of such incidences as the following:

As translated by the Middle East Research Media Institute from Roz Al-Yusouf (Egypt), January 28, 2006-February 3, 2006, Egyptian MP Ragab Hilal Hamida, from the Muslim Brotherhood, said during a parliamentary session discussing the Inter-Arab Agreement on Combating Terrorism that "'terrorism' is not a curse when given its true meaning…From my point of view, bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and Al-Zarqawi are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists... [On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal and a murderer. We must call things by their proper names…Islam encourages terrorism and jihad…" The United Nations has been unable to come up with a basic definition of "terrorism", much less reach a consensus on how to deal with it effectively. Meanwhile, Muslim extremists have no problem justifying the killing of American and Israeli civilians in the cause of jihad. It certainly would be a pleasant surprise if Kofi Annan showed some courage for once and declared that no understanding between Western and Muslim societies can be possible until the Muslim community purges itself of the toxic hatreds that inflict it from within.

Even in the emerging democracy developing in Afghanistan, Muslim clerics, joined by many ordinary Afghan citizens, included in their prayers a call to put an imprisoned Afghan man to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. "We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said Abdul Raoulf, a supposed moderate cleric belonging to the nation's principal Muslim body, the Afghan Ulama Council. "Cut off his head!"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was under great pressure from the United States and other Western countries to find a way to free the Afghan convert, but has had to deal with the powerful Muslim clerics who want to see the man dead. Apparently, the Afghan court that was set to try the man has decided to release him while an investigation into his 'mental' fitness to stand trial continues. Where he will go after he is released remains unclear but, according to an Associated Press report, the clerics have warned that they will incite the people to "pull him into pieces."

When asked at a press briefing on March 24, 2006 why Kofi Annan had not spoken out personally against such death threats, Annan's spokesman said simply that this was left to the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, who spoke on his behalf. What are we to think about Kofi Annan's sense of priorities? Annan can take the time to repeatedly condemn the Danish cartoons for being offensive to Muslim sensibilities, but not bother to personally voice his own thoughts on the reprehensible behavior of leading clerics in a country where UN peacekeeping forces have been stationed.

Lest anyone think that this is an isolated example of Muslim intolerance for any other religion but their own, consider this bit of text from a fatwa issued on July 3, 2000 by The Permanent Council for Scholarly Research and Religious Legal Judgment, an organ of the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments, forbidding the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship in Muslim countries:

"All religions other than Islam are heresy and error. Any place designated for worship other than [that of] Islam is a place of heresy and error, for it is forbidden to worship Allah in any way other than the way that Allah has prescribed in Islam. The law of Islam (shari'a) is the final and definitive religious law. It applies to all men and jinns and abrogates all that came before it. This is a matter about which there is consensus.

"Those who claim that there is truth in what the Jews say, or in what the Christians say - whether he is one of them or not - is denying the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad's sunna and the consensus of the Muslim nation…

"Therefore, religion necessitates the prohibition of unbelief, and this requires the prohibition of worshiping Allah in any way other than that of the Islamic shari'a…Allah says about the unbelievers and their deeds: 'I will turn to every deed they have done and I will make them into dust in the wind [Koran 25:23].'

Before Kofi Annan's Alliance of Civilizations can make any progress at all, it must first push responsible voices in the Muslim world to speak out against a system that places Muslims in a permanent state of war against 'infidels', that refuses to acknowledge the validity of the religious beliefs of others and that positively values the killing of blasphemers and those who defect from Islam. Otherwise, there can be no reconciliation with modern Western societies that are built on freedom of religion and thought.

The New York Times reported recently that a female Syrian-American psychiatrist who was born and raised in a traditional Muslim family, Dr. Wafa Sultan, has received death threats for an interview she gave on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, 2006, in which she raised serious questions about the direction the Islam faith has taken. The other guest on the program, an Egyptian professor of religious studies, refused to join in a discussion with her, claiming that she had defamed Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.

In truth, Dr. Sultan has been one of the lone voices in the wilderness, taking Muslim clerics, jihadists and political leaders to task for distorting the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran. As quoted by the New York Times, Dr. Sultan told Al Jazeera that "Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them." She witnessed the horror of Muslim fanaticism first-hand as far back as 1979, when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. Right before her eyes, gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into her classroom and shot her professor to death, shouting: 'God is great!'

It would certainly be an admirable example if Kofi Annan were to invite Dr. Sultan and others like her to address the next Alliance of Civilizations meeting. Unfortunately, Annan has neither the discernment nor the moral courage to do any such thing. If he did invite her, she would no doubt remove the Emperor's clothes from forums such as this, which the United Nations has substituted over the years for a meaningful response to Islamo-fanaticism. A true alliance of civilizations presupposes two equally tolerant cultures and world views, whose leaders can communicate on a rational basis. Instead, as Dr. Sultan has observed, we see a clash between a society descending into primitive hatred that leads to dehumanizing acts of barbarism and a society that has evolved from its own intolerant past to reach the stage where reason leads to respect for individual freedoms. Sadly, by not addressing the real problem head-on, the United Nations has become an enabler and apologist for the Islamic fanatics.

By Joseph Klein

Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN's Stealth Assault on America's Freedom.

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