International Leaders Call for Urgent Action to Heal Muslim-West Conflict

Some of the world's most influential international leaders have been commissioned by the United Nations to make an urgent call for efforts to heal the growing rift between Muslim and Western societies.

|PIC1|The group is made up of prominent international figures from a variety of religions who have been meeting over the past year. They have agreed that the major concerns in the conflict are not the religious or historical differences, but rather political developments, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The leaders blamed an environment of mutual fear and stereotyping for the worsening problems.

An attitude of ignorance has evolved out of a climate of constant misunderstandings, the group said, which has to combated by educational projects as well as by the media.

The Alliance of Civilisations, which includes Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, dismissed the perception that a clash of civilisations was inevitable. However, they did agree that urgent action was very necessary.

The report was handed over to the UN Secretary General Kofi Anna in Turkey on Monday.

Annan read from the report that it was critical that bridges be built between Islam and the Western world, and that the urgency in doing this had never been greater than now.

A growing sense of resentment and mistrust was described by the group, with a catalyst for this being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coupled with military action ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report stated, "Moreover, the perception of double standards in the application of international law and the protection of human rights is increasing resentment and the sense of vulnerability felt by many Muslims around the globe."

The leaders called for renewed efforts as well as an international conference to revitalise the peace process in the Middle East. In addition, it was advised that the UN pass a White Paper to properly analyse the situation in a dispassionate and objective manner, reports the BBC.

The Alliance of Civilisations report warns that globalisation is contributing to the discord.

The report said, "For them, the prospect of greater well-being has come at a high price, which includes cultural homogenisation, family dislocation, challenges to traditional lifestyles, and environmental degradation."

"In this context, peoples who feel that they face persistent discrimination, humiliation, or marginalisation are reacting by asserting their identity more aggressively."

A suggestion was made that inflammatory language was sometimes being used by political and religious leaders, and this was very much amplified by the media.

At the heart of the problem was ignorance, and to combat this, long-term media and youth education programmes must be implemented with a particular focus on cultural misunderstandings.

A strong emphasis was put on the fact that any schemes would have very little impact unless the immediate political causes of the disputes were not allayed.

The groups was proposed by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations, and co-sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The initiative aims to produce actionable, time-bound recommendations by the end of 2006 for UN member states to adopt.

Among the members are former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who proposed the Dialogue Among Civilisations initiative, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel laureate, Prof. Pan Guang, who obtained the Saint Petersburg-300 Medal for Contribution to China-Russia Relations, and Arthur Schneier, who is the founder and president of the "Appeal of Conscience Foundation" and who gained the "Presidential Citizens Medal".