“Last Saturday I took part in a panel discussion on ‘Enlightenment values and modern society’ as part of a large conference on the theme of the clash of civilisations, organised by the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.
“It has been disconcerting recently to see that many of the most vocal advocates clamouring for the spread of Enlightenment values have also been those most keen on waging war on Iraq and now, Iran. Still, I argued that the peaceful spread of the values of the Enlightenment offers protection for people of different faiths and none. The Qur’an itself calls upon people to be prepared to question inherited beliefs and urges them to examine the universe around them and use their reason….
“A couple of the speakers at Saturday’s conference, including the American neocon columnist Daniel Pipes (founder of the McCarthyite outfit Campus Watch), pointedly criticised Livingstone for hosting the highly influential Egyptian Islamic scholar Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi when he visited the UK in 2004. Yet Livingstone was surely right: how can you hope to challenge someone’s views if you do not engage with them? Engagement in that case certainly seemed the more ‘enlightened’ policy to me.
“Unless, of course, the kind of engagement you are really calling for is one from 50,000 feet in the air.”
And while we’re on the subject of the Clash of Civilisations conference, one of the questioners from Daniel Pipes’ side was Stephen Schwartz’s sidekick (sorry, “European director”) Irfan al-Alawi, who also featured in a recent broadcast by Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (watch video here). Yet, when al-Alawi appeared in the “Undercover Mosque” documentary, he was filmed with his face obscured, on the basis that he feared violence as a result of his campaign against the proposed Islamic Centre at Newham in London! Which just goes to illustrate the dishonest scaremongering tactics employed by that programme.