MP accuses West of 'antagonising' the Muslim world

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The rebel Labour MP Paul Marsden, who was compared to an appeaser of Hitler for opposing the war in Afghanistan, yesterday accused the West of "antagonising" people in the Muslim world at the start of a Pakistan fact-finding mission.

On the first leg of a trip to gauge the humanitarian situation on the ground, the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham said the West had "a total lack of understanding of the Muslim way of life in the region". He said he hoped his presence would "embarrass the British and American governments into doing something" to help the refugees, and renewed his criticism of the West's attitude to the Muslim world.

"You can't erase 1,000 years of Islamic history with a sound bite," he said.

Mr Marsden said he had been given a "very warm welcome" from the Pakistani people. In his first day in the country he had found mixed reactions to the bombing of Afghanistan on the ground.

"There is a lot of sympathy about the attacks on 11 September but people think that there is a total lack of understanding in the West of the Muslim way of life in the region," he said.

Mr Marsden was embroiled in a row with the Labour whips' office after he claimed the Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong, had compared him to the 1930s appeasers of Hitler in a dressing down to try to stop him speaking out over the war. He joined the Father of the House, Tam Dalyell, in voting against the war in the Commons last week.

Speaking to BBC1's Breakfast News from Islamabad in Pakistan yesterday, he said: "Time is running out for the innocent civilians who are starving to death. They have no interest in the conflict and they are having to pay the terrible price. It's about time we find out what the truth is." He now plans to meet Pakistani government representatives.