Letter: Faith and blame

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Sir: Robert Fisk's "Religion in the Middle East: the fundamental problem" (3 Dec 1997) was very thought-provoking, and I must congratulate him for his courage in highlighting the threat from fundamentalists belonging to Judaism and Christianity. The media in the West goes out of its way to tarnish the image of Islam by associating "terrorism" and "fundamentalism" to it, while ignoring the militant and terrorist activities associated with other religions. Robert Fisk has a more enlightened outlook.

It is true that religious fanatics have a lot to answer for, and their desire for dominating others and enforcing their own ideals and beliefs on them has been the subject of many historians and religious commentators. While I cannot speak for Jews or Christians, as a Muslim, I find it ironical that Islam (which means peace and submission) has become so politicised and in places like Afghanistan and Algeria, so barbaric. The fault for much of this of course lies at the hands of modern Muslims, but the West or Christendom has played no small part in the growth of Muslim fundamentalism.

Would it be too difficult for the West even to pretend to be impartial in dealing with Israel and the Arabs? Even if one tries to understand the historical and cultural prejudices that lead to this blind support for Israel, why does the West go on supporting the fundamentalist state of Saudi Arabia? It is true that Saudi Arabia has lots of oil and so the West has nurtured it as one of its closest allies, but what about its support of the dreaded "fundamentalists", which the Western media keeps on going on about?

Clearly the rise of Muslim fundamentalism has nothing to do with the holy city of Mecca or the Quran - it has much more to do with the inequalities and injustices of the modern world which values oil more than human and cultural relationships, and that is hell-bent on settling old historical scores. A powerful and manipulative West has failed to understand the consequences of decades of frustration among the powerless Muslim masses in the Middle East.

Dr MOHAMMED IQBAL

Bradford, West Yorkshire

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