Letter: Terror and Islam are not interchangeable

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The Independent Online
Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien is too experienced a political commentator to be unaware of the provocative nature of his comments ('Blind to the force of the fatwa', 5 August).

The reductionist picture he paints of Islam - as a fanatical, ruthless and intrinsically violent creed - is distorted and inaccurate. His conflation of Iran with 'Islam' is staggeringly crude; the medieval rhetoric he employs to describe it testifies more to his state of mind than to any reality. Islam is a religion with a billion adherents, living in every continent. As such, it encompasses all shades of political opinion, all patterns of religious belief, all varieties of human experience.

It is misleading and dangerous to baldly characterise the terrorism of recent weeks as 'Islamic'. Mr O'Brien is, of course, right to deplore political terrorism, which exists in the Muslim world, as it exists everywhere. But would he depict Judaism in a similarly offensive manner on account of the Hebron massacre? Are all the churches of Christ to be blamed for the terrorism that is associated with the question of Northern Ireland?

As the prospects for peace in the Middle East grow, the need for understanding on all sides becomes ever more urgent. At such a time, Mr O'Brien might scoff less at all those who would understand Islam, and find a little understanding of his own.

Yours faithfully,


London, W11

5 August