A Dialogue Society event held in the House of Lords and hosted by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham considered the implications of anti-terror proposals in the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings. Dr Raheem Khan, a leading member of the Muslim Council of Britain, made it clear that whilst ninety-five per cent of the Muslim community were law abiding responsible citizens there were five percent that might be radicalised. He suggested that it would be quite wrong to alienate the majority ninety-five percent because they were the ones who were prepared to work hard in support of policing the five percent. He pointed out that if Muslims in general started to feel that they were being discriminated against; in certain cases that could have the effect of generating tacit support for the radicalised ones.
Baptist Minister, Rev. Dr. Clinton Bennett, referred to a sense of being able to become ‘virtually inside’ another faith which involved a depth of friendship with followers of another faith and the experience of the divine from the practice of another faith. It was felt that there should be opportunities to learn about other faiths and their practices through local interfaith groups and opportunities to meet people of other religions. One particular strategy that had been used by women to promote friendships beyond religious boundaries was a symbolic act of going over a ‘Bridge of Peace’ together with someone of another faith.
An update on the Middle East Peace Initiative’s support for peace efforts between Israel and Palestine for some reason upset an elderly member of the audience who, for the best part of ten minutes, accused the presenter of having caused the Iraq war and of being nothing more than a representative of President George W Bush! He eventually calmed down.
The meeting was told that an Inter-religious Council within the United Nations was currently being proposed by the Philippines and concluded that a willingness and openness to interfaith dialogue could be the first step in a long term relationship-building process that would enable people of different communities to learn how to live for the sake of each other.