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IPPR recommends 'Engaging with Islamists in the MENA region'

IPPR recommends 'Engaging with Islamists in the MENA region'

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday September 22 2009

  Following on from the New Statesman’s publication last week of an exclusive interview with Khalid Mish’al, head of Hamas’ political bureau, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) today announces the release of a publication, ‘Building Bridges, Not Walls’, which argues that a ‘serious and sustained dialogue with non-violent Islamists across the Middle East and North Africa is essential if progress is to be made towards political reform in the region.’

The IPPR report calls for ‘dialogue with non-violent political Islamist parties and movements [as] an urgent priority for the Obama administration and its allies, including the UK, as key to achieving long-term stability in the region.

‘Such groups also often represent the best organised and most popular opposition to existing authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. To date, western contact with these groups has been sporadic rather than strategic, limited by concerns about their views on particular social and religious issues. This approach must change if a more constructive form of engagement is to emerge.’

The view echoes one of the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs select committee, that the British Government begin to engage with Hamas, in similar vein to its policy on engaging with Hizbullah.

Andy Hull, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR, said:

The West has spent decades paying lip service to the idea of political freedoms while simultaneously propping up authoritarian leaders who lack democratic legitimacy across the region. This approach has hindered much-needed political reform.  

“Seeking by peaceful means a more plural politics in the Middle East and North Africa is in keeping with the UK’s interests and with its values.

The IPPR report recommends that Governments:

  • Rethink their political strategy for engaging with non-violent Islamic political parties and movements across the Middle East and North Africa, and be more proactive in creating channels for serious and sustained dialogue with them
  • Engage with the political as well as the religious values of Islamic political parties and movements
  • Be more even-handed in condemning all human rights abuses in the Middle East and North Africa, including those perpetrated against members of Islamic movements by the region’s authoritarian regimes
  • Display greater consistency in pressing authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa to open up their political systems. 

Access the full report here and on the IPPR website.

Let’s hope that Ivan Lewis, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the Middle East, who so disgracefully criticised Ken Livingstone for interviewing Khalid Mish’al, is among those that take note of this new report and its sensible recommendations.


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