Path to peace

The rift between the West and the Muslim world is deepening and becoming more dangerous every day, so a new initiative from the United Nations that provides a framework for resolving the conflict is welcome.

Prepared by the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN-sponsored committee of 20 world leaders from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, the report offers an analysis of the causes of the rift as well as approaches for healing it.

It notes that the key reasons for the split are political, not religious, in nature, and chief among them is the Arab-Israeli conflict. “No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield,” UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said at a news conference.

The report calls for an international conference on the Middle East peace process as soon as possible, along with other steps designed to foster a way out of the current impasse. It also calls on ruling parties in the Muslim world to expand political pluralism and calls on foreign governments to be consistent in their support of pluralism by, for example, respecting the outcome of elections.

Just as important, the report puts forward a range of concrete proposals in the areas of education, media, youth and migration “to build bridges and promote a culture of respect among Western and Muslim communities.”

Whether the report will have an impact or just gather dust is will depend on Middle Eastern governments and those in positions to influence them. The report is available at If you think it’s worth reading, let your congressional representatives know.