Prime Minister’s speeches/Iraq
Put that the Prime Minister had said in his speech last week that there were some people who just couldn’t get past Iraq, and was he concerned that that seemed to include an awful lot of Muslims in Indonesia, the PMOS said: no, there was a difference. That was apparent both in the meeting with the religious leaders, and in the school. There was a difference between people who wanted to express a) their opposition to Iraq; and b) those who had asked for an explanation on Iraq, and on the other hand, a willingness to engage to try and make sure that such misunderstandings did not happen in the future.
The Prime Minister had said at the meeting with the religious leaders that the danger was always that the West and Islam talk past each other, rather than to each other. The religious leaders however, all of whom had read his speech, agreed that this was not a clash of civilisations, but a clash about civilisations. They also, whether it was the President, whether it was the religious leaders, or indeed in the school, underlined that they recognised that we had distinguished between moderate Islam, which was opposed to terrorism, and those extremists who tried to exploit Islam. The key theme was that yes, we had to take security measures, so here in Indonesia we were talking about stepping up co-operation with the police on counter-terrorism and so on, but we also had to try and push forward on issues such as Israel and Palestine, and they recognised that the Prime Minister was trying to do that.
Asked what did the Prime Minister say when the moderate Muslim leaders said that the presence of British troops in Iraq was actually fuelling terrorism, not defeating it, the PMOS replied that they didn’t actually say that. What they wanted to know was why were we still in Iraq. The answer to that, as the Prime Minister had said, was because first and foremost, the democratically elected government of Iraq wanted us to be there. Secondly, there was a UN mandate, and had been for two years, to be there. What the Prime Minister had said at the school was that there was a view, which was represented among Muslim opinion, which said we shouldn’t be in Iraq. There was a view that we had which was that we should be in Iraq, but what mattered was actually the view of the Iraqis themselves. They had expressed that view, 12 million of them, in democratic elections in which those who supported Saddam were free to stand and express their view. Very few did, and even fewer got support, and the democratically elected representatives of Iraq, whether they are Sunni, Shia or Kurd, all wanted us to stay for the time being. Therefore that is the policy.
Briefing took place at 6:00 | Search for related news
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