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Dominic Asquith

HMA, Cairo
Posted 15 July 2009 by Dominic Asquith | Comments
The brutal murder of Marwa el Sherbini in a German court has brought moving messages of condolence for her family and real anger at an act of pure evil.  The murderer was consumed by violent intolerance.  The debate over whether to define the act as one of racism or religious hate or an assault on human rights seems to me to disregard the human tragedy.  The murder was unspeakable, the personal grief unbearable.  Quite rightly, German leaders have made clear there is no place for xenophobia or Islamophobia in Germany.  

The way that some have reacted to the murder, however, deeply troubles me because it is (perhaps unintentionally) creating conditions for a more vicious cycle of distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims. To conclude from Marwa’s death that the whole West is Islamophobic cannot be right.  I know from personal dealings with my own political leaders how untrue that is.  They continually try to find ways to create the conditions for building trust.  They sincerely and passionately believe it.  To call for dialogue between the faiths to be closed down cannot be right either.  Now more than ever there needs to be trust and respect – and that can only come from understanding and therefore contact.  

I spent most of last night with an extraordinary group of people engaged in humanitarian work around the world.  They came from different faiths and were extremely devout. But what chiefly motivated them was to reinforce the point that the concept of humanitarian assistance was not a “western” but a common principle. One of them told me how he had succeeded over the past decade in ensuring, for example, that Christian Aid, Caritas and Islamic Relief had been contributing funds to each other’s projects – madrasas in Asia or schools in Central America.

At the heart of this lies the requirement to change mindsets.  It is not easy to get rid of personal prejudices or to be honest about one’s own faults.  My question to you who read this is: how do we best do this in a way that builds trust? Please send me your ideas.

Dominic Asquith
15 July 2009

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A blog about the work of the British Ambassador to Egypt.

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