Middle East analyst Tom Gross brings to my attention this news snippet from Qatar:
The Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most respected figures in Sunni Islam, refused to attend the inter-faith dialogue conference that opened in Doha last week on the grounds that Jewish representatives had been invited. “I decided not to participate so I wouldn’t sit at the same platform alongside Jews,” Qaradawi told the “Al-Arab” daily of Qatar.
Al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood acolyte, has become one of the most famous clerics in the Sunni world because of his gig as the main religion go-to guy for Al Jazeera. For many in the West, he is a “moderate,” and indeed was once welcomed into the United Kingdom on those grounds, despite his infamous endorsement of suicide attacks in the wake of 9/11.
Some analysts insist on describing the Arab-Israeli conflict as the core grievance in the Middle East. Anything else is tangential, the thinking goes, until diplomats can force Israel to make enough concessions to the Palestinians and perhaps other Arabs in order to bring peace. Once the grievance is addressed, the reason for terrorism and Islamic radicalism will fade away.
For many in the region, however, the problem is not Israel but rather the existence of non-Muslims and especially Jews in the region and beyond. In October 2002, for example, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah quipped, “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Qaradawi’s refusal to participate in an interfaith discussion in an Arab country if Jews were present is yet one more exhibit of the core problem in the region: Islamist intolerance and not only the silence of the United States in confronting it, but the willingness of U.S. diplomats to look away in order to avoid creating an obstacle to a dialogue which—despite their wildest ambitions—will never bear fruit.
It will take a generation or more to have any impact, but until the United States puts educational reform and combating religious incitement front and center of its policy in the region, any other diplomacy is just wasted effort and ineffective against a growing tidal wave of intolerance and hate.