(CNSNews.com) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai is asking whether an increase in radicalism across an Islamic world “in turmoil” is the result of the U.S.-led campaign against terror. In a speech on Sunday, he said the U.S. “needs to explain itself” to Muslims.
In a series of veiled criticisms posed in the form of questions, Karzai in an address to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar put the onus on the West to clarify its intentions in its dealings with the Islamic world.
After summarizing progress made in Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban – for which he said the Afghan people were grateful to the U.S. and other allies – Karzai said that was only “one side of the story.” The other side, he said, had to do with “the war on terror as it began in 2001 and as it moved forward until today.”
“By waging this war on terrorism, have we brought less radicalism in the Muslim world, or have we caused more radicalism in the Muslim world?” he asked. “The argument is definitely that the Muslim world has seen more radicalism – from Pakistan to Afghanistan, all the way to Mali and Nigeria.”
“Is this an unintended consequence of the war on terror, as some would argue? Or was this intended by the United States and the West, as some others would argue? In my view, the West – as led by the United States – needs to explain itself to the Muslim world.”
After an aside to chide the U.S. for not taking a position viewed as impartial in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Karzai continued in similar vein.
“Is the war on terror really against terrorism? If it is, and if it has caused more radicalism among the Muslims – especially among the youth – then something has gone wrong. Have we implemented it correctly? Questions must be asked.
“And if there is an increasing view among youth in the Muslim world that radicalism is actively promoted by the West, the question is why, and for what purpose? If this is not the intention of the West, then the West has to explain to the Muslim world if things have gone wrong,” he continued. “And a corrective course for action must be taken.”
“If we in the Muslim world are wrong about our perception of what the Western intention is in the Muslim world, then it is for the Western world to explain to us their intentions and objectives.”
The annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Qatar’s foreign ministry. Past participants have included then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton although Secretary of State John Kerry did not take part this year (he did attend in the past in his capacity as U.S. senator.)
Instead the administration was represented by undersecretary for public affairs Tara Sonenshine, who in her own remarks shortly before Karzai’s speech quoted to the Afghan leader words by President Obama, “America, and many others, will stand with you. We have come too far, sacrificed too much and worked too hard to turn back now.”
In his speech, Karzai conceded that there is much Muslims need to correct in their own societies and governments, including showing more tolerance to others.
“But there is also a great deal of explanation, especially of good intentions by our Western friends, and by the United States – that today they are not looking to the Muslim world from the perspective of the colonial era, and that they wish the Muslim world well, and that this changed relationship will be one in which mutual interests will be kept in mind.”
Concluding, he said both the Western and Islamic worlds had much to do.
“From Palestine and the aspiration of its people, to the wellbeing of Muslims around the world, and to us working together, to removing the causes of radicalism in Muslim societies, and to correcting Islamophobia in the West, there is plenty for us to do …”
Brookings Institution vice-president Martin Indyk thanked Karzai for his address.
“That’s what we call in the United States a message of tough love,” Indyk said. “But I highly appreciate the way in which you gave both the United States and the Islamic world our equal share of explaining to do.”
Other speakers at the opening session of the forum, which runs through Tuesday, included Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who took issue with U.S. policies towards the Palestinians.
President Obama in his speech in Cairo in 2009 and at the U.N. General Assembly the following year had “raised expectations among the entire Muslim world for the long-awaited establishment of a Palestinian state,” Ihsanoglu said.
“As President Barack Obama enters his second term in office, it is time to exercise determined leadership to fulfill his call for better relations with the Muslim world.”
The OIC comprises the world’s 57 Islamic or Muslim-majority states.