Summary - Those involved in the Northern Ireland peace process have often looked on with a sense of déjà vu, disbelief or perhaps, sometimes, even horror at many of the errors made by Government in the management of Muslim affairs in the UK and conflicts with Muslim states around the world. Internment and forces of liberation soon becoming forces of occupation come to mind. Critically a failure to identify and deal with the problems at the heart of such conflicts can lead to increased violence rather than a successful peace process. In this context the public opinion research commissioned by governments in the UK and elsewhere have not been used as an effective tool of conflict analysis and public diplomacy. Employing methods developed in Northern Ireland this 'peace poll' identifies both problems and solutions central to relations between the West and the Muslim World. Topics covered include: Islamophobia and the 'Clash of Civilizations'; discrimination and integration; the Muslim community; relations between the West and Muslim states; extremism and the 'War on Terror'; and Muslim alienation. The international complexity of this conflict makes it very difficult to solve. Fortunately this clear and obvious point of difficulty is compensated for by the fact that there is a great deal of consensus about the solutions to this problem, at least in the UK. Hopefully that consensus will be found to extend to other states so that an international consensus can be built around the essential elements of what must necessarily become a peace process.
Summary - Since the tragedy of 9/11 the US and her closest allies have been waging a campaign to win the hearts and minds of their respective people's in support of their 'War on Terror'. All protracted wars, if they are to succeed, require the undying support of their citizens and the 'War on Terror' is no exception. In the United Kingdom the Great Wars of the last century presented few ambiguities in this regard. However, two very distinct and opposing theses lay at the heart of this new public relations battle that can be characterised, on the one hand, as the 'Foreign Policy' thesis and on the other hand as the 'Radical Islamist' thesis. The 'Foreign Policy' thesis suggests that the failure to bring a just settlement to the Israel/Palestine conflict, continuing US involvement in the Middle East and, with her allies, the subsequent military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq are the primary cause of this ongoing conflict while the 'Radical Islamist' thesis explains the conflict in terms of such groups committed to wagging a war of terror against the US and her allies for largely ideological reasons associated with their belief that their vision and values are in some way superior to those of the west and should, at all costs, prevail to establish a new Islamic 'Golden Age' or Caliphate.
These two competing views of the 'War on Terror' have been the subject of unprecedented levels of public enquiry and debate since the events of 9/11 because these two competing views have profoundly different implications for the foreign policy of the US and her allies. Are their policies in the Middle East and through the 'War on Terror' fuelling that conflict or are they defeating it? That is the critical question that is being asked and a very great deal of public opinion research has quite rightly been undertaken in this context. Sometimes this is done in an effort to find an answer to this critical question, but, also, with apparent equal energy and effort this is sometimes done so as not to ask or answer this critical question and/or to support one thesis over the other.
This is particularly true in the UK since the events of the London bombings of 7/7. Another great tragedy that some have argued should have been foreseen and as a consequence have repeatedly asked for a full public enquiry. This paper critically examines the public opinion research undertaken in the UK since the events of 9/11 and suggests that the methods adopted in support of the successful Northern Ireland peace process should now be employed in an effort to help resolve the so called 'War on Terror'. The Northern Ireland conflict took more than a generation to solve. We are told that the 'War on Terror' may last as long. This protracted engagement, I would like to suggest, can be shortened by applying all the positive lessons from Northern Ireland including the lessons of objective public opinion research and its associated descriptive power as a tool for transparent independent conflict analysis and effective public diplomacy.
Downloads: Full paper, A Conflict in Search of a Peace Process