Listen to Khatami

IRAN’S former president Mohammad Khatami couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate forum and time to appeal for calm and dialogue between his country and US.

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Published: Wed 13 Sep 2006, 8:49 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:29 PM

The former president, speaking to a select audience at Harvard University, has called for bridging the gulf between Muslim world and the West, especially between Iran and US, at a time when the two countries are locked in a dangerous battle of nerves. While Iran refuses to climb down on the issue of nuclear programme, US is threatening ‘tough’ action against Teheran, if it doesn’t fall in line.

Which is why Khatami’s voice of sanity is so invaluable and makes so much sense. The Iranian leader, known as a moderate and reformist, has cautioned against all violence in the name of religion or democracy: "One shouldn’t engage in violence in the name of any religion, just as one should not turn the world into one’s military camp in the name of democracy." Pearls of wisdom there!

But are the two sides prepared to let good sense prevail? Earlier this week, President Bush striking a rare note of reconciliation showed his interest in "learning more about Iran" pointing out that he personally signed off on the former Iranian president’s visit to US. On the other hand, Iran has — despite the noises to the contrary it regularly makes — signalled its willingness to engage the US on Iraq and other areas of mutual concern. In fact, with the US moving next door, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Teheran and Washington are bound to compromise, if not cooperate, with each other. Of course, it would be a while before such a relationship takes a definite shape.

But this is not just limited to the US-Iran relations. The issue at the heart of this debate is the larger and growing chasm between the Muslim world and the West. Unfortunately, in spite of endless academic brainstorming over the issue in recent times, no meaningful steps have been taken by either side to reach out to each other addressing mutual concerns. But since it’s the Muslim world that largely and rightly sees itself as having been at the receiving end for ages, the West may have to go the extra mile to address this overwhelming historical sense of alienation and persecution.

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