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Ignorance over Islam and Muslims must end

ONCE again I see a non-Muslim Westerner attempt a grotesque misrepresentation of Islam. David Ireland (Write Back, May 20) is portraying Muslims with his own very narrow and undoubtedly self-indoctrinated interpretation of Islam.

I have lived in the Middle East for extended periods of time. I speak Arabic with some proficiency. I have also studied the history of the Middle East enough to note that geopolitics plays a massive role in the rise of Islamist extremism and conservative Islam.

Also, to put it bluntly, I see absolutely no refutation of substance from David Ireland. He can remain blind to the fact that what we say and do here in the West does impact upon the attitudes, actions and political views of Middle Eastern people on the ground.

It's easy for people sitting safely in the West to make these kinds of statements about Islam and Muslims, because they don't take the flak when extremists decide to take it out on innocent local communities.

We have a choice before us: we can continue discussing decontextualised sections of the Koran, misinterpreting them and making assumptions of how Muslims follow their own religion, or we can have dialogue with different Muslim communities, support indigenous human rights groups and cross-community inter-faith groups who do a huge amount of work on the ground. We need to start having genuine, progressive debates about these subjects.

GARY SPEDDING

Belfast

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