Since 11 September 2001 (9/11) there has been a sea change in relations between Islam and the non-Muslim world, fed by the fear of a cataclysmic clash of civilisations and a war of religions. The devastating attacks by Muslim terrorists from al-Qaeda on the USA evoked not just condemnation of the violence but also a wave of sympathy for Muslims around the world, with Christians and many others in the West pointing out that most Muslims had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and asserting that their religion is peaceful.

The leaders of both the US and the UK governments, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, began to re-define the nature of violence and the threat posed by Islamic terrorism. They concluded in effect that there was no such thing as Islamic terrorism and that al-Qaeda was a heretical strain of Islam, a "virus" that had to be isolated, defeated and eradicated from mainstream Islam. Government policies in the two countries sought therefore to strengthen the institutions of Islam, driven by the rationale that the Muslim community should be brought into the mainstream wherever possible so as to prevent its radicalisation.

Following 9/11 many governments, the UN, the World Economic Forum and the OIC have been conducting interreligious and intercivilisational dialogues globally. These have enhanced the role of religion, and especially of Islam, in international affairs. Religion is thus becoming an instrument in the hands of politicians everywhere.

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