Our Shared Future: Building Coalitions and Winning Consent

The Rt Hon David Miliband, MP (Secretary of the State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom)
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Distinguished Lecture

The British Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP, was invited by the Centre to give a lecture at the Taylor Institution on 21st May on the topic, ‘Our Shared Future: Building Coalitions and Winning Consent’. Underpinning his talk was an awareness of the necessity for dialogue with Muslim-majority countries to establish shared goals.

He acknowledged that British history, from the times of the Crusades through the colonial period to the recent invasion of Iraq, may arouse distrust and resentment. Mr Miliband went on to point to the more positive examples of interchange and mutual contribution, in which cultures have come together to learn from one another.

Arguing for a deeper understanding of the Muslim world, and acknowledging that labels such as ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ are unhelpful, the Foreign Secretary proposed a template for people with diverse views to work together. He called for a broad coalition of states and political movements, and recognized that progress would involve citizens’ consent. 

The Foreign Secretary paid tribute to the Centre for its notable contribution to scholarship and debate in the UK. Referring to his tour of the Centre’s new building, he commented, “It is remarkable how distinctively Islamic the architecture is. Yet at the same time, the complex as a whole, with its towers, quadrangle, cloisters, and– eventually–gardens, is also distinctively Oxford.

When Edward Gibbon suggested in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that if Charles Martel had lost the battle of Poitiers, Oxford would have become an Al-Azhar of the Cotswolds, he could not imagine a future in which both Islamic and Christian institutions could coexist here by consent and through toleration. It can be so. It should be so.”