In a speech I made in Oxford some eight years ago I spoke of the dangers of ignorance and misunderstanding between the Islamic world and the West, and of the need for these two worlds to understand better the beliefs and values which can bind us together more powerfully than they need divide us.

In a speech I made in Oxford some eight years ago I spoke of the dangers of ignorance and misunderstanding between the Islamic world and the West, and of the need for these two worlds to understand better the beliefs and values which can bind us together more powerfully than they need divide us.

For we share as Moslems and Christians a powerful core of spiritual belief - in one divine God, in the transience of our earthly life, in our accountability for our actions, and in the assurance of life to come.

We also share many key social values in common: including a respect for knowledge and justice, compassion towards the poor and the underprivileged, and a respect for the importance of family life.

The West and Islam have a history which has often been closely bound up together. The tragedy - and the reality - is that both sides have so often seen that history as one of conflict and cruelty.

Both sides have suffered in their understanding because ignorance and prejudice, the extreme and the superficial, have hijacked our view of each other - and often for good reasons.

The point is not that either side has a monopoly of the truth, or can lay claim more exclusively to a picture which is more true. But the dangerous result of each side failing to understand the other is that misunderstandings are perpetuated, and can so easily degenerate into suspicion and hatred.

We need, above all, therefore, to appreciate how others look at the world, its history and our respective roles in it.

Just as we in the West need to understand the Islamic world better, so we must also understand - as part of that knowledge - the extent to which many Muslims genuinely fear our own Western materialism and mass culture as a deadly challenge to their own Islamic culture and way of life.

I spoke eight years ago of the urgent need for understanding and tolerance between Islam and the West, which seemed even at that time to be at something of a crossroads in their relations.

That need is even greater now, not only because of the threatening international circumstances in which we find ourselves, but also because of the worries and concerns which exist within Britain between different communities.

We need, therefore, to work ever harder on all sides to understand each other, and to lay this ghost of suspicion and fear if we are to create a better and safer world for future generations.