Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, has launched a strong attack on Islamic culture, saying it was authoritarian, inflexible and under-achieving.
In a speech that will upset sensitive relations between faiths, George Carey denounced moderate Muslims for not unequivocally condemning the evil of suicide bombers.
In a lecture in Rome this week, Lord Carey attacked the absence of democracy in Muslim countries and suggested that they had contributed little of major significance to world culture for centuries.
He said most Muslims were peaceful people who should not be demonised. But terrorist acts such as the September 11 attacks on the United States and the Madrid bombings raised difficult questions.
He was not convinced by arguments that Islam and democracy were incompatible, citing the example of Turkey.
He urged Europeans and Americans to resist claims that Islamic states were morally, spiritually and culturally superior.
“Although we owe much to Islam handing on to the West many of the treasures of Greek thought, the beginnings of calculus, Aristotelian thought during the period known in the West as the Dark Ages, it is sad to relate that no great invention has come for many hundred years from Muslim countries,” he said.
While Christianity and Judaism had a long history of often painful critical scholarship, Islamic theology was only now being challenged to become more open to examination.
He said moderate Muslims must resist strongly the taking over of Islam by radical activists and express strongly, on behalf of the many millions of their co-religionists, their abhorrence of violence done in the name of Allah.
“We look to them to condemn suicide bombers and terrorists who use Islam as a weapon to destabilise and destroy innocent lives,” he said.
“Sadly, apart from a few courageous examples, very few Muslim leaders condemn, clearly and unconditionally, the evil of suicide bombers who kill innocent people.”
Christians, who shared many admirable moral values with Muslims, such as respect for the family, must speak out against the persecution they often encountered in Muslim countries.
The former archbishop, who initiated several top-level meetings between Christian and Islamic leaders during his term, urged the West to tackle the Palestinian problem and other inequalities in the Muslim world.
“It will do us little good if the West simply believes the answer is to put an end to Osama bin Laden. Rather we must put an end to conditions, distortions and misinformation that create Osama bin Laden and his many emulators,” he said.