Albright: Beware the Religious Divide

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has lived a life steeped in politics, diplomacy and religion.

In her new book, "The Mighty and the Almighty," she argues that it is crucial to understand how religion affects the world.

Albright, who served as secretary during President Clinton's second term, immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia when she was 11 and became a U.S. citizen when she was 20. Her father, Josef Korbel, was a professor of international relations at the University of Colorado and taught current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice, Albright said, was her father's favorite student.

"I think it's kind of amazing that this Czechoslovakian immigrant actually trained two women secretaries of state," said Albright, who believes that illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship.

Although both secretaries were close to Korbel, Rice went on to become a Republican and work for the Bush administration, whose policies sometimes strongly clash with Albright's views.

"I think that what President Bush did after 9/11 was exactly right," she said. "I think he rallied the world and frankly, there was agreement with us across the board because people would say they were not on the side of those who had flown airplanes into the twin towers. But when President Bush asked people to be for everything that America does -- Iraq, Abu Ghraib, various aspects of the way we've been conducting our policy -- then he narrowed the number of countries that can be for us."

A Religious Divide

Albright, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997, said that she did not believe in a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, but that there were "serious differences in the way people regard religion."

When she became the first female secretary of state in 1997, Albright said that there were no Muslims serving in senior positions in the government.

"We did not know enough [then] about how the future was going to be regarded as a religious divide," she said.

Today, the world is facing the most chaotic situation Albright said she had ever seen. To fix it, Albright said, America needs to reach out to religious moderates.

"The religions themselves, all of them, can only be changed from within, not from imposition from without," Albright said. "Our diplomats have to understand the role of religion. They have to be trained. We have to use religious leaders in helping solve problems."

Another way to start to end the conflict is to fight poverty, Albright said.

"In some of the great battle grounds like Africa, where Muslims are making inroads, you can't combat 1.3 billion people and their message without answering the needs of the people," she said.

While the world seems divided along religious lines, the United States is also divided between right and left. Albright said the two parties needed to come together.

"We have many ideas in common, especially in America," she said. "I have had a very interesting set of conversations with [U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback]. We have found issues that we can work on together. This rally for Darfur [Sudan] is a very interesting thing that happened. There were right and left, Christians and Jews and Muslims there together."