On Religion and Violence

Jihadists carrying rockets.

Masked Palestinian militants with homemade rockets in the outskirts of Gaza City. Image: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/Flickr

This article was originally published by Contending Modernities, a blog hosted by the University of Notre Dame, on 25 November, 2014. It is part of Contending Modernities’ “Deadly Violence and Conflict Transformation” series.

The rise of ISIL and the so-called Islamic State in 2014 has given prominence to discussions of religious violence in the media, with much emphasis placed on questions of the relationship between Islam and violence. In his speech to the nation on 10 September 2014, President Obama restated his longstanding view that no one who commits violent atrocities in the name of religion can be considered an authentic believer. Similarly, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium affirms that in the face of “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Others, however, have responded negatively to such statements, citing, violence in the Qur’an, religious leaders who have promoted violence, and contemporary and historical cases of religious violence linked to Islam. » More

Religious Leaders Countering Extremist Violence: How Policy Changes Can Help

Church and Mosque in Beirut. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on 31 October 2014.

As the militant group calling itself “Islamic State” stormed across northern Iraq and Syria in recent months, prominent imam Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah and more than 100 other Muslim leaders flew into action, drafting a condemnation of the insurgent group’s actions with an appeal to Islamic jurisprudence. In Burma (Myanmar), as Muslims have faced persecution from Buddhist extremists, some Buddhist monks offer shelter in their monasteries. In Nigeria, the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram this year prompted Muslim and Christian leaders like Pastor Esther Ibanga to organize peaceful demonstrations to oppose extremist violence. » More

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The Sovereign Nation-State as a Contributor to Terrorism

Terrorist attack in Baghdad. Image: Jim Gordon/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 25 October 2014.

The current crises associated with terrorism notwithstanding, in particular the shocking acts by individuals in the beheading of civilians as acts of revenge, there are issues with regard to the nation-state and its role in the ‘shaping’ of terrorism that have remained undisclosed. The active participation of individuals and/or groups and their forming of a reaction to the nation-state is what has remained at the forefront of the commentary. By its very nature, the focus on the reaction implies a dyad: the perpetual reinforcement of the nation-state as being just and reasonable, and that those who react against the nation-state and its laws/wisdoms are criminals. Hence, there has been no comment with regard to the ‘process’ – such as the systemic brutalisation of a populace as encountered by the ‘Marsh Peoples’ of southern Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime, which caused them to rise up after the First Gulf War. To wit, governments need not acknowledge their role in creating terrorists, and terrorism. However, placing terrorism in perspective with regard to the nation-state provides a useful template and guide to what it consists ‘of.’ » More

If You Liked Vietnam, You’ll Love the War With the Islamic State

Helicopter patrol over the Mekong Delta. Image: Manhai/Flickr

This article was originally published by Small Wars Journal on 12 September, 2014.

Vietnam analogies are often overused, particularly by people who want to stay out of a proposed war or get us out of one we are fighting. Although I agree that the Islamic State, or whatever it is calling itself this week, must be dealt with militarily; the strategy with which the Obama administration is going about it is deeply disturbing and its basic elements bring vividly to mind the War in Vietnam which began in earnest when I was in the Tenth Grade; American involvement did not end until I was a senior Marine Corps First Lieutenant in 1973. I am not yet senile enough to have forgotten key details. » More

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Killing of al-Shabaab Leader Throws Future of Militant Group into Question

Al Shabaab War Flag. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 September, 2014.

On September 1, the leader of the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US-led drone strike in an al-Shabaab stronghold in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. The drone strike coincided with an ongoing military offensive launched August 25 by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government forces in southern and central Somalia, dubbed Operation Indian Ocean. » More

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