Religion as Conflict Creation instead of Conflict Resolution
Currently in the Middle East there is a large movement taking place by a group known as ISIS – previously ISIL (Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant). ISIS is an unrecognized state and a Sunni Jihadist group. They are self proclaimed Caliphate, which is an Islamic state led by a supreme religious leader known as a Caliph, who is the supposed successor to Muhammad. While ISIS has been around for quite some time, they have recently been the center stage of world affairs due to extreme measures of brutality and insurgency in the Middle East. The ISIS group claims authority over all Muslims across the world and aims to bring most Muslim inhabited regions of the world under one political control. ISIS was previously known as a group close to al-Qaeda until February 2014 when al-Qaeda cut all ties due to the group’s rising brutality and infamous intractability. While ISIS movements are in a current spotlight they are certainly not the first large extremist and exclusivist religious group to take a “them and us” mentality to create the divide that allows religion to kill in it’s name.
When issues such as this arise shouldn’t we be promoting the movement of secularist states? Doesn’t secularism in many societies ease the realm of religious and ethnic conflict? Dr. Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq makes point in his article “Bridging the Gap between World Religions” that the answer is not in dividing government and religion, so much as it is in increasing the dialogue between religions of the nations to bridge the gap among followers of all world religions thereby easing conflict.
Currently, religion is grounds for conflict creation, but maybe it should be used as a base for conflict resolution. He points out that the 20th century was dominated by politics of ideology, while the 21st century has been dominated by politics of identity. The movement from ideology to identity brought religion into the center of many dimensions of the modern world. The consequences of extremists and exclusivists using religion for a basis of killing others shows us where we can expect the movement of religions to go in the 21st century.
Dr. Zia-Ul-Haq believes the real dichotomy of nations, ethnicities, and religious followers are between extremists/exclusivists, and inclusivists/pluralists. In efforts to bridge that gap the Republic of Kazakhstan has been putting forth great efforts with the formation of the Congress of World and Traditional Religions, since 2003. Together they believe that the modern day developments in science and technology requires “parallel progress in the relationship of followers of various religions and cultural traditions”. To do such there needs to be an increase of dialogue between religions. With this communication, nations can meet on matters important to all as well as saving the world from the clash of civilization. Without this bridge we will continue to see misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations of religious views creating world war conflicts and violence.
Unfortunately it is not clear to me that the nations of the world have reached this place of open communication between religious followers to be able to resolve the ISIS situation with dialogue. This will mean that conflict rising from religion will continue to be resolved with violence and powerful government intervention.