“Missing the Forest for the Trees” (RELS 348)

The Malaysian Insider article, “The Conflation of Religion in Geopolitical Conflict,” written by Zairil Khir Johari, challenges its audience to consider all contributing aspects of a conflict, and to prohibit themselves from holding a one-sided, ideological viewpoint. “When attempting to make sense of geopolitical conflict, it is often too tempting to apply simplistic ideological labels, such as Sunni versus Shia, Islam versus the West, or democracy versus communism, as if it was predetermined that certain races, civilizations and ideologies were naturally irreconcilable” (Johari, 2015).

This article, which was written on March 22, 2015, discusses how conflicts are commonly looked at from a single sided, one-dimensional view often articulated through societal labels and ideologies (Johari, 2015). The article analyses the one-dimensional views of the Vietnam War. One common view of Vietnam War is that it was a conflict strictly between the communists and the democrats (Johari, 2015). Another distinct view of this conflict is that it was a “resistance against perceived Western imperialists” (Johari, 2015). As Johari (2015) states, there must be an understanding of the differences in meaning associated with conflicts in order to shape a true understanding of them. Furthermore, “efforts should be made to appreciate the underlying historical and political dynamics involved” (Johari, 2015).

Another situation that has been subjected to various viewpoints are the conflicts occurring in the Middle East, which have “been beset by violent and continuous conflicts ranging from deadly genocide to popular revolutions” (Johari, 2015). There are many contributing factors to this conflict, including, the Arab world being poorly developed, the population lacking education and literacy, very little effort from Western nations to fix these conditions, oppression of the Kurds, and the territorial disputes associated with the formation of the state of Israel (Johari, 2015). Johari (2015) clarifies that through this example it can be seen that there are multiple factors that contribute to the development of a conflict, and that there are rarely, if ever, two distinct opposing sides (Johari, 2015). Johari (2015) summarizes with a statement conveying the importance of understanding all underlying causalities of a conflict and not just the one-dimensional ideology identified by a specific society – “Therefore, it is instructive that when discussing any kind of geopolitical conflict that we take great care to ensure we do not conflate its underlying causes with its apparent ideology” (Johari, 2015).

An example of this one-dimensional and one-sided perspective can be identified through “Orientalism” (RELS 348). As discussed in lecture, Edward Said’s teachings on Orientalism highlight that imperialism had a grand impact on cultural politics, which led to a denunciation of Western ideology that exhibited prejudice and discrimination regarding the East (RELS 348). As Edward Said stated, “[Orientalism is], the influence of imperialism on cultural politics, denouncing a prejudiced westernized perception of “the East”” (Loper, 2015). As stated in lecture, Orientalism not only creates these prejudices through politics, but also through the portals of the media and academics (RELS 348). Johari (2015) furthers this Orientalist argument by stating “either way, it fits the narrative of Islam as a belligerent religion and its follows as warmongers.” I personally agree with Loper (2015) who highlights the importance of addressing the risk taking discourse present within our society. It is important that all individuals and societies are exposed to all contributing variables and existing viewpoints of a conflict, and not just to particular ideologies. Through this, society may be able to decrease the degree of conflict, such as the current tension between the Islamic East and the West.

#CML #uwrels #uwreligions 

Works Cited

Loper, J. (2015, 03, 25). Challenging ethnocentric visions of orientalism,” The Link. Retrieved From: http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/6941

Johari, Z. (2015, 03, 22). “The conflation of religion in geopolitical conflict,” The Malaysia Insider. Retrieved From: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/opinion/zairil-khir-johari/article/the-conflation-of-religion-in-geopolitical-conflict


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