Friday, May 1, 2015

A Toolkit for Combatting Extremism in the Middle East

In his Harvard International Law Journal Commentary, “Saving an Ancient Community,” Jonathan A. Pride argues for a three-prong strategy to save Iraq’s ancient Christian community, now on the brink of extinction. His strategy consists of the following three-point plan:

1. The Iraqi government should act to deconstruct the “other” identity of Christians by enacting constitutional changes providing for equal protection and implementing the post-ethnic conflict reintegration methods that were effective in the Balkans;
2. The Christian area in the Kurdistan Nineveh Plain should be given a “safe zone” status, allowing villages to assemble local police forces to ensure security; and

3. The international community must invest in and help rebuild Iraq’s economy to help keep repatriation open as a viable option for Christians that have fled Iraq.

In addition to Mr. Pride’s suggestions for combatting the extinction of Christians in Iraq, I argue in favor of one additional, under-utilized tool: Islamic law. Because sectarian Islamic armed groups refuse to acknowledge the validity of non-Islamic international humanitarian law, there is a critical need for peace-loving Muslims to engage these armed groups from within the framework of Islamic law, the very system they claim to implement. This can be achieved by Islamic scholars and Imams, operating from within the framework of Islamic law, challenging armed groups’ interpretations of the sacred texts they use to justify attacks on Christians and other civilians, debating the apologists of jihād and highlighting the discrepancies between these armed groups’ acts and the acts strictly forbidden by Islamic law, including looting, the mutilation of corpses and the murder of non-combatants in times of war.

A full discussion of my Commentary has been published by the DesmondTutu Peace Foundation.

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