By John J. Metzler
September 27, 2013
The Somali linked terrorist carnage perpetuated in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall killing 70 innocent bystanders, the attacks on a Pakistani church in Peshawar by Taliban fighters murdering at least 75 worshippers, and the consistent harassment of Christians in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood militants, offer stark and stunning subjective evidence of Islamist militants perpetuating violence.
As the United Nations General Assembly meets for its annual Debate, the specter of terrorism hangs like a foreboding cloud. Last year it was Benghazi this year Nairobi.
But beyond perfunctory condemnation of terrorism in all its latest atrocities, few speakers have tried to truly delve into the philosophical roots of the violence.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II offered a searingly poignant analysis into the issues facing the Middle East. Speaking before the Assembly on the widening Syrian crisis, Abdullah stated, “Extremists have rushed to promote and exploit ethnic and religious divisions.”
He added importantly that one hundred eminent Muslim scholars in the Amman Message, stated, “The modern Islamic state should uphold equality, across the ethnic and religious spectrum. The scholars decisively condemned the incitement of ethnic and sectarian conflict (Fitna).”
Significantly, King Abdullah advised, “Jordan has called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt these recommendations, which are critical guiding principles amid the turbulence and transformation across our region.”
Equally the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan convened a meeting to “address the challenges to Arab Christian communities.” As the King stressed, “They are an essential part of our region’s past, present and future.” He added, “Jordan has been a model of coexistence and fraternity among Muslims and Christians.”
Significantly King Abdullah stated, “We will do out utmost to protect our Arab Christian communities and minorities.”
As an uncomfortable neighbour of Syria, Jordan who has faced a deluge of refugees; as the King stated, “The flow of Syrian refugees into Jordan already equals one-tenth of our own population. It could reach one million, some 20% of our population, by next year.”
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak presented an interesting philosophical challenge to militants within the Muslim world. In comments at New York’s prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, the Prime Minister stressed his “Global Movement of Moderates,” a plan which calls upon all major religions to “censure and reject their own extremists.”
“The problem is not between Christians, Muslims and Jews, but between extremists and moderates,” Prime Minister Razak stressed. He called on countries to “choose moderation and reject fanaticism.”
While abhorring a “circle of violence” in many parts of the world, he called on leaders to “be bold and occupy centre stage and the high moral ground.”
Yes, but squaring the circle of violence poses a near Herculean socio/political challenge. While I concede that a majority of people even in violence-prone places such as Pakistan and perhaps even Somalia may well be peaceful and moderate, this does not stop a fanatical, well-armed, and motivated minority from intimidation and perpetuating terrorist violence.
Speaking of violent forces in Islam, Razak added “These people have hijacked Islam to achieve political objectives.” I would agree; indeed political Islam nurtured and sustained the bloody Iranian Revolution in 1979 and its ensuing radicalism and indeed geopolitical destabilization to this day. Moreover, what of the vicious intra-Islamic violence between Shia and Sunni factions?
While Malaysia is largely a moderate Islamic and increasingly well-off country, the political fault lines in that Southeast Asian land are primarily ethnic, namely the Malay majority’s relations with the more prosperous Chinese minority.
As Razak told an audience in Kuala Lumpur the capital, “Malaysia has long been synonymous not with extremism but with moderation, tolerance and inclusively. In a predominantly Muslim country with substantives communities of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Taoists and Sikhs, we know well the ‘dignity of difference.”
Here’s the challenge; can or will the hardened militants of the Taliban, Somalia’s Al- Shabab, or a number of sprouting Al Qaida affiliates the world over, for a moment suddenly choose to put down their Kalashnikov’s and willingly become model moderate citizens?
John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defence issues. He writes weekly for WorldTribune.com. He is the author of Transatlantic Divide; USA/Euroland Rift (University Press, 2010).