The misuse of religion is an ongoing challenge, conference told

By Brian Cooper

 

TERRORISM, community violence and wars involving non-state groups are likely to persist as long as gross inequality and economic injustice afflict much of the world, says Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University.

Addressing the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality and Peace on ‘Risks of Conflict and Peace Options in the 2020s’, he stated while Muslim extremist jihadism was the major current threat, “misuse of faith for violence by extreme elements is a danger in all world religions” – exemplified by Hindu extremism against other faiths and Myanmar Buddhist violence against the Rohinga Muslims.

The West was adequately aware of the crucial significance of the Israel-Palestine dispute for peace. “We need to understand that right across Middle East, this issue is seen as crucial for peace in the region and more widely.”

Yet religious extremism acted against a solution: in USA, Christian Zionists with millennial beliefs lobbied against solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, while in Israel extreme Zionists urged expulsion of all Palestinians to east of the Jordan.

While Isis and al-Qaeda had largely been defeated militarily in Middle East, their extreme Islamist ideologies maintained an appeal among the marginalised.

The ongoing war between Isis and al-Qaeda affiliates and US and French forces in sub-Saharan Africa was little reported.Isis and similar groups were “a revolt from the margins”, misusing faith to attract the alienated and deprived, he said.

In current global political instability and economic division and uncertainty, “religion, nationalism and ethnicity can come together in extreme programmes” promoted by authoritarian and populist leaders.

He cited Indian Prime Minister Modi of India, who appealed to the country’s poor masses by playing on fervent Hinduism and nationalism, promising the greatness of a new ‘Hindu India’.

Professor Rogers stressed such extremist perversions of faith were likely to persist until today’s neo-liberal capitalism were reformed to increase economic equality and justice.

 

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