The Significance of Faith for War and Peace
The practice of faith is based on various dogmatic teachings and beliefs that bring people together. Such religions as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism command a significant following across cultures. Although religions can unite people, Beller illustrates that religious conspiracy and fundamentalism contribute to militarism and have a higher correlation with wars witnessed across the world (1). Accordingly, the author questions the link between the current militarism and dogmatic faith practices. Indeed, religious extremism has seen various armed conflicts and heinous acts against innocent citizens. Although faith-based traditions and beliefs are presented using well-developed principles, extremist teachings that lead to a conflict should be managed to reduce global wars.
Is Religion a Predictor of War and Crimes of Justice?
Faith teachings are expected to be firm inscriptions of morality and social justice in a community. Beller confirms that prayers, personal importance of God, age, education, and mosque attendance do not contribute towards militarism (2). Many people tend to view Islam and Muslims based on the practices or activities drawn from Iran or Saudi Arabia. Still, ideally, Islam has a global following and should be judged using a global approach (Esposito 5). According to Esposito, illegal activities are committed through religion, but spiritual leaders are often swift to exonerate the practices of faith from such crimes (6). For instance, when terrorists bombed the World Trade Center (WTO), many clerics denounced the acts and condoled the victims (Esposito 30). Notably, almost 358 Muslim professionals who worked in the building died, and their Muslim families significantly were affected (Esposito 30). Esposito argues that when people discuss faith, they should distinguish between founding religious principles or ideals and the activities or realities of followers (6). The author notes, “If a group of Jews or Christians had been responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center, few would have attributed it to the beliefs of mainstream Judaism or Christianity,” which is not the case with Islam (Esposito 6). Thus, the teachings of various faiths should not be held accountable for the actions of some of their followers.
The Catholic cleric sex abuse has been a subject of discussion for several decades. Sex crimes and the Catholic Church have become common in intrareligious discussions due to pedophilia and other forms of abuse perpetrated by clerics (Esposito 6). Accordingly, Islam has also faced similar labeling based on terrorism and other crimes (Esposito 6). However, the approach of Pope Francis to defrock ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick his priesthood rights is a measure that can manage the issue (Harlan). McCarrick was an influential archbishop of Washington who was accused of several cases of sexual abuse of children (Harlan). The statement from the Catholic Church found McCarrick guilty of two charges of “soliciting sex during confession and committing ‘sins’ with minors and adults ‘with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power’” (Harlan). Hence, if such efforts are applied across all religious platforms, fundamentalism and war crimes committed by members of various faiths can be managed.
American society largely perceives Islam as a pro-war religion with religious activism that embraces terrorism. Whereas some Americans accept Islam as a religion, the majority are skeptical about accommodating Muslims as citizens based on negative publicity from columnists, television, and other media platforms with large audiences (Esposito 20). Islam is illustrated as a threat to the Wet, especially when analyzed from the values and principles of tolerance, pluralism, and civil liberty (Esposito 20). Thus, the Muslim leadership should follow suit as the Catholic leadership has taken responsibility for crimes committed and made pledges for their resolution. Religions must rebuke acts of violence and war crimes by fundamentalists, accept responsibility, and manage the negative activities committed in the name of religion. Such actions will limit faith use for illegal actions and properly label perpetrators as criminals.
Politics plays a significant role in creating an enabling environment for religious practices to succeed. Vlas elucidates that religious insurgence thrives in an atmosphere of politicization of belief and traditions of faith (299). For instance, when Mazen Asbahi was attacked for serving on the board of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), he resigned as coordinator of President Obama’s campaign team, which links an influence of politics on religion (Esposito 20). It is significant that practices such as religious insurgency, fundamentalism, and terrorism committed from the perspectives of the Islam faith are managed as a model to delink heinous practices from religion, just as the Catholic faith has demonstrated.
Secularizing Religion Through Sociocultural Idealism
Islam faces significant attacks from Western social and political ideologies. Most Americans regard Muslims as foreigners and Islam as a foreign culture (Esposito 23). The actions of Muslims, such as wearing the hijab, removing of shoes during worship, and praying on Fridays, including the sporadic construction of mosques, are considered secular and non-Western practices (Esposito 23). Esposito avers that significant discussions about Islam border around abolishing the religion to gain acceptance in the American or European philosophies (23). Hence, Islam faces recognition challenges, which triggers religious fundamentalism (Esposito 23). The September 11 attacks, the collapse of the Oslo peace process, wars in the Middle East, and the several sporadic terrorist attacks in the world organized and committed by Muslims reinforce the belief that Islam is an inherently violent religion (Omar 67). Although many Muslims directly oppose this perspective, Omar indicates that the economic and sociopolitical environments Islam is associated with are extremely violent. Even Muslims agree that religion allows and legitimizes the use of violence under certain circumstances (68). According to various aspects mentioned above, Islam is linked to extremism, terrorism, and war, both from people’s perspectives and based on the dogmatic teachings of the faith.
Muslims in Western nations face a significant identity crisis. For example, Westerners and Muslims struggle to answer whether their identity is American Muslims or Muslims in America or if they belong to European Muslims or Muslims who live in Europe (Esposito 23). The identity challenge for Muslims should be managed to limit the consequential effects, which may result in violence and wars. The fragmentations in the religion have also contributed to religious violence and intolerance. According to Esposito, the split witnessed in Islam into various factions, such as Zaydi, Ismaili, and Ithna Ashari, brought different beliefs and ideologies that changed the approaches to theories and practices of faith (53). Whereas the five pillars of Islam are zakat, sawm, shahadah, salat, and hajj (“Lecture Notes 3”), the interpretation of the practices is influenced by the perceptions of spiritual rulers. Esposito asserts that Islamic reforms have developed a reasonable infrastructure that resonates with modern day generations (94). For example, changes in the approaches to devotion to God and traditional laws guiding inheritance, divorce, marriage, and contracts conform to modern cultural practices (Esposito 95). Such developments, also witnessed across Judeo-Christian practices, can change the perception of believers (Esposito 95). Thus, managing faith-based content for public consumption is important to correct systemic flaws that promote violence between groups with contrasting ideological positions.
Religion and Abuse of Rights as Pathways to War
Societal cohesion and peace are principles that exemplify religions. Basedau illustrates that the teachings and practices of Christianity and Islam do not promote radicalization, and they always favor peace (6). However, blends of sociopolitical cultures within countries are the leading causes of religious fundamentalism and war. Thus, inadequate infrastructure, such as weak governance, corruption, and lack of socioeconomic programs, lead to vulnerability and increase the possibility of radicalization (Basedau 6). Esposito acknowledges that unless political liberation is attained, radicalization, terrorism, and political instability will continue (155). Terrorism thrives through a culture of dishonest practices and human rights violations, which are forbidden by major religious teachings (Rausch 31). Therefore, enhancing cohesion among people and promoting political liberation are tools that will reduce war and radicalization.
In society, observation of rights, including women’s rights, can limit religious wars. It is essential to manage the prospects of war comprehensively. For example, Esposito explains that when American women were asked, “What do you admire least about the Muslim or Islamic world?” among the top responses was “gender inequality,” associated with veiling, female segregation, illiteracy, and powerlessness” (150). Accordingly, when women’s rights are enhanced within religious practices, the possibility of conflict is reduced. For instance, the majority of Baptists, Evangelicals, and Catholic faiths do not believe women can be priests, similar to the practice in Islam that limits women from attending congregational prayers and or becoming imams (Esposito 150). Therefore, when the world observes women’s rights and freedoms, including other interrelated practices, the occurrence of possible violence and wars are reduced.
As it is evident from the discussion, clerics may interpret the beliefs and practices of faith to suit followers’ situations. To resonate religion with peoples’ beliefs, ministers have advanced teachings that lead to war and radicalization. Religious fundamentalists interpret scripture in a way that dissolution the attainment of global peace. Therefore, to enhance peace and co-existence, it is important that all faiths take responsibility for heinous acts committed by their members. The move by the Catholic Church to suspend clerics found culpable of crimes is a significant approach that other faiths, such as Islam and Judaism, should undertake to manage the ideology of war on innocent people. Faith is a convener of people and illustrator of global harmony. Therefore, to advance faith-based beliefs and practices that enhance peace, religious fundamentalism and conspiracy beliefs should be denounced by global cultures since they cannot be accepted as sincere religious practices.
Governments and religious leaders should address extremism, radicalization, and crimes perpetrated by various faiths and protect innocent lives taken by religious wars and terrorism. Importantly, applying a generalization to faith-related crimes by opposing believers should be stopped. Christian, Jewish, and Islamic groups should be outlawed and prosecuted when they engage in heinous crimes. Balkanizing faith-based war crimes propagated by illegal movements spreads the risks beyond the main culprits. Violence extremism must be tackled collectively, and religion should take responsibility to ensure the secure processing of such delinquents.
Basedau, Matthias. “The Rise of Religious Armed Conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa: No Simple Answers.” German Institute of Global and Area Studies, vol. 12, no. 4, 2017, pp. 1-13, www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/53174/ssoar-2017-basedau-The_Rise_of_Religious_Armed.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&lnkname=ssoar-2017-basedau-The_Rise_of_Religious_Armed.pdf. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.
Beller, Johannes. “Religion and Militarism: The Effects of Religiosity, Religious Fundamentalism, Religious Conspiracy Belief, and Demographics on Support for Military Action.” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, vol. 23, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-4. ResearchGate, doi.10.1037/pac0000250
Esposito, John L. The Future of Islam. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Harlan, Chico. “Ex-cardinal McCarrick Defrocked by Vatican for Sexual Abuse” The Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/ex-cardinal-mccarrick-defrocked-by-vatican-for-sexual-abuse/2019/02/16/0aa365d4-2e2c-11e9-8ad3-9a5b113ecd3c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2152dd2db6c6. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.
Omar, A. Rashied. “Islam and Violence Revisited.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, vol. 52, no. 1, 2017, pp. 67-78, www.researchgate.net/profile/Rashied_Omar/publication/316923697_Islam_and_Violence_Revisited/links/59198847aca2722d7cfdccf4/Islam-and-Violence-Revisited.pdf. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.
Rausch, Cassandra Christina. “Fundamentalism and Terrorism.” Journal of Terrorism Research, vol. 6, no. 2, 2015, pp. 28-35, www.research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10023/7143/Rausch_2015_JTR_Fundamentalism.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.
Vlas, Natalia. “Is Religion Inherently Violent? Religion as a Threat and Promise for the Global Security.” Politics and Religion Journal, vol. 4, no. 2, 2017, pp. 297-314, www.politicsandreligionjournal.com/index.php/prj/article/download/134/136 Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.