Monday, April 10, 2006

Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam

What follows are excerpts from the introduction to
Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice
edited by
Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C. Funk, and Ayse S. Kadayifci
Center for Global Peace, American University
Washington, D.C., University Press of America, 2001


In the field of peace and conflict resolution studies, Western scholars have identified a diversity of praxeological styles, or paradigms, in which theory meets the challenges of practice, and practice provides information whereby theory is reconstructed. Advocates of power politics attempt to secure peace by augmenting the capability of their states to use and resist coercion; protagonists of a reformed world order organize for peace by promoting multilateral, value‑maximizing institutions and covenants; facilitators of conflict resolution pursue peace by improving communications and building relationships; proponents of nonviolent social change work for peace through grassroots social movements and solidarity against oppression; and representatives of philosophical and spiritual traditions approach peace through transformation of human consciousness.
…Western traditions of peace studies and peace research have yielded important insights, such as the distinction between conceptions of peace that are premised on no more than the absence of war and organized violence, and conceptions of peace that signify an additional presence of human dignity, economic wellbeing, and ecological balance. Scholars and activists alike have testified to the dangers and costs of pursuing peace through preparation for war and maintenance of hegemony. They have only just begun, however, to identify cultural pluralism as an essential resource for world order, and to develop a truly cross‑cultural research agenda.[1]
…Where the Western approach celebrates human self-determination, Islam underscores divine purpose and human exertion. Where the Western approach affirms political pluralism and individual rights conjoined with consumerism as the substance of peace, Islamic perspectives frame communal solidarity, social justice, faith in the transcendent, and even cultural pluralism as the way of peace. Where Westerners have placed a priority on innovation and “freedom to do”—freedom as a means to diverse human ends—Muslims have more often than not sought to preserve the historical continuity of a tradition that frames existential freedom—“freedom to be”—as an end in itself, a state that may be experienced despite the presence of external constraints.
While the strongest current of the Western approach to conflict resolution prioritizes problems to be abstracted and solved, distinctively Islamic approaches resemble other non-Western approaches insofar as they frame conflicts as matters of communal, and not just individual concern and underscore the importance of repairing and maintaining social relationships. Muslim approaches to conflict resolution draw on religious values, traditional rituals of reconciliation,[2] and historical practices of communal and inter-communal coexistence. Strong emphasis is placed on linkages between personal and group identity, between individual and collective responsibility for wrongdoings, and between attentiveness to “face”-related issues (public status, shame, reputation for generosity) and the achievement of restorative justice. Conflict resolution efforts are directed toward the maintenance of communal or intercommunal harmony, toward the recognition of mutual rights and obligations, as well as toward the upholding of shared values and the need for public apology, compensation for losses, and forgiveness.[3]
…While Muslim writers almost invariably assert that Islam has something of unique value to contribute to international peace and human dignity, many non‑Muslims have articulated visions in which Islamic participation in the contemporary world order can only be conceived as a serious challenge to stability.[4] In other words, Islam has been viewed as an actual or potential problem, and research questions have been framed around threat perceptions rather than potentially positive aspects of the intercultural encounter.
…The future development of cross‑cultural inquiry is of considerable importance, particularly insofar as it can help to provide both fresh contributions to theories of conflict resolution and constructive channels for the perennial religious impulse. Studies of Islamic approaches to peace and conflict resolution provide new angles of insight into universal human dilemmas, as well as important supplementation to studies that recognize contemporary Islamic activism not as a backward-looking rejection of the modern world, but as a deeply felt expression of cultural identity and a critique of domestic as well as international political orders.[5]
…Muslims have heard different overtones in their religion’s call to peace. Many have interpreted peace primarily as an absence of war, violence, and disorder that must be secured through the use of coercive power or force to compel and protect. Others have understood peace as a condition of justice achieved through virtuous governance or steadfast resistance to oppression. Still others have perceived peace as a state of social equilibrium or all-encompassing harmony.
Power Politics: Peace through Coercive Power
Based on a pessimistic reading of human nature, advocates of this approach use Islam as a language for legitimation of power and authority and for the preservation of social order. Expressed in the “mirror for princes” genre of medieval writings as well as in strains of juridical and philosophical thinking, this paradigm exalts state authority, views peace as an absence of war, and underscores political necessities created by the restlessness of political subjects and the threatening postures of external enemies.
World Order: Peace through the Power of Law
In contrast to the power political paradigm, the Islamic world order approach implies a conception of Islam as an ethical outlook and way of life, underscoring processes for institutionalizing values to shape a humane and just order. Islamic world order thinkers challenge idolatries of state and tribe, pointing beyond exclusivity and power politics to possibilities for affirming and creating more inclusive and participatory legal and political frameworks that can secure the well‑being of the Islamic ummah (community) as well as the larger community of humankind.
Conflict Resolution: Peace through the Power of Communication
Islamic approaches to reconciliation as sulh and musalaha, as well as methods of mediation (wasta) and arbitration (tahkim) that have prevailed in Islamic cultural areas. Islamic approaches to conflict resolution underscore communal collaboration in efforts to open lines of communication, “set things right,” and restore a state of harmony or social equilibrium. They affirm a restorative conception of peace and justice, encompassing notions of compensation for losses, attentiveness to issues of “face” or social esteem, renunciation of retribution for the sake of the whole, and forgiveness.
Nonviolence: Peace through Will Power
The next approach to peace, nonviolence, emphasizes that, while Islam forbids passivity in the face of oppression, tyranny, and injustice, it also discourages violence and reckless subversion. From the point of view of Muslim proponents and pioneers of nonviolence,[6] adherence to Islam requires nonviolent solidarity against oppression, the promotion of renewal through broad-based social movements, and training for programs of direct nonviolent action. A critical premise is that only a linkage of just ends with just means can secure authentic justice, peace, and human dignity.
The section begins with “The Nonviolent Crescent,” a seminal tract on Islam and nonviolence written by Chaiwat Satha-Anand (Qader Muheideen), a Thai scholar and activist. This chapter, which has appeared elsewhere in Arabic, Indonesian, and Italian translations, suggests that, because the technology of modern warfare results in actions that transgress limits imposed by the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition, Muslims must adopt methods of nonviolent struggle for justice if they are to remain true to Islam. Satha-Anand uses an example of direct nonviolent action by Muslims in Thailand to demonstrate the potential efficacy of nonviolence as an Islamic form of action.
…Islamicist Karim Douglas Crow proposes that a proper understanding of Islam’s relation to nonviolence is best obtained through deep examination of Islamic teachings on personal ethics and character development… …Muslim Peace Fellowship founder Rabia Terri Harris, frames nonviolence in Islam as “The Alternative Community Tradition.” Harris finds precedents for nonviolent struggle against injustice in the life of the Prophet, in the “three lost causes” of al-Husayn, al-Hallaj, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and in Sufi teachings concerning the “greater jihad” (al-jihad al-akbar).
Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love
The last approach to peace, the Islamic paradigm for transformation of the human heart and mind, prescribes a deep internalization of Islam that leads to inner freedom and to the spiritual elevation of the individual. Based on principles and practices of tasawwuf (Sufism) that were widely diffused throughout the Islamic world by means of spiritual brotherhoods and fellowships, this approach defines peace as a condition of all-embracing harmony perceived through the inward renewal and transformation of human consciousness. The cultural community is the context and receptacle of human realization; renewal takes place within each person through inward cleansing and loving surrender to the divine.

[1] See, for example, Leslie E. Sponsel and Thomas Gregor, eds., The Anthropology of Peace and Nonviolence (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994); Kevin Avruch, Culture and Conflict Resolution (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998).
[2] George E. Irani and Nathan C. Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation: Arab‑Islamic Perspectives,” Arab Studies Quarterly 20 (Fall 1998), pp. 53-73.
[3] George E. Irani and Nathan C. Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation”; Chaiwat Satha‑Anand, “The Politics of Forgiveness: Islamic Teachings and Gandhi’s Teachings,” in The Nonviolent Crescent: Two Essays on Islam and Nonviolence, (Alkmaar, the Netherlands: International Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1996).
[4] Richard Falk, “False Universalism and the Geopolitics of Exclusion: The Case of Islam,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1997), pp. 7‑23.
[5] Richard Falk, “False Universalism and the Geopolitics of Exclusion: The Case of Islam” (Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18 (1997), pp. 7‑23). Falk unequivocally defends the right of Muslims to equitable participation as Muslims in the contemporary world order, and suggests that contemporary Islamic movements manifest resistance to cultural as well as political marginalization. Michael Salla, “Political Islam and the West: A New Cold War or Convergence?” (Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1997, pp. 729‑742) has advanced a similar argument. Salla suggests that there is a need to move beyond both stereotypical “essentializations” and fragmentary models based on historical contingency, toward representations of Islam as a discourse that critiques the dominant liberal democratic paradigm in a manner similar to many other religious discourses.
[6] It is not widely recognized that Muslims played a decisive role in the planning and orchestration of the twentieth century’s most well known and widely celebrated nonviolence campaigns – the struggle against British colonialism in South Asia. For a review of the Muslim contribution, see Chapter 12 in this volume; for in-depth treatment of the subject, see Robert C. Johansen, “Radical Islam and Nonviolence: A Case Study of Religious Empowerment and Constraint among Pashtuns,” Journal of Peace Research 34, no. 1 (1997), pp. 53-71.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Hit Counters
free music onlineinternet radio songs