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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Religion extremism leads to conflicts in Iraq

The Middle East and North Africa are home to some of the world’s most dangerous and turbulent conflicts.

According to a Pew Research Center study drawing on information from 2014, the medium level of religious hostilities in the Middle East and North Africa reached a level four times greater than the global median.

One question that has surfaced in the light of regional conflict revolves around its effect on faith and religious practice.

There have been reports of ethnic cleansing related to religion in Iraq, harassment of Christians and Jews by both government forces and social groups in the region and major displacement of peoples due to religion.

“Jewish extremism has eroded the moral core of Judaism, Islamic extremism has led to deep suspicion of Islam by others and Christians have abandoned the teaching of Jesus to support persecution of others and the use of violence,” said retired Professor of Religious Studies and Campus Ministry Coordinator Max Carter.

Carter has led many trips to Israel and Palestine and is dedicated in learning about their conflicts.

Extremist groups within these regions, such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and the Islamic State group use religion as a backdrop to their terrorist actions, though they garner little popular support.

“These groups are blaming their actions on religion when it has nothing to do with religion,” said sophomore Hadis Daqiq, who is from Afghanistan. “(The violence) has to do with getting into power and having more control.”

Concern towards Islamic extremism is widespread amongst Muslims, stretching from sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East to South Asia. A majority of Muslims said they had an unfavorable view of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2014. Despite this, the majority of the United States sees these conflicts as being religion-based.

“They have passed the point of religion,” said Daqiq. “It’s not about that, it’s about self-interest. They’re hungry, and they want to get food.”

Overall support for violence in the name of Islam has seen a significant decrease from Muslim publics throughout the past decade. It was found by Pew that 3/4 of respondents or more in Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tunisia agreed suicide bombings and other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified.

“Da’esh have misused Islam to draw followers, misinterpreting the Qur’an and Islamic tradition to bolster its fortunes,” said Carter.

This, in effect, has led to murder, incarceration and migration within the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.

These conflicts have also greatly affected how religion is seen and used by civilians in these regions. In some cases, there is an abandonment of religion.

“There is a minimum of three bomb attacks every month,” said Daqiq. “You see people die just like that. They just keep dying, and you kind of loose hope.”

Different internal experiences and global responses to these conflicts display that in high-risk situations religion may decrease in meaning.

“People will abandon their religion’s core principles for personal interests,” said Carter.

Though for some, religion remains a powerful force of hope in a time of dense violence. Religious practices such as Arbaeen, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage to Iraq’s holy city of Karbala, remain important to be upheld.

“They try to have hope, religion is that fact that God is there to help you,” said Daqiq. “The country is really religious partly because you can’t look another way. It’s more of a sign of hope and a reason to live. They need to hold onto the thought that God is going to one day fix this.”

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