By Salam Sarhan
Feb 01, 2019
It is an understatement to say that the
political use of religion has had a corrosive influence throughout human
history. It continues to ignite and sustain the most intractable global
conflicts. Unfortunately most of the worst abuses of religion in politics today
are carried out in the name of Islam, but the political use of any religion has
led – and will always lead – to the same results.
The theocratic revolution in Iran, which is
centred on exporting sectarian ideology, was a turning point: it has ignited,
over four decades, the rise of dark forces across Middle East and beyond. The
situation has only got worse since the destabilising of Iraq by the
American-led invasion in 2003 and the subsequent uprisings in many countries in
the region in 2011, which opened a Pandora’s hox, as any anarchy always does.
The trend towards theocracy is taking hold
in countries including but not limited to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Nigeria. And it holds a significant
influence over social groups and individuals across the world, including
western nations. It's easy to place all the blame on exclusionist, impetuous
regimes, but that would ignore the way the world’s leading powers have
regularly made grave mistakes when dealing with these ideological conflicts,
playing directly into the hands of sectarian and extremist groups.
The international community is dedicating
enormous effort and resource to dealing with the consequences of the political
abuse of religion. But it could be much more effective if it orchestrated a
meaningful, global response to the root causes.
There is now a need to move towards an
international consensus to prevent any invocation of religion – from mainstream
as well as extremist religious groups – to support national and political
agendas. It is time for a campaign to create an international treaty to ban the
political use of religion.
The campaign can start by attracting the
support of influential public figures to mobilise a global movement, leading
later to the publication and dissemination of a formal treaty to exert pressure
on states that perpetrate such abuses.
As no responsible state should use religion
for political gains, so obtaining international approval should be
straightforward. Moreover, there are many governments who would seize the
opportunity to endorse such a treaty to settle inflammatory pressures among
religious groups in their own region.
It will offer the international community,
particularly the leading global powers, a crucial guideline on how to deal with
such inflammatory conflicts, preventing costly mistakes. It would also provide
a starting point from which to refute any claim by terrorists that they are
defending Islam, or indeed any other religion. This would remove a key
recruitment technique by which the naive and vulnerable are attracted to their
ranks – namely, through the false allegation that there is a war being carried
out against their faith.
There is a desperate need to lobby such
powers to pay greater regard to the balance of religious, political, and
economic forces when determining courses of action in order to avoid
exacerbating such conflicts. The dangers come not only from those using
supposedly divine rights to trample over the rights of others, but also from
the extreme reactions directed towards people of the same faith as the
The world has recently witnessed many
examples of the above, from the call by US president Donald Trump to ban
Muslims from entering the United States to the repeated use of faith to
legitimise attacks against immigrants and minorities in too many parts of the
world, including Europe.
It is overdue to initiate and coordinate a
concerted global effort to stop the use of any religion to justify any
political endeavour that uses religious intolerance and division to its own
The movement could take the form of an NGO
to push for governmental endorsements to a well-drafted "International
Treaty to Ban the Political Use of Religion", along the lines of the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Such a treaty would set out
a clear framework for what constitutes the many and varied abuses of religion
in politics, and would represent a step towards greater respect for human
rights by liberating those who suffer from religious repression – which is, in
itself, a major abuse of human rights.
The treaty would emphasise the prevention
of political disrespect for religions and encourage greater transparency in
politics. This aims to prevent the common misunderstandings exploited by
extremists, such as the claim that there is an international agenda against a
Endorsement of the treaty by powerful
countries would help to tip the balance in favour of more moderate, tolerant
ideals. It would be a step towards bringing outlier states back to the majority
world consensus, similar to events following the adoption of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in December 1948.
It could also lead to the establishment of
a global monitoring service for raising awareness of the abuses of religion in
politics, providing media organisations and other interested parties with
credible, trustworthy statistics and facts about such abuses.
There are very few countries that would
hesitate to endorse such a treaty – including those who can be implicated in
such acts, but consistently deny using religion as a political tool.
to Ban the Political Use of Religion: Ideological Conflicts, Playing
Into the Hands of Extremists”
There is always the potential of conflict in any Ideology,
Extremist exist in all ideologies, so politics or whatever will
always play in the hands of extremists.
The author believes that Islam is also a Religion as per common
definition of religion, which is NOT so according to Islam's source
in the spirit of the article simply: “Time to Ban All Religions”