Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 10th, 2018

Religious Peace Building: Could it break the Dead lock in Afghanistan Peace Process?

Historically religion has been used or mobilized to promote either conflict or peace building in different regions and countries. Religion may have not been the principal cause of conflict, even when the opposing groups, are differentiated by religious identities. However, religion has long been, and may continue to be, a contributing factor in some violent conflicts, whether in its own right or as a proxy for political battles, in different parts of the world including the Middle East, the Balkans, Sudan, Indonesia, and Syria. 
Religious activists involved in peace building stress the fact that “religion, unfortunately, is often the most evident difference between rival groups and, as a result, regularly is blamed for conflicts. It is crystal cut that religion may, be instrumentalized or become a mask for violence and conflict. As studies have shown, many recent violent conflicts also have involved religious beliefs themselves.
Government of Afghanistan has taken several initiatives with support of the other Islamic countries to further involve the Islamic scholars in the peace process of Afghanistan in order to put an end to the prolong conflict in the country. These initiatives include Ulema summit in Kabul on July 4, 2018, that they issued a fatwa in accordance with Islamic teachings about the ongoing conflict and peace. According to this fatwa the current war in Afghanistan is completely illegitimate and explosions, suicide, violence and extremism have no place in Islam. The second initiative was the Ulema conference in Jakarta which was conducted from March 15-19, 2018 including religious scholars from Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan hosted by Indonesia, aimed at seeking a solution to the imposed war in Afghanistan. And, the two-day International Ulema Conference for Peace and Security in Afghanistan conducted from 9-11 July, 2018 in Saudi Arabia. At the end of the summit, Islamic scholars issued a declaration and called on the Taliban to denounce violence and come to the peace talks table.

Paradox of Involving religion in conflict resolution and peace building in Afghanistan

There are serious conflicting debates on whether to involve religion in peace building in Afghanistan or not. Some analysts state that such approaches will add up to the religious legitimacy of the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the country. Further, they will pay no attention to such fatwas; they emphasis that the Taliban and other armed groups in Afghanistan pursue political and strategic goals and misuse the Islamic teachings to legitimize their deeds and use the Islamic teachings as a tool to ensure such goals. They emphasis that the Afghan conflict from an internal perspective has ethnic and political aspects and at the external level, it has intelligence, political and economic aspects. As a result, giving a religious identity to current conflict in Afghanistan only empower and legitimize the theory of the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the country.
On the other hand, Taliban accuses such moves as legitimizing the presence of infidel invaders in Afghanistan and term them as “deceptive” efforts aimed at presenting “the sacred jihad” against the foreign “occupation” as “unlawful.” They warn the religious scholars that, “Do not afford an opportunity to the invading infidels in Afghanistan to misuse your name and participation in this conference as means of attaining their malicious objective,”.
What shall be lauded here is that according to some social scholars, “the most fanatical and cruelest political struggles are those that have been colored, inspired and legitimized by religion. In other words, “when conflicts are couched in religious terms, they become transformed in value conflicts. Unlike other issues, such as resource conflicts, which can be resolved by pragmatic and distributive means, value conflicts have a tendency to become mutually conclusive or zero-sum issues. They entail strong judgments of what is right and wrong, and parties believe that there cannot be a common ground to resolve their differences. As a result, the Afghan government shall be very cautious not to provide an opportunity to the Taliban and other terrorist groups to be religiously legitimized in the eye of the people because in that case the current conflict would become mutually conclusive or zero-sum issue in the country.