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July 31, 2007

Two small notes…

Original Link (with slight modifications): http://religion-culture-dialogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/two-small-notes.html

Hi Everyone,

Just minor points for today’s blog. Tuesday July 17th’s blog was written by me, but due to technical difficulties had to be posted by Kyle. So any credit and notoriety for the post should be directed at me, not Kyle.

Second, while Kyle is on business in Colombia, I’m in Paris right now and on Wednesday the 18th I attended the 5th International Humanities Conference held at the American University in Paris campus. I gave a presentation on principles and strategies for foreign policies toward the Muslim world. The presentation is based on a paper co-written with Shajeda Dewan, an MSc student in London, studying cultural psychology.

Below is the abstract and the introduction to the paper. Enjoy!

- Alejandro

Guiding Principles for Foreign Policies and State Security Services: Contributions from Interdisciplinary Theoretical Frameworks towards International Strategies in the War against Global Terrorism

By Shajeda Dewan* and Alejandro J. Beutel **

Abstract: In the U.S and Britain, Security concerns are increasingly paramount since the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings. Public concern has now been heightened by the MI5 Security Service in relation to International Terrorist Threats to the UK during a significant Public Speech made on 9th November 2006. This paper addresses these concerns. The paper follows on from an earlier paper: “Islam and Jihad: The Associations with Violence and Martyrdom, History and Contributory Factors to Global Terrorism”. Preliminary findings of the first paper identified and demonstrated processes that are potential yet significant contributory factors to Global violence and Terrorism; considered through an analysis of inter-related theories. The paper also identified key areas that needed consideration in relation to future foreign policies and state policies for its Citizens. This paper exemplifies the significance of the findings of the first paper in relation to proposals for Strategic Political Directions, in areas of Foreign Policy, Education and Social Policy, with particular relevance for current state security strategies in the west, in addition to other concerns that the MI5 have raised. The paper discusses and recommends directions to be considered by the Governments in the West and East with significant Muslim Populations from an application of Cultural Psychology, Anthropology and Islamic Rationalism. It asserts that Western Governments have a significant role in achieving global peace, reducing terrorism through supporting initiatives that address the significance of the findings and proposals within the paper, which are identified as enduring, effective and sustainable measures for the war against terrorism.

Introduction

The scourge of religious-inspired political violence has been documented for at least two thousand of years, making organized faith the most common justification for terrorism before the 19th century. However this increased interdependence is also characterized by asymmetry and the rise of religious motifs in politics across all faiths, including Islam. [i] Terrorism and violent interpretations of religion has touched every single major spiritual tradition including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, etc. In the past twenty years, distorted interpretations of religious traditions have reemerged as the dominant ideological vehicle to justify some of the most horrendous global violence, including the notorious attacks against the Trade Towers and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. [ii] Although all peoples and all religions have suffered, and continue to suffer, from religious terrorism, it is undeniably painful to admit that there is a prevalence of terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam. Such acts are perpetrated by Puritans [iii] who represent a significant departure from the moral intellectual traditions of Islam.

In this paper a central premise to the arguments we lay forth is that issues of religious authority and religious freedom in Muslim-majority societies are extremely important because it has significant strategic implications for countries, like the United States and Great Britain, that are trying to catalyze political and social reforms in Muslim-majority societies. Our work builds off of an earlier paper entitled, “Islam and Jihad: The Associations with Violence and Martyrdom, History and Contributory Factors to Global Terrorism” which put forth some preliminary interdisciplinary observations and recommendations on developing policy frameworks for Western nations to assist reforming religious education and discourse in Muslim-majority societies.

* Shajeda Dewan is a Professional Social Worker in the Children and Families Division, for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and currently a MSc student at University College London at the centre for Behavioural and Social Sciences in Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Anthropology.
** Alejandro J. Beutel is a Program Assistant at the Minaret of Freedom Institute, a Muslim-run think tank which seeks to educate Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets to a good society, while also educating non-Muslims in the West about the beliefs and contributions of Islam. Alejandro has a B.S. in International Relations and Diplomacy from Seton Hall University. His research interests are international religious freedom, democratization, Islamic studies and security studies.

[i] Giandomenico Picco, “A New International System?” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, Vol. 6, No. 2, (Summer/Fall 2005), http://diplomacy.shu.edu/academics/journal/resources/journal_dip_pdfs/journal_of_diplomacy_vol6_no2/04-picco__10_4_05.pdf, P. 29-36.
[ii] Mark Burgess, “Explaining Religious Terrorism Part 1: The Axis of Good and Evil.” Center for Defense Information, (May 20, 2004), http://www.cdi.org/program/issue/document.cfm?DocumentID=2224&IssueID=138&StartRow=1&ListRows=10&appendURL=&Orderby=DateLastUpdated&ProgramID=39&issueID=138.
[iii] Muslim Puritanism is defined as, a socially authoritarian, anti-rationalist, and selectively literalist approach to interpreting the Qur’an, with a heavy emphasis on selective, literal and uncritical interpretations of hadith to formulate religious jurisprudence and an ahistorical approach to the Islamic jurisprudential traditions that deriving rulings directly from the primary texts without referring to past scholars, save a few very conservative orthodox scholars. In addition, Muslim Puritans make the bold claim that they are the only path to understanding Islam.

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