Main Article Content
During 21-23 August 2006, sixteen Muslim scholars attended a three-day
United States Institute of Peace (USIP) conference to discuss approaches
to understanding conflict and peace in the Muslim world. Qamar-ul Huda
(senior program officer, Religion and Peacemaking program) organized the
conference, entitled “Islamic Reform Relating to Conflict and Peace.” Participants
explored how scholars of Islamic studies can critically participate in
Islamic peacebuilding and conflict resolution through an interdisciplinary
The group discussed the challenges of peacebuilding in respect to
asymmetric power, military institutions, non-democratic states, co-opted
clergy, independent religious movements, authoritarian regimes, educational
systems, media, the imbalance between classes, ethnic divides, postcolonialism,
sectarianism, and other issues. Participants focused on how to
advance nonviolent strategies for conflict mediation and peacebuilding
within an Islamic cultural context.
Asma Afsaruddin’s presentation on jihad, peace, martyrdom, patience,
and the original Qur’anic context of these terms demonstrated the diversity
of legal opinions in the Islamic tradition. According to her, not only did these
different interpretations of violence, peace, and conflict resolution flourish,
but there was also a culture of tolerating and fostering this pluralism. Only
in the mid-tenth century did interpretations of peace, conflict, and just-war
theories become driven by political expediency. With the emergence of competing
dynasties and the rise of military expeditions, concepts of peace and
conflict resolution became intertwined with the regime elites’ aspirations.
The terms of the debate were appropriated by a political and military class
that refused to countenance any challenge.
Participants discussed the multiplicity of these interpretations and how
violence is (and is not) legitimized. Mohammed Abu-Nimer discussed the
theoretical and practical obstacles involved in changing views on conflict ...