The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CCADD.

 

CCADD INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 2005

 

‘ALLIES IN WONDERLAND’

         

Held at Woudschoten, Zeist-Driebergen, Netherlands, September 2-6, 2005

 

 

Report by Liza Hamilton and Brian Wicker

 

The British Team for the conference consisted of:

 

Hugh Beach

Liza Hamilton

Tony Kempster

Roland Smith

Brian Wicker

 

Rev. Glyn Williams of the RAF had to cancel at the last minute.

 

General Impressions of the Conference

 

Everybody agreed that this was one of the best conferences of recent years.  The centre was of very high standard, with first-class food, very comfortable hotel-standard accommodation and excellent facilities, all set in pine-woods in a quiet corner of central Holland.  The total numbers of those attending was slightly lower than usual, but most of the 'regulars' were there from Britain, USA, Low Countries and central Europe.  The absence of French and German groups was much regretted, and it was agreed that something must be done about this.  There was a good group from Slovakia, who came with an invitation for a conference in 2006 somewhere near Bratislava.  The visiting non-CCADD speakers were of a uniformly high standard (with first-class English!).  The weather was warm and sunny throughout. Tony Kempster oiled one evening’s wheels with a sing-song in the gloaming.  Liza found herself unexpectedly shunted into her first chairmanship of a CCADD discussion, and performed with aplomb.   Altogether it was a jolly and informative meeting of minds, despite the terrifying topic of debate, namely global terrorism.

 

Karel Blei provided two Bible-study sessions, in which he pointed out, discussing the killing of Jesus, that the two criminals crucified with him were both Zealots, i.e. political criminals.  For some of us this projected a lot of new sense into the story.

 

This report is a summary of the proceedings.  Notes of the main discussions are divided between Brian Wicker and Liza Hamilton.

 

Session 1: Introduction to the theme (Kees Homan)

 

Kees Homan reminded us of some well-known facts.  Terrorism may be subdivided into three categories: i) Geographic (where the terrorists want a separate state, eg ETA, IRA, Tamil Tigers); ii) Ideological (T McVeigh, Red Brigades) and iii) Religious terrorism (which can be rooted in sectarianism, fundamentalism or the absence of effective government).  Terrorism can be defined as ‘a violent communications strategy’ (Schmidt) or ‘unlawful use of (threats of) force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate’.  It comes today in various forms: suicide bombing, kidnapping, hostage-taking, drive-by shooting, targeted assassination, air-piracy etc.  Recent targets have included public gatherings, oil tankers, tourists, embassies, journalists, human-rights workers.  Weapons used include AK47s, car-bombs, shoulder-fixed missiles, ‘dirty’ bombs, anthrax, commercial airliners.  The infrastructure of terrorism covers training-camps, safe houses, money-laundering, weapons supply, funding sources, intelligence.

 

Session 2: The EU Response to Terrorism (Gijs de Vries, EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator)

 

This first-class speaker used notes only (a longer summary may be put on the website).  Some of his key points included: the need for co-operation among EU governments, but with police-forces each answerable to their own governments.  The EU cannot follow the US federal model, eg. it cannot have a European CIA.  A lot of co-operation already exists, eg. Europol, Eurojust (dealing with prosecutions), the European Border Agency, the ‘threat assessment’ centre in Brussels.  Rules are needed to stop money laundering, money crossing borders, better European passports.  EU needs to analyse the causes of radicalisation and recruitment, and to co-operate better with world outside the EU (for which the UN is indispensable).  EU co-operation with USA is solid, despite differences over Guantanamo, Iraq, capital punishment.  Difficult key issues include: human rights, rights of suspects, deportations of people preaching hatred, limits on legitimate language-use (eg the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’). 

 

Discussion covered: i. do we need new laws? (NB. incitement to violence is normally a crime already);

ii. the need to allow voicing of contentious views (speaker agreed)

iii. there is a tendency of all intelligence-agencies to keep information to themselves; iv. the defeat of the EU Constitution was a set-back for counter-terrorism but not a disaster;

v. dialogue with Muslims at local level is crucial;

vi. it was right not to put Christianity into the EU Constitution, since the substance of common values is more important than the labels. 

 

Sessions 3: Terrorism as a New Challenge to the Just War Tradition

 

This was a double session, with papers from John Langan and Tom Sauer.  In John’s absence, Piers Corden spoke to John’s paper.

 

John Langan asks whether the response to terrorism should be replacement of ‘just war’ by ‘holy war’.  Terrorism must not be dismissed as unintelligible or irrational: reductionism is a mistake.  A response based on just war tradition must not be overlooked.  ‘Holy War’ encourages excessive use of force.  George Bush is too close to this, because of his over-acceptance of familiar features of American culture: its sense of providential mission, its belief in its own immunity, its confidence as a land of opportunity and prosperity, with a reliable constitutional structure, its sense of international superiority.  Can such a culture really accept ‘just war’ principles, especially since most terrorism comes from ‘non-state actors’?  The paper distinguishes three interpretations of terrorism (see pp. 5-6), of which the ‘clash of civilisations’ (encouraging ‘holy war thinking’) is the most dangerous.  But abandoning just war principles leads to a downward spiral is which each side imitates the worst behaviour of the other.  While a pre-emptive response to terrorist acquisition of WMD may be licit, preventive war is another matter. 

 

Tom Sauer asks whether the ‘just war’ distinction between pre-emptive and preventive use of force needs adapting to the new situation.  Bush seems to want to re-interpret the UN Charter’s concept of self-defence to include preventive action.  But the need is to look at root causes (eg. the alienation, frustration, job-insecurity of potential terrorists; the presence of US bases in the Middle East eg Iraq, Saudi Arabia).  Islamic terrorists are motivated by love of their religion, not by hate.  US needs to use more ‘soft-power’.

 

Discussion: points made: i. With use of private ‘contractors’ in Iraq, is the combatant/non-combatant distinction being eroded?

ii. If non-state actors are involved, what matters is what people do.

iii. Alienation not confined to people with a third-world background.

iv. In Muslim communities, loss of parental influence is a further ‘root cause’ of terrorist recruitment.  The ‘youth-culture’ among Muslims tends to legitimise stealing (eg squatters) and even ‘suicide-operations’.

v. US policy aims to do good: the problem is not easy to resolve.

vi. The importance of the economic causes of third-world poverty must be addressed.

 

Session 4: The Responsibility to Protect

 

Ad van Luyn (Bishop of Rotterdam, President of Pax Christi, Netherlands) spoke in strong support of the arguments of the Responsibility to Protect report of 2001.  Solidarity with ‘the other’ is a key Christian value, and implies that ‘the international duty to protect human rights must prevail over the prohibition against military intervention’.  But this truth has been overshadowed by Bush’s doctrine of preventive intervention, which fails to distinguish prevention from genuine pre-emptive action on which the Report is based.  On pp. 10ff the speaker summarised the conditions needed for action necessary to protect civilians.  These led him to support the idea of a Human Security Response Force for the EU (see note 23). 

 

Discussion   The respondent Igor Zezlin agreed with the duty of responsibility to protect civilians, but raised the question of soldiers risking their lives in actions not directly relevant to their own nation’s self-defence.  This is a question specially acute for soldiers of small countries who are too few to stray beyond national self-defence.  Bogdan Dolenc pointed to the theological implications of the Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) teaching that the Church is a sacrament of the unity of Mankind with God, as an answer to: Am I my brother’s keeper?  (Gaudium et Spes #16).

Others asked: is there not also a responsibility to prevent? As the lesser of two evils, surely we should not be averse to ‘dancing with the devil’ if necessary?  Should not states with a vested interest be encouraged to intervene to protect the defenceless? 

 

Before Session 5, a powerful film was shown about the agony of people in Armenia and Azerbaijan who do not know what has happened to their loved-ones.       

Session 5: Civil Society’s Response to Terrorism

 

Jan Jaap Oosterzee pointed out how close the peace-philosophy of IKV was to the ideas of Pax Christi as put forward by the bishop.  To make possible genuine ‘solidarity with the other’ people must be themselves free from fear and able to live in due dignity.  Hence the core work of IKV.  Understanding of ‘solidarity’ comes out of pain and suffering, as in the Israel/Palestinian conflict.  The hard bit is solidarity with the ‘other’ when he is a terrorist.  All societies have ‘fault-lines’ which terrorists try to widen and exacerbate.  IKV works to narrow them, by encouraging partners for peace.  Natalya Martirosyan illustrated these points from the Caucasus conflict.  There is no peace movement in S. Ossetia, and negotiations over Ngorno Karabakh are deadlocked.  The Helsinki Citizens group is working at grassroots level in villages, trying to create a civic network on peace issues, where there are benefits to both sides.  The first need is for more democracy and public expression of opinions.

 

Discussion i. Why did IKV begin with Caucasus? (Answer: a history of contacts with Eastern Europe, lots of conflicts left over from the Soviet collapse, unpopularity of the OSCE because it was ‘too Russian’). 

ii. was there any movement of people between Ngorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan?  (Yes, especially among youth) 

iii. Is the Caucasus conflict just a ghost of the cold war?  Is there economic common-ground between the sides, or merely a common hatred of Russia?  (Yes to the latter: pride in being ‘Armenian’ is now very significant, and this leads to hostility).

iv. Can the churches do any good in this situation? (Answer: not much, as they are too close to the state)

Laurens Hogebrink pointed out that IKV embodied both solidarity with E. European dissidents (a right-wing attitude) and an anti-nuclear posture (a left-wing attitude).  It tries to combine them.  The Charter77 movement in Czechoslovakia led to the Helsinki Citizens organisation.  This led to IKV working in former Yugoslavia, and thence to Ngorno-Karabakh.  Roland Smith suggested that the map of the Caucasus region that was provided could be seen as not neutral between the sides.

 

Natalya Martirosyan wanted more action over the Caucasus problems, at all levels.  Jan Jaap spoke of the danger of having to choose between chaos and totalitarianism.

 

Session 6: The Concept of Laicité: its Relevance for New Challenges

 

Francois Olivier Manson (of the International Criminal Court) summarised his paper, which includes a history of the laicité concept in France, discussion of the legal principle of laicité, and a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of laicité in the fight against terrorism.  The strength of the concept comes from the idea of ‘public order’.  You can do what you like unless public order or the freedom of fellow citizens are threatened.  For example, an Algerian woman who, in print, advocated stoning women for adultery because it was in the Qu’ran, has been deported. This was not a religious act, but was done for public order reasons. 

The weakness of laicité is that it is not, perhaps cannot in practice, be consistently upheld.  It rests on the idea that ‘every citizen is first of all a member of the Nation’, only secondarily a member of eg a religious community.  But many youngsters do not feel they belong in the French Nation.  Terrorist recruiters play on this feeling.  Laicité can work only if youngsters feel they have as much chance as other French people.

 

Discussion points made included:

i.  terrorism is not part of any real religion.

ii. mention was made of a Muslim speaker at a conference being withdrawn under ‘laicité’ pressure by the French ambassador.  Did this not contradict the laicité principle? (Answer: yes)

iii. The Dutch rule about headscarves is the exact opposite of the French rule: it is discriminatory to forbid them. 

iv.What about dual-nationality? Does this contradict laicité? 

v. If small crosses are allowed, why not small headscarves?

vi. What is the degree of compliance with the laicité law?  In Iraq there have been hostages taken to enforce a change in the law.  (Answer: French Muslims were sent to Iraq to explain there was no problem.  The hostages were later released, but not on these grounds).

vii. Surely, in allowing small crosses in school, but not headscarves, the State is being discriminatory?

viii.  Surely the French practice is overdoing things? (Answer: not in the headscarves case).

 

Session 7 - Role of Religion in Europe: challenge of secularist fundamentalism

 

Speaker – Laurens Hogebrink

 

·        The speaker noted three recent unusual events in the Netherlands which showed new confusion about the changing nature of society: the murder of Pym Fortyn; the assassination of Van Gogh; the rejection of the European constitution.

·        He singled out one factor of confusion: whereas religion versus secularism was an old problem, the new confusion has arisen because of Islam eg he posed question ‘Can you have dialogue in multicultural society when freedom of speech allows religion of ethnic minorities to be insulted?’  As Christians we have come to accept jokes about God, but can we impose this tolerance on Muslims?  New debate in churches ‘to what extent is religion itself danger to cohesion of society?’

·        He suggested how churches should respond to this situation – crucial points for churches to realize: that church and state are connected; that whereas churches must accept secular state so democracy has to accept that churches exist (to push churches to private sector is anti-democratic); churches should focus on key words of life eg forgiveness, in their participation in society.

 

Response (by Tony Kempster)

 

He agreed that churches role in society must be redefined; felt rejection of constitution illustrated that at the moment leaders out of touch with feeling of electorate; problem was immense – should focus only on immediate parts that matter; pointed out that problem was mostly intra-religion rather than inter-religions; fundamentalism within both Christianity (especially in US) and Islam should not affect open expression of dissent; churches should become more responsive politically.

Questions /Discussion

 

·        Extent to which freedom of speech should allow freedom to insult? Is there a difference between what is permissible in art and in life? Importance of politeness, common decency and legislative protection without restricting freedom.

·        Separation of church and state: strength of W Europe and US is separation whereas modern Islam (unlike perhaps historical Islam) cannot countenance a government that is not Islamic.  Hence conflict between Islamic and Western values, not just religious doctrines. 

·        Is the problem not also between religions as well as within?  Christianity and Islam are on a collision course because of their unique claim to the ultimate truth.  However, were original teachings this exclusive?  Important not to be liberal about truth – Christian doctrine of Trinity is denied by Koran therefore there are points of incompatibility, but there is a common root and much that does not conflict.  Therefore challenge is to create a social environment where competing truths can live together, where differences can be respected.  Example given of Macedonia where under Turkish rule people lived in an inter-religion environment for many years – there were tensions but there was respect and churches were built under protection of Turkish government.

·        Real dilemma in countering terrorism is how to promote a culture in society in which what is allowed and what is not allowed is clearly defined so as to create a real community.

 

Session 8 - Turkey and Europe

 

Speaker – Drago Cepar

 

The speaker read the introduction to his paper and then summarised its content dealing with the history of the alliances made by the Ottoman Empire (as distinct from modern Turkey) with its European neighbours between 1683 and the Lausanne agreement in 1923.  The speaker left open for discussion the questions as to whether these alliances could be predicted on the basis of knowing the main religions of the involved states and whether they have any prediction value for the present or the future.

 

Response (by Theodora Kosturkova)

 

She explained that because the Balkan countries were not recognized by the Ottoman Empire until the end of WW2 they played no part in the alliances.  However, the Balkans were at the centre of the clash of interests between the triangle of powers, the British, Russian and Ottoman Empires, particularly the British and Russian and made dialogue between the Balkans and Turkey very difficult.

 

Questions

·        Is the current Turkish republic successor to the Ottoman Empire?  Ans:  In respect of religion, no – Ottoman Empire was defender of Islam, modern Turkey is not.

·        Reasons for Turkey’s alliance with Germany in WW1.

·        Alliances of Ottoman Empire often paradoxical in past, allied with Christian states against other Christian states.  Modern Turkey set up as a secular state, therefore future will depend on interplay between European states just as in the past.

·        Impact of past temporary ad hoc alliances on question of joining European Union – no longer relevant, nature of modern relationship is more interdependency.

·        Present challenge is to have secular Muslim country entering into the EU rule of law.  However, influence of previous Christian culture in Ottoman Empire crucial in forming whole Turkish culture and identity.

·        Difficult to address sensitive issues between Turkey and Armenia.

 

Session 9 - Transformation of Military Strategies in the face of Terrorism

 

Speaker – Lieutenant Commander D M van Weel

 

Speaker gave a very clear and informative presentation using slides.  The points he made in explanation of his topic came under 4 headings:

 

·        The main tasks of the Netherlands Armed Forces - including protection of territory; promotion of international rule of law and stability; support of civil authorities.

·        Defence against terrorism in the past – including distinction between counter-terrorism and disaster relief and between national tasks and crisis management operations; he gave examples of both.

·        After September 11th 2001 – traditional division between internal and external security has dramatically changed since 9/11.  Netherlands vulnerable target – gave reasons – co-ordinated response hampered by complex decentralised state structure.

·        Developments – gave details of policy developments in many areas including enhanced agreement between Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence.

 

Whole presentation is available including some very amusing captions.

 

Questions

 

·        Is ‘shoot to kill’ a military or police decision in Netherlands?  Ans: police very stringent, work out beforehand response to different scenarios; very minimal shoot to kill.

·        Is the tolerance, multi-culturalism and international policy a strength rather than a weakness against terrorism?  Ans: Iraq policy significantly contributed to threat; now trying to increase percentage of Muslims in armed forces and engage imams.

·        How is Dutch foreign policy counter terrorism co-ordinated?  Ans: a national counter-terrorism co-ordinator with staff oversees internal and international policy.

·        Is there a danger in identifying possible terrorist strategies?  Ans: Yes, would possibly give them some ideas, but it would only be a matter of time and shows terrorists that counter measures are in place.

Session 10 - Arms Control, Proliferation and Counterterrorism

 

Speaker – Vic Alessi

 

·        Speaker focused first on WMD, illustrated potential scale of devastation compared with recent New Orleans hurricane.  Gave history of longstanding and relatively successful arms control talks and agreements between USA and Soviet Union.

·        Then looked at much more problematic ‘non-proliferation of weapons’ which rose to top of agenda from 1992.  Gave reasons for difficulties with non-proliferation treaties: eg. collapse of Soviet Union forced haemorrhage of weapons, technology and skilled engineers; many major states refuse to sign for political reasons such as intrusive nature of verification; threat of proliferation growing in other countries in world.  However, some success eg. South Africa, Libya and Kazakhstan.

·        Real threat of terrorists getting hold of WMD, evidence of terrorists seeking them but hard to identify and react against.  Response has to be by greatly increased co-operation eg. sharing intelligence, work crossing borders.  Speaker believed that success would come by ‘soft’ methods against terrorism as discussed in rest of conference.

 

Response (by Sir Hugh Beach)

 

Emphasised success of traditional arms control, must be kept going and not be too pessimistic about its future.  In spite of failure of recent NPT review conference must not allow link to languish.  Still important to work seriously on further reductions in weaponry and in the international arms trade.  Conventional weapons are what are killing people at the moment eg. Kalashnikovs, land mines etc.  Important to take long view, even of WMD, and keep strong nerve.

 

Questions/Comments

 

·        Applaud success of safe re-employments of nuclear scientists – however, number so large still a problem and now includes Iraqi scientists.

·        Much discussion on failure of NPT review conference, reasons and consequences.  Important for governments to differentiate responses to 2 different scenarios, nuclear and non-nuclear.  Need to distinguish between regrettable outcomes (eg. US non-ratification of NTBT) and potentially dangerous outcomes (eg. more rogue states obtaining nuclear weapons).

·        Rebuttal of thesis that more nuclear weapons make country more responsible.

·        Possibility of terrorists developing crude nuclear weapon from information on internet?  Some disagreement – some thought possible, some not likely.

·        Future position of UK on retaining nuclear weapons?

·        Does ‘suicide’ bombing have special quality over other attacks? Think not.

·        Potential problem states for different reasons: Iran, Egypt, Israel; China, India, Pakistan.  Need for West to differentiate responses in each situation.

 

 

 

Session 11 - Martyrdom in Islam and Christianity

 

Speaker –  Anthony Quainton

 

·        New phenomenon in terrorism – suicide bombers.  Previously able to negotiate because wanted to save their lives.  1983 - changed when two large suicide bombs went off in Kuwait.  Also change in that intent was religious rather than political.

·        Spoke at length about historic and present attitude of US to democracy and foreign policy – sense of unique vocation.  Has been taken over by evangelicals – ‘play on Team Jesus’.  Inadvertently American troops seen as martyrs.  Both Christians and Muslims have history of martyrdom.

·        Enumerated what he thinks needs to be done by US in relation to Muslim states eg:

de-emphasize God’s hand;

work to counter deep sense of injustice felt by Palestinians;

avoid over-staying welcome in Middle East in whatever capacity;

stamp out any sense of ‘holy war’ between Christians and Muslims;

avoid trying to be theologians of Islam.

 

Response (by Brian Wicker)

 

·        Cannot be a ‘war’ against terrorism – need two sides and terrorists cannot be a ‘side’.  Terrorists are criminals, terrorism organized criminality.

·        Wrong response by Bush turning to military and invading Iraq – avoid really thinking through the problem ie. upholding the rule of law which should be dealt with by police.

·        Dutch compare favourably in attempts to bring together Ministry of Interior (police) and Ministry of Defence (military).

·        Term ‘martyr’, according to Rahner, cannot be used if combatant in war; however, speaker said it can be used of someone defending justice eg. Margaret Hassan – still applicable whether she was Christian or Muslim.

 

Questions / Discussion

 

·        US likes term ‘war’.

·        In US hedonistic western culture exists alongside Christian fundamentalism – latter’s values often shared by Muslim fundamentalists.

·        Extent to which American values come from religious heritage – but such values not exclusive to Christian tradition.

·        Difficult for Western, especially American, evangelicals, not to proselytise for Christianity.  ‘Rapture’ does complicate American foreign policy – should try to be less overtly challenging.

·        Is martyrdom intrinsic in Islamic doctrine?  Long tradition of martyrs especially among Shiites.

·        Discussion about whether nation state is on its last legs.

·        Though Al Qaeda should not be regarded as ‘side’ in war, former terrorist situation in Ireland could be looked at as two sides – Brian Wicker disagreed, IRA was still a police problem upholding rule of law in Northern Ireland.

·        Distinction between pre-emptive war – illegitimate: preventive police action against crime – legitimate.

·        Example of IRA – conflict eventually resolved by talking, perhaps a way forward.  Also, addressing social issues eg. improve daily life of Palestinians.

·        Further discussion of meaning of martyrdom, is seeking martyrdom rather than venerating martyrs new phenomenon? No, eg. Sampson.

·        Could past terrorists ultimately become reformed ex-criminals and sit in parliaments?  Possible, as a symbol of integration.

 

Session 12 - The Response to Terrorism and its Effects on the Rule of Law, especially the International Legal Order

 

Speaker –  Roland Smith

 

·        Speaker explained that paper mainly addressed the British experience of terrorism which, apart from Lockerbie, until 2001 almost exclusively involved the IRA.  He made distinction between regional terrorism eg. IRA, ETA etc and international terrorism eg. Al Qaeda.  However, after 9/11 the UK went shoulder to shoulder with US in fighting terrorism, including the invasion of Iraq, which may or may not have provoked the bombings in London on 7th July.

·        Looked at dilemmas thrown up for rule of law when dealing with terrorism: 3 options – use existing law; allow state to act outside law eg. killing people; bring in tougher new laws to cover new situation.

·        Unhelpful to use language of ‘war on terrorism’ because then rules of law can be ignored – crucial that states should pay paramount attention to rule of law.

·        Other measures:

o       Deportation- dangerous to change law to fit situation, little chance of affecting terrorists.

o       Intelligence – best chance of success, especially with informers, and morally justified.  However, can result in moral dilemma over time when protecting identity of informer.  Intelligence information should be possible in court if safeguards in place for defence.

o       Imprisonment without trial – eg. Guantanamo Bay, but this is acting outside rule of law.  UK used it in Ireland, failure, increased sympathy for IRA.

o       Completely indefensible to kill – however, very difficult dilemmas in individual cases eg. Brazilian on tube, IRA terrorists in Gibraltar and Private Lee Clegg.

o       In all circumstances forces of state should not be above the law.

 

Questions / Discussion

 

·        Use of torture for interrogation?  Rejected, often intelligence gained unreliable.

·        Importance of promoting dialogue with Muslims.

·        Plea bargaining not supposed to have a place in British legal system.

·        To prevent torture need to change attitude of those in charge of prisons eg. Abu Graibh and Guantanamo Bay to recognize dealing with fellow human beings.

·        Importance of role of army chaplains,

·        Is there distinction between killing innocent civilians in war of by the police?  Bombing of Dresden was immoral, even in a Just War.  Worst thing British did in Northern Ireland was Bloody Sunday.

·        Censorship of media dangerous – however, important to distinguish between what is said by government and media.  International Law should prevent degrading pictures of prisoners.

·        Discussion about legitimacy of killing terrorist leaders in war situation eg. Bin Laden in Afghanistan.  Still better to have been arrested. Government then has moral high ground.

 

Session 13: Fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and the Secular Enlightenment Tradition

 

Speaker - Maurits Berger of the Institute Clingendael, Netherlands. (NB Clingendael is the Dutch equivalent of Chatham House).

 

The speaker (whose command of colloquial English was extraordinary) began by distinguishing secularism as hostile to religion from pragmatic secularism, which tries to remove religion from politics and politics from religion, just as a way of organising society.  Versions vary, from the French laicity principle for schools, through the Dutch model (allowing state funds for religious schools) to the Turkish, which requires religious training and Friday prayers.  In Iran there is a strong religious ideology, yet the revolution encompassed many strands.  Youngsters there are often anti-government, and there is a growing Iranian opposition which is trying to reclaim religion from politics.  Fundamentalism, as a return to scripture, also takes different forms.  Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists today all have a fundamentalist trend (unlike the 1960s); whereas a hundred years ago religious revivalism tended to be nationalistic rather than fundamentalist.  The enlightenment first emphasised democratic power to the people (over against the church telling people what to think).  But later people turned against the secular state.  Religion then becomes ideology, being reclaimed by people as a ‘cut and paste’ religion.  Religion is very powerful but not autonomous: it ‘rides the waves of history’.  ‘Morality’ is returned to politics out of desperate need.

 

Discussion points made:

i. How does sharia law fit into all this? (Answer: sharia is less about law than about what is in the Qu’ran.  The Qu’ranic rules, eg about family, are not laws in the Western sense.  They are about discerning God larger plan.  We can distinguish three things: a) sharia as a political slogan: ‘you will implement the rules or else!’;

b) scholarly sharia, where opinions often contradict; and c) the laws now being implemented that are claimed to be sharia (eg female mutilation laws in Nigeria, Egypt etc).  These laws are very diverse.  

ii. If religion ‘rides’ history are political leaders just wearing masks or are they real believers? (Answer: where there is money, political compromise follows).

iii. If there is a ‘clash of civilisations’ are you optimist or pessimistic? (Answer: there is a clash of cultures – hence Europeans think the gender issue is a problem for the Middle East – but civilisations are about democracy.  For example, do we, in the West, allow Middle Eastern states to become democratic?  Theoretically we support ‘free and fair elections’ but actually we support regimes to keep fundamentalism at bay.  On this issue the USA tries to be both pragmatic and moral).

iv. what about the power of self-appointed imams, especially over potential suicides? (Answer: their power is measured by the power of those who support them.  Suicidal terrorism begins in the individual’s mind-set: he or she decides in advance what to read or listen to, not the other way round).

v. What about the relationship of fundamentalism to education? (Answer: suicides are often ‘educated’ in a technical sense, but lack job-prospects and have little access to genuine information about the world.  Hence their frustration and anger: they willingly descend into a psychological tunnel which they can’t get out of).

vi. What about elections among people who dislike the results (cf. Hitler, who cancelled all elections after he got power)?  Will fundamentalists in eg. Iran cancel elections they don’t like, and allow only certain candidates to stand? (Answer: The USA supports eg. small Gulf states because they have some sort of liberal attitude even without elections.  You can have democratic elections without liberal freedoms, eg. Palestine)

vii. Religion is very powerful, hence Europe is trying to remove it from politics.  So is Europe different? (Answer: there are genuine minorities in Europe, but not in the Arab world.  Dialogue with Muslims always starts from the non-Muslim side).

 

Speaker’s final comments: i. there is a danger of a new McCarthyism, introducing ‘morality’ into public politics. ii. there were internal forces in Eastern Europe, compelling democratic change, but these are lacking in Middle East: you can’t ‘force-feed’ democracy; iii. terrorists often feel they are being pushed into the tunnel, through their sense of victimisation – but they don’t read good newspapers!

 

Session 14 - Evaluation and Future Plans

 

Following points were made about 2005 Conference:

 

·        Excellent outside speakers – would have been even better if they could have stayed on longer after their talk.

·        Excellent housekeeping.

·        Should include more basic theology rather than just applied.

·        Disappointing not to have any participants from France or Germany.

·        Good Bible studies but no time for discussion.

·        Important to ensure that talks fit in with overall theme of conference.

·        Order of sessions perhaps not ideal – changes forced at last minute because of non-availability of speakers.

·        Islam connected all the talks but no Muslim speakers.  Shame not to have been able to go on proposed visit to Mosque.

 

2006 Conference

 

Date:    25th – 29th August 2006

 

Venue: Slovakia

 

Theme: Various suggestions – Christian and Muslim world (artificial without Muslim participants); NATO, EU and Eastern Europe; frozen conflicts especially in Balkans; EU enlargement; SE Europe; must not be completely Europe-centred because of US delegates.  Theme to be decided by Slovakian hosts.