As Iraqi, Kurdish and allied forces attempt to dislodge Da’esh from Mosul, increased human suffering is inevitable. Even more Iraqis will be forced to either flee their homeland or become internally displaced. The severity of this second issue is deepened when we consider the miserable conditions of the squalid refugee camps. As the scenes of anguish in the camps and conflict zones pull on our collective heart-strings, it is important to think about a meaningful response. There may be a tendency for anger and disillusionment to inform this response. Indeed, it will be shown how the logic of this response breaks down when it is more closely inspected. Rather, there is an urgency to formulate a response shaped around inclusivity and peace.
Insurgents like Da’esh recruit foreign fighters by framing conflicts as posing a threat to the global Islamic community. This recruitment narrative has been used by insurgencies in other historical contexts – it is not restricted to recent Islamist insurgents. In this case, their narrative purports to protect the lives of Muslims in a dangerous conflict but the data suggests they tend to heighten the levels of human suffering.
There is a strong correlation between internally displaced populations and levels of extremist violence. Countries with larger internally displaced populations are more likely to experience a higher rate of suicide terrorism. Critically, the deficit of human rights in conflict zones fosters a favourable environment for suicide terrorism. So, being magnetised towards a group proclaiming to unite and protect a religious community through violent means seems to lead to greater instability and disunity for all. Great value can be drawn from the Sufi idea that the way to peace requires the coming together. In other words, through inclusivity and unity.
This road to peace is more easily followed when we make sense of these conflicts. A more open and purposeful dialogue becomes possible with greater clarity on the issues. This type of dialogue, for which The Khawatir Movement aim to serve as a platform, expresses inclusivity and encourages compassionate rather than violent responses to painful conflicts. It is increasingly clear that shaping responses around the latter propel the cycles of suffering that need to be mitigated. We need to use the Four Freedoms (of speech, of worship, from want and from fear) as our ethical base. In these moments of reflection, drawing upon Gandhi’s idea to be the change you want to see in the world could certainly be valuable on the long road to peace.