Religion, Peace and Conflict – VIOLENT PROTEST AND TERRORISM

Violent Protest and Terrorism

 

Both Christianity and Islam would say that believers have a duty to protest against social injustice and to fight for freedom. However, both religions would say that protests should be non violent in nature.

Christian Teachings                  
  • ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ (Jesus)
  • ‘Thou shall not kill’
  • Jesus stopped his disciples from using violence at his arrest, ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword’

 

One of the most famous Christians who put these teachings into action was Martin Luther King. As leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the US he wished to bring about social justice for blacks through the use of non-violent protests such as marches, speeches, sit ins and boycotts.

 

Whilst Christian teachings would clearly support non violent protest it may not always be possible and some Christians would say that violence may be used as an absolute last resort to bring about justice. This attitude is similar to the Just War Theory. Violence may be a ‘Necessary evil’

 

Muslim Teachings
  • Emphasis in the Qur’an on peace. The word ‘Islam’ in Arabic comes from the root word ‘salam’ meaning peace or safety
  • ‘The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when aggressive people address them, reply with words of peace’ (Qur’an)
  • Action should be peaceful but violence can be used in self defence

 

A response to violence – Tariq Jahan

 

An unplanned protest, which descends into violence, is known as a riot. In 2011 there was rioting in London and other UK cities sparked by police shooting dead a man in Tottenham.

Three Muslim men were killed when they were trying to protect a petrol station in Birmingham from the rioters. After the incident a group of around 300 men, mainly Muslim and Sikh gathered together to try and persuade people to stop the violence. Tariq Jahan was one of these men who called for peace. His son had been killed trying to defend the petrol station.

Whilst Muslim teachings would clearly support peaceful protest violence does happen for example in 2015 in Palestine, Muslims threw missiles at Israeli police in protest over the shooting of 13-year-old boy.

 

Terrorism

In the modern world there have been many acts of terror eg Al Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 and more recently the Manchester Arena Bombing in 2017.

 

Why do terrorists carry out attacks?

  • Fighting against social injustice eg a group of people being denied human rights
  • Fighting against poverty
  • Fighting to put forward their religious beliefs when they may feel they are being denied

 

It has been said that ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. There are many examples of people who were once classed as terrorists now classed as political leaders eg Nelson Mandela in South Africa

 

Why might people argue that terrorism is always wrong?

  • Those targeted are innocent, with no direct link to the issue
  • Religion gets connected to terrorism by extremists. No religion supports terrorist activity
  • Terrorists want to spread fear and terror. This is always wrong. People have a right to live in peace
  • Just because one group thinks they are fighting for a good cause does not make it right
  • Murder, beheadings, kidnaps, rapes – all used in 21st Century terrorism can never be right
  • Many so called religious terrorists attack their own people. ISIS has killed more Muslims than any other group. They are hypocritical.

 

Christian Teachings On Terrorism
  • ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ (Jesus)
  • ‘Thou shall not kill’
  • Jesus stopped his disciples from using violence at his arrest, ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword’
  • Even if a Christian is fighting to change some injustice terrorism should never be used.

 

Despite Christian teachings clearly being against terrorism Christians have been guilty or terror attacks. In Northern Ireland for example during the ‘Troubles’ both Protestant and Catholic Christians were guilty of using terrorist activity both in Ireland and the UK mainland. For example the IRA bombed Manchester in 1992

 

Muslim Teachings On Terrorism

Muslim extremists recently have carried many of the terrorist attacks seen out. Within the Qur’an there are passages, which would appear to justify acts of violence against non-Muslims. The most commonly used text is Sura 9:

 

‘Kill the polytheists (non Muslims) wherever you find them and capture them’ (Qur’an)

 

Many groups such as ISIS have used this text to justify their terrorist acts and to encourage vulnerable Muslims to join terrorist organisations. However, groups such as ISIS use this text out of context. (Remember Hagrid’s Pumpkins)

If the whole of Sura 9 is read the passage is clearly written within the context of war and also explains how the polytheists keep breaking peace treaties with the Muslims. They are given every chance to keep the treaties and are not being attacked without reason.

Some Muslim terrorists would also say that their violence can be justified under the concept of Lesser Jihad. (See Beliefs and Practices Revision Guide)

 

Jihad means struggle. Lesser Jihad can involve a violent angle if Islam is under threat. However, for a struggle to be a genuine example of Lesser Jihad it has to follow clear conditions:

  • Must be to defend Allah and not to take over lands etc
  • To get freedom from dictatorships or bad governments and restore a peaceful society
  • Fought until the enemy lays down their weapons
  • Women and children should be protected
  • Mercy should be given to captives, soldiers treated, women left unharmed, not abused or raped and the enemy should never be executed

 

Clearly, ISIS have broken a number of these conditions so their activities cannot be classed as Lesser Jihad.

 

Like Christianity, Islam does not support terrorism but sadly examples of terror related activity exist within both faiths.

 

Exam Tip – Look at the 12 mark Q below. Do you know how to answer it? If not, ask your teacher in class or via e mail:

 

‘Terrorism can never be right’ (12)

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