Saturday, March 28, 2009

Approach 'Islam' from 6 angles, says Rami Khouri

At a gathering of experts in international humanitarian law (IHL) in Geneva this week, much of the focus was on countries and societies where Muslims form a majority of the population. There was also a discussion of terrorism, and how groups that engage in terrorism can be dealt with in relation to IHL.

Much of this discussion centered on terror in and from Islamic societies. This is understandable to a large extent, given the massive media coverage of the terror that has become such a common and disfiguring part of many Muslim-majority societies. It would be the same if a discussion of modern anti-Semitism ended up talking mostly about Christian Europe and Russia; or a discussion of covert operations for regime-change addressed the actions mostly of the United States and Great Britain in the past 50 years; or if a review of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing centered largely on modern Israel and Apartheid South Africa.

Some historical concepts are indelibly associated with some parts of the world. The association of terrorism with Islamic societies is a sign of our times. When I was asked to speak on these issues, I suggested that the best way to get an accurate and complete picture of Islamist political trends and the role of terror in Muslim lands was to acknowledge six ways to approach Islam, that help to define it. These sometimes converge, and often do not:

For Khouri's approach, see his article in the Lebanese DAILY STAR

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