ISIS, Repetition of a European Experience

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mohsen Baharvand
International Law Expert

Perhaps this is a bitter historical irony, but to understand the sedition fomented by ISIS, one has to review the history of Europe. Probably, no historical catastrophe can be compared to what is currently going on in the Middle East more than the religious war in Europe during the 17th century, which has come to be known as the Thirty Years' War (1618-48). Similarity between these two historical events is so high that one can hardly believe that all this resemblance is a simple historical accident, but it bolsters the idea that the current developments in the Middle East are intentional repetition of historical events, which aim to produce similar results in the Middle East and the Islamic world.

Europe was engaged in a religious war from 1618 up to 1648, which is considered as the bloodiest and most destructive of European wars. This war first broke out between Protestants and Catholics in the geographical expanse of the present-day Germany, which was at that time part of the Holy Roman Empire. After the beginning of war, powerful nations of Europe at that time, including France, Spain, and Austria, lent their support to various warring groups on the basis of political and territorial motivations but under the pretext of religion. They first waged proxy wars and by and by these measures culminated in direct conflicts among regional countries. Most of those wars were fought through hired mercenaries who plundered cities, villages, farms and so on to fund their operations, and in the meantime, ruthlessly massacred all people living in those regions.

As a result of measures taken by these mercenary groups, which apparently operated under the guise of religion, 20-30 percent of the population of Germany at that time was massacred, cities and villages were destroyed, women and people’s families were taken into sexual captivity, factories and production facilities were devastated and, as a result, the remaining people became very poor and countries were pushed to the verge of bankruptcy. This war finally ended in 1648 through the conclusion of a number of small-scale treaties as well as the Peace of Westphalia. In addition to all the bloodshed and havoc that was wreaked during the 30-year war, an important development took place in Europe which has formed the basis of international relations up to the present day. That development was the alteration in the political and social role that Christianity played in Europe. Following the Peace of Westphalia, Christianity was put aside as an influential factor and a ground for unity among Christian countries. From that time on, national interests formed the basis of relations among countries. Gradually, the role of Christianity as a prevalent way of thinking in politics and society was undermined until all its power was concentrated in a single city.

A closer look at historical developments in Europe during the 17th century, which greatly weakened Christianity, and their comparison to what is currently going on in the Middle East would make one believe more strongly that the ongoing violence in the Middle East is repetition of that experience in order to deal a drastic blow to Islam. This is not a sudden and emotional development, but is sign of an agenda which aims to weaken the influence of Islam as a source of inspiration in political and social life of people. Offering such theories as the Shia Crescent, insistence of terrorist groups on focusing their war on Shias, ruthless massacre of Shia Muslims and repetition of measures that had been taken by violent European groups in the 17th century, as well as the breakout of proxy war and willingness of some regional countries to gradually launch direct wars like the one that is going on in Yemen, are all indicative of the fact that ISIS is not an ephemeral violent sentiment, but is a tool for the implementation of a predetermined agenda.

It seems that statesmen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, being aware of the sedition that has been designed to deal a blow to the fundaments of Islam, are showing self-restraint and have been persistently declaring their readiness for dialogue. On the other hand, those parties that instead of giving a positive response to Iran's call, insist on division are either part of this conspiracy against Islam, or are unwittingly serving it.

The Thirty Years' War, however, had another lesson embedded in it. Violence and extremism has no winner and all involved sides will be dealt drastic blows. Military solution could not resolve the crisis and only intensified violence and extremism. During the last four years of the Thirty Years' War, major European powers understood that a military solution was inefficient as a result of which they opted for political dialogue. During the four years that ended in 1648, they found a solution for their differences which were most of all over political interests, and it was only after the settlement of those differences that violent and extremist groups lost their power and disappeared all of a sudden.

Countries in the Middle East must learn a lesson from that European experience. The trend that has started and the cruel measures that are being taken in the name of Islam have been most probably designed against Islam and will deal a heavy blow to Islam. If regional countries are concerned about Islam, the sole solution for the current situation is political dialogue and settlement of political differences through such dialogue, because this experience has been tested before. Instead of insisting on hostile positions and pinning their hopes on those who have designed this conspiracy against the Islamic world, regional countries must try to settle their differences through dialogue. The culture of interaction and dialogue must be bolstered in the Middle East and among Islamic countries in order for extremism to be eradicated. At present, the need for dialogue and constructive interaction as a strategy is felt more than any time before.

Basically, at the beginning of dialogue, the mechanism of dialogue is more important than the main issue in question. Big countries in the Middle East and the Islamic world need a mechanism of dialogue and interaction. All clerics, politicians and statesmen are morally, religiously and legally duty-bound to create such a mechanism in order to settle their political differences. Probably, launching bilateral and multilateral dialogue among big countries in the Middle East in the presence of some other big Islamic states with the aim of holding a summit meeting of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation could be helpful in this regard.

Key Words: ISIS, European Experience, Middle East, Christianity, Islam, Thirty Years' War, Conspiracy, Violence, Extremism, Dialogue, Baharvand

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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