Islam and Da'esh (IS) - Codes of Tolerance and the Soft Factors of Peace Making
When a former Prime Minister of Qatar sits together with a former Prime Minister of Bavaria as well as a former National Security Advisor from Israel with a member of the European Parliament, a famous US ambassador in Arab countries, a member of the Rothschild family from London, a young Imam from Munich and the Chairman of the Oriental Council Christians in Germany, it must be the Munich Security Conference. There, the indepent World Security Network Foundation organised a power-breakfast discussion about Islam and Da'esh (IS) – Codes of Tolerance and the Soft Factors of Peace-Making at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof.
Hubertus Hoffmann, chairman of the World Security Network, started the exchange of ideas by putting six theses up for discussion. His first: „For all conflicts – Da'esh/Syria/Iraq, Israel/Palestine or Ukraine – we need an active and fresh double-strategy of power and diplomacy, hawk and dove. Two very successful examples are NATO’s Harmel Report in 1967 and NATO Double Track Decision in 1979. Only military power is not enough and cannot bring lasting peace. Those clever double strategies are missing today. We do not plan and implement in detail and parallel.“ Second, for Hoffmann, peace making is always based on two equal pillars: power for pre-emption or containment and reconciliation, hard and soft factors. Receiving great approval, he cited the American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer: „A war is only won after you have turned your enemy into a friend“ – giving as a successful example the development of the German-American relationship after 1945 and the grand reconciliations by Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl with the former arch-enemies France and Poland within the European Union. No similar soft peace-strategies for Iraq, Afghanistan or the Ukraine exist until now, criticised Hoffmann, adding his third thesis: „For an active fresh foreign policy World 3.0 we need a detailed action-plan of 500 pages for each conflict, not only vague statements or crisis management. We usually come too late and burn too much money with no creativity, a clear plan or control – a standard business procedure. This does not work in a complex world. We are our own enemy.“
Fourth, he demanded simultaneous planning and implementing from day one of the use of hard and soft factors: „We must invest at least one percent of defense and homeland security budgets in soft factors but we neither have sufficient plans nor the required budgets. This is not naive thinking but a condition sine qua non for peace and ironclad national interest. We think, plan and act militarily first and fail as we only walk on one foot producing ‘lost victories’.” Following with his fifth thesis, he substantiated: “This second pillar of soft factors of peacemaking is based on the principles of the UN-Charta as the global consensus. It includes the important Codes of Tolerance. Those are 60 rules for everybody, parents, religious leaders, politicians, media, culture and sports and 80 best practices from all over the world how to promote tolerance and respect towards other religions, ethnic minorities and races. We can use best practices quickly and successfully in all areas of conflict. We must plan and fund the promotion of tolerance as detailed as military actions with hundreds of millions and many grass-root projects. It can be cheaper and more efficient than bombs. But we do almost nothing – an Achilles heel.“
His last thesis he summarised in this short sentence: „Islam is good.“ He described that the Prophet and the Holy Qur’an were based on harmony and peace with 27 verses promoting respect towards the Christians. On the other hand, the Da'esh ideology was based on only six verses and therefore ignored 99,99 percent of the verses of the Qur’an. Hence, Hoffmann demanded the silent majority of more than 99 percent of peaceful Muslims to stand up and defend the true Islam. „If not, they lose the power of definition and the momentum – like in Nazi-Germany in 1933. It is always too late when you realise that the crazy radicals take over – then, you cannot speak out anymore. So, to prevent this, you have to speak out early.” He remembered his encounter with Queen Rania of Jordan who was convinced that silence is a negative sign in itself. Therefore he ended his plea stating: „’We are Islam not Da'esh!’ That’s a sign that the majority has to speak out loudly. A containment policy is needed promoting true Islam and Codes of Tolerance with the other religions. Required is a broad discussion about mutual respect and values, not only about oil or homeland security. Let’s advance world peace by the active promotion of tolerance and respect now.”
After receiving great consent for his theses, Dr Hoffmann handed over the Arab version of his new book Codes of Tolerance to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, former Prime Minister (2007 - 2013) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1992 - 2013) of Qatar. The famous archtitect of a fresh foreign policy from Doha stated: „Many rulers in the Middle East had been in power for decades. Most of them focused only on remaining in power, trying most of the time to work only for their own advantages. There is a big lack of proper education, combined with high employment. There is a big lack of hope as well.” These have been the best preconditions for radical movements to arise, according to Sheikh al-Thani. For the concrete emergence of Da'esh on the one hand, he holds responsible the policy against the Sunnite Iraqis of Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq. „But it’s also to blame on the Syrian president Baschar al-Assad. When he started to have internal problems in Syria and maybe feared to lose power, he let Da'esh take over some of the oil fields and thus allowed them to expand to Iraq.” Reasoning further, al-Thani stated that al-Assad thereby forced the following crucial question on the international community: „Is it more important to deprive al-Assad or Da'esh of power?“ Now, in his opinion, this question has become an obstacle like the Chinese Wall – similar to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. Nevertheless, he emphasized that it has to be resolved now. For this purpose, first of all, the causes of this conflict should be analysed before one could start looking for solutions, he concluded.
From the British point of view, Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild, founder of E.L. Rothschild Ltd. London, subsequently remembered the „Interfaith Declaration: A Code of Ethics on International Business for Christians, Muslims, and Jews“ from 1994. It had been the result of a high level dialogue – already started in 1984 – between the three Abrahamic religions under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan. „This declaration illustrates, in a practical way, that people of very different cultures or beliefs often have more in common than is sometimes apparent. In the final analysis, the application of ethical principles is a matter of personal judgment rather than rules. A code can only set standards. It follows that the declaration, or indeed any code of ethics, is not a substitute for corporate or individual morality. It is a set of guidelines for good practice.”
However, today, he said we should be less interested in the military side of success but in what was going to happen afterwards. „You win the war and lose the peace. How do you deal with the children and the next generation who suffered so much and have gone through terrible times?” He is utterly convinced of education, the whole question of modernisation of education being the decisive key term and terribly important: „Not everything is taught in the mosque. A lot of education today comes from the internet and social media.” Therefore we would have to spend more time realising that nowadays young people from a very early age are being approached from all kinds of subjects and are being taught in a very different way than in earlier times. „I’m interested in what we can do collectively, in politics or education that can be sent to the Middle East and also in my own country. Young people and of course the young Jihadists coming back from Syria, how do we deal with them? How do they spread in cohesion with other ones?” Education, education, education – to fill up this term with meaning and life would be the base for the future. To this, especially Hubertus Hoffmann agreed and in this context he emphasized again: „We have to promote tolerance. This is what we don’t do at the moment. We think if we do nothing there is tolerance growing on its own. No! Each day we have to promote tolerance. There are a lot of actions needed. And we have no plan and reaction in Europe at the moment. The White House has no plan and reaction at the moment. We have to start with education, with schoolbooks and so on. We need a common strategy immediately.”
Famous US ambassador (ret) Frank G. Wisner, who served as special envoy of US President Barack Obama to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 uprise, focused on the security dimension. He stated that destroying Da'esh is a critical national imperative for all European countries and America. Certainly, this goal cannot be accomplished without the full collaboration of the whole region. „And particularly of those who share the great religion of Islam”, he added and continued: „The strategy to destroy Da'esh has to be multifaceted. We need a military strategy, of course. But even if it is successful and Da'esh is defeated on the battlefield, there will be another Da'esh or something like it coming along. For that reason a political response is important, too.” Right now, we would only start to see the first successes of such a political response in Iraq with the creation of a new government that was going to be more inclusive than the former government of al-Maliki. „But unfortunately we do not see the counterpart in Syria, yet.” The struggle against Da'esh has to go beyond a military and political dimension and further an intellectual and religious dimension. Unfortunately, both of these dimensions have not been attended to adequately until now. „I believe very deeply that people don’t act in radical ways, if they don’t have radical thoughts that stimulate their actions. As we all grew up in both, Islam and Christianity – the beginning is the word. The word becomes very important. And I believe we have a common interest to organise the word, to counter the messages of Da'esh. Social media is being skillfully exploited, but there is no reason in the great body of Islam (in Al-Azhar University and many other places of reflection) to give a high priority to analysing and correcting the wrong messages and to distributing the true and important ones.” If we approached this more forcefully we would soon have a subsidiary effect on our societies. „Because once we know that Islam is fighting its own cancer than it is easier to defend the position of tolerance Hubertus Hoffmann presented to us in the beginning. We need to give priority to a religious messaging and defeat Da'esh on the field of ideas!”
According to this long-time obverser of the Arab region, the second political problem to be faced is Syria. Without ambiguity he stated: „We have no time for al-Assad and I believe he must go.” Also, he believes that the higher priority today is the destruction of Da'esh. “However, the problem is that you cannot defeat Da'esh in Iraq if you cannot defeat it in Syria. And therefore you have to find a formula under which a majority of Syrians come together and organise themselves to defeat that and organise themselves politically in a transitional arrangement that will eventually produce the end of al-Assad. The objective of that transition is a common objective shared by my country, by the Russians, by the Iranians. All of us realise that you cannot survive with the current organisation. The question therefore is: al-Assad out at the beginning or at the end. And I would argue, we priority should give to Da'esh. That means: al-Assad out at the end of the coalition of Anti-Da'esh-Forces to carry the matter forward in the beginning. Therefore I wish Mikhail L. Bogdanov, deputy minister of the foreign affairs of the Russian Federation, well in what he is undertaking to try to create the conditions for ‘Geneva III’. I believe a ‘Geneva III’ is important for a national unity government, for setzing up transitional constitution arrangements, and for an outcome that allows Syrians to decide their own future.” Until then, he ended his turn, the military campaign to destroy Da'esh would have to continue with undiminished severity.
Then, Imam Benjamin Idriz, the charismatic, young chairman of the Munich Forum for Islam, concentrated on the inner European dimension of the actual conflicts. He urged: „We have to look for the reasons of radicalisation. The Muslims in Europe first have to protect their young people from the danger of radicalisation. The 5.000 young people who joined the Da'esh army in Syria and Iraq are not only a threat for that region but as well for Europe. Jihad has become a project for them – we have to discuss the reasons, why they are doing this.” Potential reasons are, according to Idriz: „Discriminations against the young Muslims in Europe and social problems.” Hence, we would have to not only look for theological solutions but for social answers as well. Also, a theological answer to the terror of Da'esh would be necessary. Thus, the Imams in Munich released a declaration against Da'esh bearing the title Not in the Name of Allah, and not in our Name. In that declaration they argued theologically and made clear that Islam is a peaceful religion and Da'esh is not Islam. „But we have to do more”, Idriz continued. „The young Muslims in Europe must identify themselves with a true Islam here in Europe. Europe and Islam don’t have to be divided. There cannot be a separation. Their identity has to be confirmed here in Europe. They look for symbols and centers where they can be proud to be Muslims. The radicalisation happens most of the time in back-street Mosques.” Following that reasoning, he demanded the Islam to be brought from the backyard to the front yard in Germany and in the whole of Europe.
Finally, Simon Jakob, the young, active chairman of the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany, impressed all paraticipants by his clear statement: „When we go a few years back in time and look at Iraq, Syria or Egypt, we see the young generation fighting for life, suffering from continuous war, displacement, corruption, unemployment, and trauma. Becoming an easy target for the extremists and fundamentalists, resulting in what we call today Da'esh/Islamic State, inspired and motivated by a certain dogma of Islam.” With explicit words he remembered that the main victims of this war are the minorities, the weakest, the ones who are not able to defend themselves, and the young generation of the whole region – a lost generation without any perspective because no one was able to develop a method to solve this conflict.
Continuing, he proposed: „As we are here for a dialogue, we should discuss how to improve the non-Muslim – Muslim relations. We need to talk about three essential core origins as a source of this conflict. First: The equalization of non-Muslims in Islam. The discrepancy between the treatment of members of the Umma and members of other communities, such as Jezids, Christians, Jews, Atheists and Muslims themselves according to the UN-Charta from 1948 and accepted by most of the countries. Second: The inner-Islam conflict between the Shiite and the Sunni, or its capitals of power: Riyadh and Teheran. Without a solution here, we will have no peace.” This point was again emphasised by Hubertus Hoffmann. „Third: The role of the so-called Western world in the world of Islam. And the mistakes we have made in the past. These with the result of a development creating groups like Al Qaida or Da'esh and enabling these groups to rise up. We accepted it.” He explained: „Because our economic interest overlapped the intention of a region. The intention of a young generation being – as seen for example in Egypt 2011 – to live in dignity, peace and freedom. We thought a region ruled for thousands of years by an internal codex, embedded in the structure and hierarchy of the tribes and clans influenced for example, by the historical law of the codex of Hammurabi, would easily accept a democratic system, as we run it in the western world.” This has clearly been an erroneous belief: „They did not want it. Not now. Not this way. Not this kind of democracy.”
With the touching words of a young female activist from Arbil, Iraq, he called on the representatives of the international strategic community who had gathered at the 51st Munich Security Conference „to give the young generation the chance to take their own responsibility in their own country for their own society and citizens. She was telling me to tell this people to look through our eyes. Ask them to become our voice. Try to make them to get in our mind. No matter what we believe, or to whom we belong. Because we are the present. We are the future. We are the next generation. And we don’t want to be a lost generation in our own homelands.” Concluding, he underlined the immensely important role of the New Media in this war, thus agreeing and reinforcing the statements of de Rothschild and Wisner. „The origin of this conflict is not just on the ground. We moved away from a fight on the ground to a fight in the media. Most of these young people get their messages from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. What we have seen in Syria were unbelievably well equipped people, Jihadists producing videos in slow motion. We have to realise that the people get radicalised in a completely new world. In the internet they are no nations, it’s free, you can move from there to there. There is a Salafist from Saudi Arabia who has 10 million followers on Twitter. And we have hundreds of these kinds of Salafists. If you do not start to build a strategy against that way of radicalisation in the media, you will lose this fight. We are in a war of media.”
To this last line of thought Hubertus Hoffmann admitted and suggested to apply for financial support at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior in order to develop a platform which could generate such counter strategies. „This could be, for example, a forward-looking result of our breakfast discussion.“ Wisner added one last facet: „The problem is a priority. Does the defeat of the ideas of radical Islam command the concerted attention of our governments but not of most of all the governments of the region? And if I had a message to take to Berlin it wouldn’t be writing a check. Instead, it would be to communicate with Washington, Riyadh, Doha, Rabat. We have to get serious about the very kind of effort that was mounted in 1946/47 to counter the ideas of the Soviet Block, to produce the Radio Free Europe, the Radio Liberty. Today, the media are Twitter and Facebook, but the core is a political concept. And that’s what we need to sell, if I could leave that point.”
At this point the host, Hubertus Hoffmann, thanked again all the participants of the breakfast discussion for their contributions. They included Professor Uzi Arad, former national security advisor and director general of the National Security Council of the State of Israel, Günther Beckstein, Bavarian prime minister (ret.) and member of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Helmut Fluhrer, chairman of brainmate GmbH, Michael Gahler, member of the European Parliament, Colonel Kalkert, German Federal Forces, Professor Gunther Schmid and especially the organiser of this interesting discussion, Philipp W. Hildmann, commissioner for Intercultural Dialogue of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.