Ambassador Aydin Nurhan is the Permanent Representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to Afghanistan. He has served as the Ambassador of Turkey to Accra, Ghana, Togo and Benin, previously Consul General in Azerbaijan, Austria and Australia. He was the Director General of Science and Technology at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (2000-2004), and has also served in Saudi Arabia, Holland, Germany and the United Stated in his junior year, and is the acting Chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies of Ministry of Foreign affairs of Turkey.
His main field of interest is globalization. He was the recipient of Honorary Doctorate of the Private University of Nakhchevan, Commander of the National Order of the Republic of Benin and “The Social Harmony in the Public Services Award 2010” of the Australian Intercultural Society.
His lectures have been published in the USA, Ghana, and Turkish Journals and his recent article on “Culture of Strategic Studies in Developing Countries” is published in Turkish in an edited book on Strategic Studies.
We can trace the roots of extremism to hardened dogmas and religious interpretations. Yet modernity brings us even more ruthless, the most extreme fanaticism, applying pure logic to religious books, focusing on the literal reading of texts rather than the intention In general concepts.
And this approach is far distant to historical flexible interpretations of religious sects and sufi understanding perhaps we should call them religious ideologies, as ideologies are ruthless Machiavellian systems intended for political ends.
In the age of modernity, students who get insulated logical, materialistic education without a balancing spiritual training tend to apply it to religion and end up in extreme ideologies. Whereas students of traditional rural madrassas trained under the illiterate or poorly educated mullahs are brainwashed for a world view, unaware of the international jungle of national interests, where the global village is and how to fight injustices and deceptions with equal cunning mentality and technological means.
Another important factor in religious extremism is the rather new phenomenon, the European concept of ‘Nation State’, applied to geographies created by rulers and pencil s in the 20th century. This European concept did not fit many societies – people still define themselves by tribes in many geographies – and the ultimate identity for them is their religion. If there is a conflict of interest, their cause does not come as a national interest, but as a noble religious duty, even against brethren who have a different interpretation of Islam.
Another point of discussion would be the new Nation State of modernity which would like to create a secular society, a uniform people even the family issues of which should be governed and controlled by the modern, central, secular state mechanism. As the Empires were very flexible in the private affairs of communities, the modern state wants to control even the lifestyles of traditional communities unwisely calling for radical reaction.
One other approach would be the rural versus the metropolis. As migration works from the villages to the metropolis, the traditional values, including religion, spontaneously evolve into secular ethics and social contract of the bourgeoisie. This depends on the ability of the metropolis to digest the newcomers in a harmonious way. But if the state tries to speed this assimilation in a radically unnatural way, again reactions come, this time more violently, because vague, flexible ideas turn into radical ideologies in modern metropols.
And technology – Today, nearly all kids are online. Technology changes lives and lifestyles in a very swift manner. Social Sciences cannot match the speed of technological sciences. Laws and traditions are becoming desperately helpless to cope with the speed of technology. This desperation also comes as a radical religious backlash, especially among the new migrants at the metropolis.
And the third factor in Religious Extremism in ‘Politics’.
In modern democracies, every discontented group has the right to politically ask for their material and spiritual rights and interests. Yet in this process, religion gets politicized, used by unfair political interests and unfortunately Islam gets blamed for the shortcomings of the politicians who use it. Especially the local secular modernists and Western politicians abuse these shortcomings as the shortcomings of Quran and Islam.
Now we can jump into the last part of our discussion – interest wars in the international jungle of Nation States.
As every student of International Relations learns, state-mechanism has interests against its own nation that it has to serve, and against other nations.
Taking the extremism in Central Asia and the Subcontinent, we see that there are tribal interests, national interests, regional interests and global interests at work. And all of them use our noble religion Islam for their interests seeing others as infidels. Simply, all use Islam as a useful tool for their cause.
As Central Asia and the subcontinent get more volatile due to looming Chinese power in the 12st Century, and the accelerating economic decline of the Western world, present problems at the ‘Grand Chessboard’ do not let us have an optimistic future.
We think the problems we have at hand are not the insular problems of local communities. Not of Pakistan, not of Afghanistan, not of India but an inter-connected bundle needing a common solution, perhaps like that of the EU, a Pax Sub-Asia.
Yet a further step is needed. The Western world should stop the mentality of the clash of civilizations, calling fanaticism as ‘Islamic Terror’.
Simply put, Western soldier and the Muslim fighter both fight for their worldly interests, yet one has national identity, and the other not yet assimilated into nationhood, fighting for religious identity.
Without honestly naming the problems, we shall not go far away and the region shall put the global family into the vortex together with it.
A practical start for ending hostilities may be the example of cosmopolitan ‘Agora’ of ancient Greece, where all came for commerce and cultural exchange, then return to the village of their own lifestyle, or ‘Holy Kaaba’ where fighting is haram. If we can agree on this example of choosing certain cities, universities, shrines or places for peace, then gradually we may spread peace to other venues.
For such agreement, the parties with weapons have to talk to each other. Third parties can only facilitate if they are mutually trusted and called in by the warring sides.
Another practical approach may be to invite local religious leaders to international horizon opening tours to Islamic countries to see various religious practices, discuss with fellow scholars on the one hand and visits to Western countries to see the technological studies the West takes as a spiritual duty for their countries.