On criminalizing sectarian conflicts
Sanctifying the concept of citizenship is mandatory to ensure that people co-exist within a country
Sanctifying the concept of citizenship is mandatory to ensure that people co-exist within the confines of a country. It is also essential for the purpose of defining relations between different countries. Citizenship relies on the principle of coexistence despite all the differences that may exist in the society.
Most countries are made up of people with different political, religious and sectarian backgrounds. It is not possible to end these differences, or to least put an end to its negative ramifications, unless the concept of citizenship is strengthened and sectarianism is rejected. Citizenship is a supreme value which citizens of the same country share despite the differences of faith, sects and origins.
Political Islamists reject citizenship. Their late godfather Sayyid Qutb once famously said: “A homeland is nothing but a handful of filthy dust.” They believe that ideological affiliations distinguish citizens from people with different ideologies. Therefore, they work with all their might to achieve ideological dominance and to impose this ideology by force as a principle higher than that of citizenship.
According to this dogma, a citizen is only someone who shares their belief. Perhaps, the primary reason behind the so-called Arab Spring and the brutal civil wars was that people’s affiliation to their sect became stronger than the affiliation to their countries.
If we take a look at the countries which escaped civil wars and other conflicts, we realize that people’s positions there are based on supporting a certain group because it’s the same sect as theirs and they oppose another group because it belongs to a different sect. They limited brotherhood to sectarian brotherhood.
Perhaps, the primary reason behind the so-called Arab Spring and the brutal civil wars was that people’s affiliation to their sect became stronger than the affiliation to their countries.Mohammed Al Shaikh
Wars and conflicts will continue until individuals agree that religion and sects are personal affairs that have nothing to do with others. What’s more important is that the state must dissociate itself from supporting one category of people and excluding another.
It is necessary for this idea to be executed on the ground so all citizens have the same rights and duties without any discrimination or eliminations based on sect. This is the essence of citizenship which we call for and we firmly believe that it’s the only solution to root out violence and terrorism.
From an objective point of view, I must say that committing to the values of citizenship eliminates the inherited challenge of sectarianism and hatred and fortifies the country from strife. We need time and continuous and tireless efforts in the fields of education and the media.
It is even more important to create rules and regulations that criminalize sectarian conflicts and hold anyone who incites strife accountable.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd
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