There is more at risk than oil in the middle east. It is unsurprising that public opinion in the US and elsewhere, resents the notion that we should engage with the politics of the Middle East and beyond. Recently, the Ukraine has served to push the Middle East to the inside pages, with the carnage of Syria featuring somewhat, but the chaos of Libya, whose Government we intervened to change, hardly meriting a mention.
However the Middle East matters. What is presently happening there, still represents the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st C. The region, including the wider area outside its conventional boundary – Pakistan, Afghanistan to the east and North Africa to the west – is in turmoil with no end in sight to the upheaval and any number of potential outcomes from the mildly optimistic to catastrophe.
At the root of the crisis lies a radicalized and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message. This week we saw Christians and others flee to the mountains begging for help.
Here are 3 reasons the middle east matters:
First and most obviously, it is still where a large part of the world’s energy supplies are generated, and whatever the long term implications of the USA energy revolution, the world’s dependence on the Middle East is not going to disappear any time soon. In any event, it has a determining effect on the price of oil; and thus on the stability and working of the global economy.
Secondly, it is right on the doorstep of Europe. Instability there affects Europe, as does instability in North Africa, in close proximity to Spain and Italy.
Third, religion cannot be at the forefront of a governments ability to govern. Extremist Islam would dictate that the international community would be placed at a disadvantage. Women, Christians and Jewish people would be systematically negated from negotiations. Current situations have proven that anyone not of the sect of Islam held by extremists are being killed, maimed and tortured. In recent days we have watched mosques, temples and churches burned to the ground.
Many of those totally opposed to the Islamist ideology are absolutely devout Muslims. In fact, it is often the most devout who take most exception to what they regard as the distortion of their faith by those who claim to be ardent Muslims whilst acting in a manner wholly in contradiction to the proper teaching of the Koran.
Neither should this be seen in simplistic Sunni/Shia terms. Make sure that you read What You Need To Know: Sunni vs. Shiite to understand the particulars.
The real battle is against both Sunni and Shia extremism where the majority of people, Sunni or Shia, who are probably perfectly content to live and let live, in the same way that nowadays most Catholics and Protestants do, are caught in a vicious and often literal crossfire between competing exclusivist views of the ‘true’ Islam. Where the two views align, whatever their mutual antagonism, is in the belief that those who think differently are the ‘enemy’ either within or without.
This is why we must help keep the balance. We are citizens of the world.
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