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The chapter on reconciliation is the last in Benazir Bhutto’s book, Reconciliation; Islam Democracy and the West. It is a chapter that draws attention to two conflicts. One is the internal conflict in Islam, and features extremists versus moderates, while the other is the external conflict between Islam and the West. This chapter diagnoses the sources of the current divisions, both within Islam and without, and provides practical solutions that will bear reconciliation (Bhutto 278).
According to the writer, the current internal clash that exists in the Muslim world is as a result of the varying interpretations of the teachings of the Quran with modernity. The place for ancient Islamic teachings is lost or misinterpreted by today’s Muslims. Extremists are for the full implementation of the literature, as it is without modification or set into today’s society, while the moderates argue that there is a need to review some of the teachings to blend with the modern world. They are of the view that Islam and its teachings lack relevance today if interpreted as it is. Vocal scholars and reformists suggest the use of rationality to reapply the teachings of the holy book, rewriting their understanding of the Quran and their view of modern scientific advancements (Bhutto 283).
Science and globalization have greatly affected religion in the modern world, because many scholars in different fields have come out to oppose some of the religious teachings, by trying to prove them wrong through the use of science. This has made many people to be brainwashed, hence starting to have little faith with religion. This scientific revolution has affected many religions, including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism among other world religions. To counter this, many religious leaders have come out very strongly to oppose these advances of science, by arguing that they are just aimed at distorting the strong religious foundation that has been in existence for a very long time.
On the other hand, the external conflict between Islam and the West has been fuelled by the widening gap between the values and teachings of the West and those of ancient Islam. There is also perceived erosion of Islamic values by the West, who are accused of imposing their values and political powers on the East through their education and governance structures. The author acknowledges that the solution to this external conflict will require both parties to take initiatives. She has offered a few recommendations that the Muslim world can employ on their part to end the strife. To begin with, the ideologies of extremists have been boosted by the present governance systems in the Muslim world. There should, therefore, be an overhaul of the administrative organizations, and democracy ought to be encouraged in the Muslim world. The writer maintains that democracy can defeat religious fanaticism and militancy in a country (Bhutto 290).
To sustain democracy, these countries would need to create a strong economic middle class. This will reduce the disparity between the rich and the poor. A vibrant middle class guarantees a vibrant economic and political influence. One way of building this class she claims is to promote compulsory public education that offers development opportunities for poor children. Also, the closure of the militant Madras should be supported in Pakistan and other Islamic countries to end the radical violent lessons that strengthen extremism. These militant Madras classes are the ones that provide people with extremist ideas, which in turn lead to the people being taught these lessons becoming hard-liners or extremists. To counter this advancement of extremist teachings, the Pakistan government should work hard towards ensuring that these militant Madras classes are prohibited in the military camps, to prevent further extremism.
Closure of these Madras classes will go a long way in ensuring that the ideas of extremism are not taught, hence helping in reducing cases of radical activities in the country. This technique has been tried in some countries, and it has helped in preventing extremism cases in those countries. To avoid conflict of religion or interfering with one’s religious affiliation, the government should ensure that despite the banning of these classes, people who adhere to the teachings of Islam have a place where they can listen to normal Islamic teachings and make prayers. This will help in ensuring that their religious rights are not affected or interfered with, despite the banning of the militant Madras classes in certain areas. Not only Islam, but any religion advocating for radical ideas or activities should be prevented from operating in a country, to avoid unnecessary and dangerous revolts or uprisings.
Another key tool for ensuring equalization in society besides education is gender equality. Women’s participation in major sectors of the economy not only ensures financial equality but also democracy. Their participation can be increased by educating them and ensuring that they are economically independent. Micro financial institutions have a critical role to play in fighting poverty. This, they can do by uplifting the small enterprises started by women, and safeguarding the economic empowerment of women. Another idea proposed is the formation of an investment fund by the Islamic nations to tackle poverty. This is because of the strong connection that exists between the social, economic, and political sections of the society.
Strong civil society should be started to defend democracy and ensure that basic human rights are not violated. A strong civil society is a sign of a mature democracy. The writer stresses the necessity to have women participate aggressively in the civil society movements in their countries, and across the Muslim world to support social equality. In the chapter, numerous submissions have been put forward to the Western world, on what they can do to end this impasse. Among them is to deal with the negative perceptions that the Islamic nations have of them. This should be done with objectivity and by examining if there are any truths in the claims. Another is for them to admit to the damaging results that colonialism had on the Islamic nations. They are also urged to revise their approach to fighting global terrorism so as not to be seen to be targeting Muslim countries but the terrorists, regardless of their religion. Political diplomacy should be restructured to be based on morality rather than political rhetoric.
Several instruments that can aid in restoring trust and enhance communication and relations between the two factions are also postulated in this segment. They include the setting up of more academic exchange programs for young children in the countries. This teaches them different value systems and exposes them to diverse ways of life, and this is powerful in eliminating rigid ways of thinking (Bhutto 297). Further, a universal humanitarian marshal plan should be launched to eradicate poverty in poor Muslim nations, by providing a targeted response to a lack of basic human needs such as shelter, food, and health amenities. Other ways include using humanitarian aid groups from the West to alleviate the suffering of the underprivileged in the Muslim nations. This will change the attitude of the people towards the West.
Additionally, world leadership should encourage world democracy. Weak democracies faced with wars can be strengthened by aid from strong democracies to inject an atmosphere of fairness and a sense of accountability. This is in particular when conducting elections. International observers should be provided by developed countries to ensure that free and fair elections are held. There should also be procedures to overturn election results of a rigged process. The right to vote should be assured and the choice respected. An international civil society with immense powers would also help defend basic privileges in dictatorial states.
Lastly, unresolved conflicts with religious and political dimensions in them should be dealt with fast. They include the stalemate between Israel and Palestine, and the political status of the Kashmir state and that of Chechnya and Russia. The actions suggested by the writer in the chapter are very practical and timely and can help in restoring world peace. However, due to the length of this stalemate, hard-line positions have been drawn, and it is virtually impossible to convince nations to dialogue. The debate between religious extremists and moderates makes a lot of sense, and it is the high time that Muslims have a different view of their religion and allow it to evolve with time. Failure to this, Islam might lose its relevance in the years to come, if rigid interpretations are upheld (Bhutto 300).
Bhutto, Benazir. Reconciliation: Islam Democracy And The West. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.