Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Terrorism and Cultural Tolerance
KURODA Toshio / Professor of International University of Japan

October 27, 2001
The tragic simultaneous terrorist attacks that struck the United States on September 11 have been followed by disturbing events such as military action in Afghanistan and the latest anthrax scare. And as if in response, bloodshed has erupted in Palestine. It takes a great effort to restore order once the situation has gotten out of hand. There is much to be done, including military action to defend against terrorism and international diplomatic efforts at containment. However, even as people keep their attention focused mostly on the disturbing sequence of events, we must pay heed to the fact that in the end, violence cannot be overcome by force alone.

There is no way we can obtain any clear answers by asking terrorists who remain invisible why they launched these terrorist attacks. But various inconsistencies exist in today's world that may offer a reason. Third World countries generally bear the brunt of many of the problems in the shadows of unipolar globalization, while on a regional level, it can't be denied that the failure to achieve peace in the Middle East centered on Palestine is due in great part to the double standards exercised by mediators during the negotiation process. While efforts towards resolving such economic inequality and political inconsistency require immediate action, it takes considerable time before such efforts bear fruit. Meanwhile, in reality hostility against Islam and a tendency towards rejecting Muslims is spreading among ordinary people in everyday settings.

Under such circumstances, people should be sharing the knowledge that murder is a felony under Islamic law and that killing of non-combatants during war is absolutely forbidden. The latest terrorist acts - in which innocent civilians were killed - is a criminal act according to Islamic law, and prohibited for Muslims. Al-Qaeda is a group that has transgressed the line of binding laws, and should not be identified with ordinary Muslims. Unfortunately, we seem to find around us a tendency to pass judgement on one billion Muslims on the basis of a handful of criminal extremists. This can also be said about the military campaign in Afghanistan as well. If we should fail to clearly differentiate between our true enemy and ordinary civilians, many Muslims may come to think of the battle to eradicate terrorism as a challenge against Islam itself.

While the actions and measures are directed at the criminals, what we need now is a sense of moderation for abiding with pertinent limits regarding the world that serves as a backdrop, and a stance of respect for foreign cultures that is more than lip service, that makes such tolerance possible. It is precisely because we find ourselves in these difficult times that we need a cosmopolitanism grounded on genuine multiculturalism and not any self-centered belief in cultural supremacy. Since ancient times, cultural cooperation has been more effective in resolving frictions and discord than military or political action. The question is - are we adequately prepared for it?

The writer is a professor of Middle Eastern Societies and Culture at International University of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

黒田 壽郎 / 国際大学教授

2001年 10月 27日




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