Event Summary: ‘The Role of Religion in Contemporary Conflicts and Hate Movements’


by Jonathan Rubra

On the 23rd of March, Mr Bernard-Henri Lévy, established French philosopher, journalist and author, delivered a talk on ‘The Role of Religion in Contemporary Conflicts and Hate Movements’. The event was chaired by Lord Risby and hosted by The Henry Jackson Society in the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Lévy opened his talk with a tribute to the victims of the Brussels attacks yesterday (22nd March), saying that for Europeans, the issue of terrorism is as pertinent now as it has ever been. Throughout his talk he referred back to Brussels, as well as considering the attacks in a wider context.

Discussing that many attempt to explain terrorism, Mr Lévy emphasised that we should not attempt to justify acts of terror as ‘retaliation’ to wars in the Middle-East. These excuses are ‘a bad joke’ and they need to be removed.

Using the Israel-Palestine conflict as an example, he argued that “even if it is resolved, it would not remove a single jihadist from the world stage”. Mr Lévy discussed that jihad is such a deeply dangerous and complex issue, our understanding of it is vital to forming a strategy to prevent it.

Delving into the debate of religion, Mr Lévy argued that jihad is certainly not a fair representation of Islam, however there is no denying that there is some form of link. This link should thus be identified and strongly denounced as a fundamental element of talking jihad. This is an issue that has been wrongly tackled before, he says, “we have to admit that we are not confronting a policing problem, but a war”.

He argued that in the war against jihad, the West has two fundamental allies. The first is Israel, as its location within the Middle East has exposed it to decades of terrorism, and thus decades of experience in handling it. The second is moderate Muslims, who are also victims of jihad. He argues that the West must acknowledge the progress of countries like Morocco at developing more towards Western values, as this is invaluable in tackling jihad.

Mr Lévy closed his insightful and captivating talk with a reminder that jihad is still an ever-present threat in modern politics, and that understanding the threat is the first step towards tackling it.


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