Among those nominated this year will be Saddam Jamal, a Muslim, who rounded up a Muslim family and made the parents watch while he ordered their sons to be beheaded. He then stuck the heads on a school door before killing the parents. (Reported by Ruth Sherlock for the Daily Telegraph who covers this conflict). In earlier years, a Nobel nominee had been the Yugoslav soldier who placed a live baby in an oven and cooked her.
These acts are so outrageous that in my view the perpetrators are uncivilized, and do not approach 21st century standards of humanity. I am aware that other horrific killings have occurred on a single and mass scale and not just in ancient times. But some statement of abhorrence and decision not to let these actions go unnoticed is required. The public has to be constantly reminded of them, so that it is clear when these acts are performed, and that they are unacceptable.
There are two dimensions to the Middle Eastern conflict, a religious war between Muslims, Christians and Jews, and an intra-faith conflict within each of these religions, especially for Christians and Muslims. The first has been going on since the eleventh century starting with the crusades. It flares up from time to time and is one dimension of the present conflict, mainly with terrorist-type attacks in places like New York, London and Madrid, airline and liner high jackings, attacks on western military personnel and tourists. Social media combined with low transportation and communications costs aid these attacks.
But what is taking place in the witches cauldron of the Middle East is a conflict between different brands of the Muslim faith, the Sunni and Shia and divisions within each of these. Christians and Jews get drawn in because they live in the region, often as the unwanted neighbors of Muslims. At other times, Christians have had intra-faith disputes such as between Protestants and Catholics, which underlay centuries of fighting between England, France and Ireland. The British monarch is now head of the Church of England, as a result of a lengthy dispute with Rome which resulted in Thomas More being beheaded. In earlier times, those convicted for various deeds were hung, drawn and quartered in public.
Evil actions are seen relative to the standards which apply at the time they occur. This is not an excuse for the past, but there is need to support today’s standards of civilization and condemn certain actions as being unacceptable.
Valiant attempts are made with the UN Responsibility to Protect Convention and the 1949 Geneva Convention concerning the conduct of war including the treatment of prisoners. It is as though rules were drawn up for a soccer game, but unlike soccer, the conflict game today has no enforceable rules and no referee to penalize the players. The strongest or best equipped wins with whatever means are available. Persons like Saddam Jamal are free to do as they please, and have to be treated by today’s civilized countries as common and despicable criminals.