Of Peace And Its Symbols!

If one were asked to pinpoint one reality that the Islamic World today lacks — is desper­ately in need of — one would not be widely off the mark in select­ing “peace”.

How about devoting this col­umn to the symbols of peace? First, let us allude to the symbol ‘olive branch’. A look back at the recent history of occupied Palestine would show that the destruction of olive groves has been adopted as an in­strument of coercion against the hapless Palestinians. Call it ironic or symbolic if you will, but an olive branch has traditionally been re­garded as a peace offering.

Symbolism apart, it hurts one to learn about the wholesale and wanton destruction of countless olive groves in the occupied lands of Palestine. Over the past sev­eral years, news reports emanat­ing from around Jerusalem have conveyed the rather distressing picture of Israeli settlers having chopped down thousands of olive trees on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank. One is justified in asking: “why”?

On to another symbol of peace — dove on the wing! Doves have been going through rough times in several regions of the world. It is perhaps in the destiny of such creatures — whether flora or fauna — that are in any way symbolically linked to peace, to be at the receiv­ing end of the most horrid forms of violence.

Man’s inhumanity to other spe­cies is the stuff of legends. Doves are trapped in droves and impris­oned in (gilded) cages. Some lucky few are ceremoniously released on special occasions in what is euphe­mistically given out as a commemo­ration of peace, amity and freedom. Would one not be justified in asking how — and why –- these gentle crea­tures are en-caged in the first place?

Moving on to a wider canvas, it may not be out of place to pen a few words about world peace in general — the one thing that continues to elude humankind. The more the world pampers the world bodies — the United Nations and the like (Nobel Peace Prize et al) — the less inclination they exhibit to work for just and lasting peace in a world be­set regrettably with pestilences of all genres.

Can a single locus in the whole wide world be pinpointed where the much-vaunted (Nobel laureate) organisation has been successful in establishing lasting peace? The world is littered with flashpoints, much like so many festering sores, where the United Nations has been content with mere papering over the cracks. The state of the world today is akin to the sufferings of a patient whose sores, cleverly cam­ouflaged with surgical tape, have been left to fester. Innocent people continue to die cruel and untimely deaths the world over — deaths that could, and should, be avoidable. It hardly matters what denomination, religion or ethnic group they belong to: they are all human beings and each human life is sacred. Whether the human being in question be­comes a victim to a terrorist’s bomb blast, a state army’s bullets or, in­deed, state of the art ‘smart bombs’ raining down from the sky, the fact remains that his or her life was in­valuable and irreplaceable!

The strategy in vogue is based on the philosophy of revenge. An act of terrorism is countered through a comparable act, even though it may be camouflaged un­der the ‘chapeau’ of ‘war on terror’. The US declared ‘war on terror’ has simply not worked. Far from elimi­nating ‘terrorists’ and ‘terrorism’, it has actually added to the sense of insecurity already prevalent in a highly jittery world.

One would venture to throw up the suggestion that we start tack­ling the issue at the grass roots and in a positive rather than nega­tive manner. All festering sores will need to be healed — if need be through use of extensive surgery. The roots of terrorism would need to be shriveled.

To throw up an idea, how about setting up a ‘Council of Elders’ — comprising selected Nobel Lau­reates — mandated to mull over issues that the world faces; to re­search the root causes of terrorism and extremism and to suggest ways and means to effectively tackle the malaise? What is suggested above is no short-term remedy. The wounds will take time to heal, but a begin­ning will have been made, as the Chinese say: ‘every journey starts with a single step’.

The Article First Appeared In The Express Tribune

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