Thepolitico-economic interests of states – behind the contemporary combats – totopple unfavorable governments abroad, to seek easy trade deals, to utilizenatural resources across the world and to establish a desired world order makethe modern wars not the holy wars. Holy wars are fought to propagate orsuppress a religion against those are considered as “Enemies of God”.
Existence of wars canbe traced back to the point when competition and conflict emerged as socialconcepts running parallel with cooperation. Human societies and nations havefought wars on various grounds i.e. religious, political and economic.
The warsfought on religious basis were termed as Holy Wars which are quite differentfrom the Modern Wars being witnessed today. Unlike the Holy Wars, Modern Warsremain considerably political and economic in nature. These are not derived byany pure religious rivalry or agenda.
According to the Encyclopedia of War, outof all known/recorded historical conflicts, only about 7% had religion as theirprimary cause, and of that percentage, 4% were related to Islam. In severalconflicts including the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,the Syrian civil war, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,religious arguments are overtly present but variously described as fundamentalism or religious extremism depending uponthe observer’s sympathies. In Classical Antiquity develops thenotion of a pantheon with a divine”division of labour”. Now, Ares was”war personified”, but while Ares received occasional sacrifice fromarmies going to war, there was only a very limited “cult of Ares”While early empirescould be described as henotheistic,i.e. dominated by a single god of the ruling elite or more directly by deifyingthe ruler in an imperial cult,the concept of “Holy War” enters a new phase with the developmentof monotheismIn early Christianity,St. Augustine’s concept of just war (bellumiustum) was widely accepted, but warfare was not regarded as a virtuousactivity. According to historian Edward Peters, before the 11th centuryChristians had not developed a concept of “Holy War”.
During the 9thand 10th centuries, multiple invasions occurred which lead some regions to maketheir own armies to defend themselves and this slowly lead to the emergence ofthe Crusades, the concept of “holy war”, and terminology such as”enemies of God” in the 11th century.While technically, themillennium of Muslim conquests could be classified as “religiouswar”, the applicability of the term has been questioned. This happenedmany times throughout history, beginning with Muhammad’sbattles against the polytheist Arabsincluding the Battle of Badr (624), andbattles in Uhud(625), Khandaq (627), Mecca (630)and Hunayn (630). .Religion is one ofthe most sensitive issues and, although every religion encourages the ideaof peace and tolerance, almost no one remains in peace or tolerates anythingwhen it comes to their religion.
History is full of religious wars and some ofthem have continued for years and killed many. The Battle of Badar, fought on 17 Ramadan, 2 AH in the Islamic calendar)in the Hejaz regionof western Arabia,was purely of religious based. Muslims fought against non-believers for thesake of Islam.
14 Muslims were martyred in this battle. Battle of Uhad and Battle of Hind were alsoof religious based and were fought by Muslims against non-believers. The Second War ofKeppel was fought in 1531, in the land of Switzerland as a result of religiousconflicts between Catholic cantons and Protestants. It was a roughestimate at that time that 7,000 Protestants and 2,000 Catholics fought thiswar and in the end, more than 700 people died including a majority ofcivilians.
Lebanese civil war wasvery particular and different from other religious wars, as it was foughtbetween Sunnis and Shiites at the land of Lebanon. Both sides belong todifferent ethnic groups of Islam and they both wanted the government control ofLebanon. The Lebanese Civil War started in 1975 and ended and the end of 1990and it was estimated that more than 150,000 people were killed in theseinter-country conflicts.The Crusades is just acatch-all title for the multiple religious wars and fights that were foughtbetween Muslims and Christians. These wars were due to the religious disputesand controls over land in Jerusalem. The first war started in 1095 and lasteduntil 1097, whereas the second war was started in 1097 and continued till1127. Along with many other wars, it all stopped in 1303 when both war soldiersshed blood of more than half a million civilians in the fight and the controlof that land was given to the Christians.ThirtyYears’ War is a series of religious wars, that was fought in between 1618 to1648 in Europe, and at that time, most of the European countries participatedin these wars.
This period of wars is the longest and most demolishing periodof fighting in the history of the world that left more than 800,000 deathsincluding soldiers and civilians. These short period wars were also foughtbetween the religious conflicts in between the Holy Roman Empire, France,Sweden and Spain.Warsbeing fought today are very different from religious wars.
“Holy”wars were waged with the objective of achieving religious goals like conqueringholy cities, expanding “holy” empires, etc. But, modern wars are waged bynations to secure their Geo-political interests. Most nations who have beeninvolved in modern wars are Secular. War inmodern times has been the inclusion of civilians and civilian infrastructure as targets in destroyingthe enemy’s ability to engage in war.
Modern warfare uses the concepts,methods, and military technology that have come into use during and after World Wars Iand II.Religionhas been the cause of all the major wars in history. I have heard this textrecited like a mantra by American commentators and psychiatrists, London taxidrivers and Oxford academics. It is an odd remark. Obviously the two World Warswere not fought on account of religion”(KarenArmstrong)Nationstates are indulged in fighting these wars to secure their politico-strategicinterests, to protect their investments, to seek maximum benefits out of othercountries’ governments and the trade opportunities available.
Besides that, thecombat against terrorism is another idea that overwhelms the Modern Wars thusmaking them apart from the Holy Wars.Startingwith the politico-strategic interests lying behind the modern wars, it can beclearly noted that the holy wars are totally a different thing. This is theworld of nation-states. Each of these states maintains specific politicalinterests attached with the developments across the globe.
There are strategicinterests nourished by the modern nations to have a conducive politicalenvironment in different regions. Amid these complexities, these nationscooperate when required but also fight wars when desired. Examples of suchmodern wars driven by politico-strategic interests are apparent.
TakeU.S-led wars being fought in the Middle Eastern nations of Syria and Iraq.These wars are not against the religion prevailing in the said region but tosecure strategic leverage and political hold there. U.S.
desires a pro-AmericanMiddle Eastern regime. That’s why it topples and installs governments in thename of democracy. All this makes its modern wars different from thetraditional concept of Holy Wars which used to be purely religious likeCrusades.Another example is thepresence of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Syrian civil war. These states arepresent and actively engaged in Syrian war to secure their political interestof regional influence, hold and dominance against the United States of America.Thirdly, Saudi Arabia’sfighting against the Houti rebels in Yemen, is not purely of religious causes.
Its primary objective is to secure its strategic interests and to contain theexpansion of Iran. The Saudis believe the Houthis (which are Shia ) are backedby Iran and the Saudis do not want another Iranian proxy army on their southernborder controlling most of Yemen. Second thing thatrenders modern wars separate from the holy wars is economic and commercialarenas of interests. States are engaged in trade within and outsideits borders. Powerful nations tend to secure their economic interests abroadthrough the pacific tools of concessions and aid. But they also revert tocombative measures sometimes for this purpose. For instance, U.S.
is stillensuring its military presence in Iraq not because of fighting any holy combatbut to hold the country’s natural resources and exploit the maximum economicbenefit from them. Former president Barak Obama’s statement proves it true; “Terrorists werebeing allowed to overrun part of Iraq’s territory This poses a danger to Iraqand its people given the nature of theseterrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests aswell.” Experts on the regionquestion whether oil, terrorism or anything else justifies U.S.
military actionin Iraq. Similarly, China andthe United States of America are contesting in an undeclared and informalcombat in Africa to control the region’s natural resources for the future useand excessive economic value. Africa has long been torn by conflicts driven bysectarian enmities, power struggles, and disputes over colonial borders. Withthe exception of Egypt, the entire continent falls under the purview of the USAfrica Command, or AFRICOM.
Established in 2007, AFRICOM was responsible forthe 2011 intervention in Libya that backed the rebellion against the governmentof Col. Moammar al-Gaddafi. AFRICOM troops have also been involved in fightingIslamist insurgencies in Libya, Mali and Chad in subsequent years. While chinais present there for African diamonds, uranium deposits, rare metals, andfossil fuels. Chinese investors have made substantial inroads into thecontinent in recent decades, negotiating numerous construction projects, miningrights and oil and gas exploration deals. Being the economic rivals, both statesare at war in Africa.
This clearly makes these modern wars differentiated fromthe holy wars which are fought for a religious purpose. In another aspect,modern wars are being fought to have access to the free trade deals and toestablish economic hegemony. That is what has been witnessed in the South-EastAsia in the recent months. US and China have come at daggers drawn to maintainan economic hegemony in the said region. Southeast Asia, being the home ofAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is hub of economic activity.
This brings U.S. and China – the two top world powers – in a contention ofmodern nature which is not holy in any way. Lastly, the modern waragainst terrorism makes the contemporary combats different from the holy wars.The latter were fought for propagation or suppression of a religion.
This isnot the case with the modern fight on terrorism that is not against anyreligion or religious ideology. In fact, these are against the thinking ofterror-spreading through excessive use of violence. Modern wars on terrorismbeing fought in Afghanistan, Middle East and to some extent in Europe andAfrica are completely different from what is called as holy war. In such warsthe enemy is murdering humanity. Thus, it makes no sense whether he is a Muslimor a Christian. Further, it gives him a new identity of a terrorist. Thisjustifies a modern war against him which works not on religious basis but inthe grounds of saving humanity from terror.
Operation zarb-e-Azab, OperationAl-Mizan, Operation Rah-haq in Pakistan are the examples of battles beingfought against terrorism but not to suppress or propagate any religion. In conclusion, wars area reality. But they vary in their very nature defined by the agenda beingpursued behind them. When the agenda is religious, they are termed as holy warsand when the agenda became economic, political and strategic; they are calledModern Wars. Today, the world is experiencing the modern wars which rarely haveanything to do with the religious mindset.
Nation states are devising andfighting these wars to ensure the maximum economic benefits for them in theform of favorable trade deals and free trade regimes. Further, the politicalinterests of maintain strategic leverages in various regions enable them toshape their wars with modern mission which would not reflect spirit of anyreligious or holy cause in them but purely material. All this obvious materialapproaches of fighting wars today make them modern without becoming holy.