The actions of IS have rightly caused outrage worldwide. The reported persecution of minority Christians and Yazidis has been described as a humanitarian crisis requiring urgent intervention and a moral outrage. World leaders, including Barack Obama and David Cameron have been quick to condemn and intervene by providing humanitarian assistance, with ongoing debates as to whether there should be greater involvement.
Of course, it goes without saying that oppression against any minority community must be utterly condemned and the recent actions of IS have been condemned by both Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide. Furthermore, it is important that appropriate strategies are put in place to end the suffering experienced by innocent citizens anywhere in the world. Such strategies must come collectively from ALL those who value justice and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. To suggest that these values are unique to Britain and the West is a divisive approach and such arrogant rhetoric, as espoused by the Western leaders, is more likely to cause more harm than good. After all, our faith clearly states: “If you kill one person unjustly it is as if you killed the whole humanity, and if you saved once person it is as if you saved the whole humanity.” As Lord Ashdown aptly said in response to David Cameron’s “ill-judged” letter about the threat IS pose to Britain, any action “needed to include those who had universal values, which includes those in Islam and the East quite as much as those in Christianity and the West”.
However, I can’t help but feel there is an element of hypocrisy here. On the one hand our government seems quick to intervene in the oppression taking place in Iraq, yet they seem complicit in the ‘surgical’ butchery taking place in Gaza. Take the example of the children killed for playing football on the beach, which Baroness Warsi cited as one of the factors that swayed her towards resignation. Or the air strike on a UN school in Rafah, which resulted in the death of 10 young civilians, and was described by the UN as a “gross violation of international humanitarian law” and a “moral outrage and a criminal act”. Strong words indeed.
These incidents are examples of numerous human rights abuses taking place in Gaza. Yet rather than condemn these acts and help the oppressed Palestinians in a meaningful way, as is being done in Iraq, our government continues to arm Israel with military hardware, which if it continues to do so, may well result in it being challenged at the High Court by the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
If justice and protecting the weak and vulnerable against oppression are universal values, then it should apply equally to the blood of a Yazidi child and a Palestinian child; and if condemning perpetrators of gross atrocities is a universal value, then condemnation should be equally vociferous against IS and Israel. How ironic, that on the one hand, we wish to portray ourselves as the bastion of human rights preservation, yet on the other, we provide assistance to those violating human rights on a daily basis.