The Retreat from Universalism in the Middle East and the World

Source: The Century Foundation

Author(s): Karl Sharro

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The Islamic State may be close to defeat, but the wound it opened in the social and political fabric of the Middle East will take a long time to heal. It is not just the shock of the group’s ultraviolent tactics that will linger long after it has lost all of its territory. Even more so, it will be remembered for dealing a severe blow—possibly a fatal one—to the idea of pluralism in the region. Coexistence will be hard to recover, whether between ethnicities, religions, or other identities. The group’s atrocities have had severe consequences that will take years, if not decades, to rectify. What trust existed between communities has been shredded. And while the Islamic State’s startling expansion was by no means the first challenge to coexistence, its extent, nature, and severity have far eclipsed previous episodes, such as the Lebanese Civil War. Long-standing minority fears have been given a concrete and brutal form in the shape of the attempted genocide against the Yazidis and the persecution of minorities. Further, the Islamic State’s rise on the heels of the Arab uprisings poses a baffling and uncomfortable question: how could protest movements that started by calling for dignity, freedom, and democracy have given way to the bleak vision of such extremists?

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