With many societies with large Muslim populations going through periods of significant change and upheaval, or even experiencing active conflicts, there is a need for individuals skilled in conflict transformation that have the experience, cultural sensitivities and knowledge to work successfully in Muslim contexts. Through its own contacts, the Cordoba Foundation has received a number of requests for experts familiar with Muslim culture who could offer training in mediation and conflict resolution or support in the design and implementation of conflict transformation projects.
The institutionalization of conflict resolution and transformation as an academic and professional discipline over the last 50 years has been driven by a need to improve and professionalize attempts to address violent conflicts. This institutionalization was originally dominated by Western institutions and organizations which led some people to dismiss conflict resolution and transformation as Western concepts. However, such concepts are inherent to all societies – conflict being a natural consequence of human interaction. The challenge is to ensure that the approaches and techniques of conflict resolution/transformation fit with the culture of the society where they are being applied.
Muslim societies have always had their own mechanisms and methods for addressing conflict but the notion of conflict resolution and transformation as an academic and professional discipline is only just beginning to take root. Scholars and practitioners have begun to document and promote how such concepts are actually practised in the Muslim world and to compare and contrast them with “Western” approaches. As with all disciplines, a healthy cross-fertilization between different cultural perspectives and approaches can only lead to the further enrichment of the field as a whole.
Many conflict transformation practitioners from Muslim societies seeking to further their knowledge and skills have often travelled to the US or Europe where there are established courses in conflict resolution, peace studies, etc. What these practitioners lack on returning to their countries, is a supportive network in which they can exchange and develop ideas with peers and colleagues on the specificities of their conflict transformation work in a Muslim context.
As the recognition of conflict transformation as a professional endeavour is not yet widespread in the Muslim world, existing practitioners and activists must be supported and encouraged in their work. The creation of a professional association of conflict transformation practitioners familiar with and active in the Muslim world would be a valuable contribution to the promotion of peace in Muslim societies through the exchange and promotion of learning and best practice on conflict transformation approaches specific to Muslim societies and the consolidation of a pool of practitioners.