A Sharp Contrast: The Islamic State and the Republic of Ireland

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett

Head of the Project at MOOC Chile
Lawyer, Universidad de Chile. Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Universities of Notre Dame and City University of New York.
José Zalaquett

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Recent cable news highlight, once more, the existing sharp contrast between Western human and the frustrations of the Arab world whose most extreme manifestation is the terrorism practiced by the so-called Islamic State as a means for its expansionist politics.

The news are that the Islamic State has achieved control of a good part of Syria. Further, it is rumored that in its anti feminine zeal, it would have threatened the presidents of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and of Chile, Michelle Bachelet.

Concerning the danger posed by this organization, there are two main problems. The first one is conceptual: Is the danger represented by the Islamic State of such entity that in order to fight it a derogation of imperative norms of international law may be justified? There are two relevant theoretical frameworks to address this question. One is Michael Walzer’s notion of a “supreme emergency” that is an imminent danger against the subsistence of civilization as we conceive of it; it is, therefore, a greater threat than even that of a ‘traditional war’. The other theoretical framework is the concept of “a criminal law of the enemy” proposed by the German author Günter Jakobs. According to this idea, constitutional and procedural guarantees make sense concerning ‘normal’ wrongdoers. Yet, those who intend to destroy the existing order would have diminished rights, so as to be able to defend the political- legal order against them.

The second problem to confront the Islamic State is political. Fighting it is expensive in terms of lives and money, a cost Western powers are reluctant to bear.

In parallel, in the Republic of Ireland in a recent plebiscite about same -sex marriage the option in favor of it won. This is a hotly debated issue in many Western countries. It is the latest chapter in the struggle against all forms of arbitrary discrimination. Historically the main bases for arbitrary discrimination have been race, religion and sex. Sex had been traditionally understood as the difference between man and woman. Since the late 19th century, the movement for women’s rights has made considerable gains in the Western world, although there is still much to do. However, several decades ago the understanding was established that the international norms prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex , protect not only women but also people with a minority sexual orientation or preference. This is part of the efforts to overcome anti-homosexual stereotypes, a cause that has made considerable progress, at least in the West. In actual fact, it would seem that within a decade or two the widespread approval of same-sex marriage is inevitable, at least in the West.

The contrast between the world of Islam and its most extreme manifestation, the Islamic State vis-à-vis the West, could hardly be sharper. Overcoming this abysmal difference between different world cultures would be the main challenge for the present generation and the succeeding ones.

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