Muslim Peace-Building Actors in Africa and the Balkan Context: Challenges and Needs



Religion and conflict resolution in general, and Islam in particular, have become a main area of research since the September 11 attacks. This article argues that, to develop effective conflict resolution models and practices for sustainable peace in the Muslim world, it is not only necessary to understand how religious and cultural traditions can contribute to peace, but also to work together with and incorporate local peace-building actors, as their legitimacy and knowledge can contribute to the effectiveness of peace-building initiatives. Although there is a growing literature exploring Islamic principles of peace and conflict resolution, research analyzing how these principles are put to use by Muslim actors to resolve their conflicts is lagging behind. This gives the impression that there are no actors working toward peace in these communities. The authors argue to the contrary, which is based on an analysis of data collected from the Balkans and the Great Lakes region and includes a combination of interviews and surveys submitted by more than fifty Muslim peace actors that describe their efforts and perception of Islamic peace. This essay analyzes the unique characteristics of Muslim peace-building actors, who are doing critical work under extremely difficult conditions, and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses to inform the development of effective conflict resolution and peace-building models in these regions.


It is increasingly becoming evident that for peace to be sustainable and long lasting, peace-building efforts must take into consideration the religiocultural traditions of the communities involved. For that reason, emerging literature in the peace and conflict resolution field emphasizes the importance of understanding cultural and religious traditions in resolving conflicts and building peace.1 Religiocultural traditions inform conceptions of peace, conflict, and conflict resolution processes as well as providing them with legitimacy—a critical ingredient for transforming negative enemy images and establishing lasting peace (for more on legitimacy and conflict resolution).2 Religion in particular, as “a powerful constituent of cultural norms and values,” is deeply implicated in individual and social conceptions of peace, as it addresses some of the most profound existential issues of human life, such as those concerning freedom/inevitability, fear/security, right/wrong, sacred/profane, etc.3 Indeed, in many modern-day conflicts, religious and cultural traditions play a central role in defining the identities of the parties and legitimizing the conflict (e.g., conflicts between Pakistan and India, Israel and Palestine). Many of these conflicts involve Muslim communities where Islam plays a major role in informing their conflicts.

The relationship between Islam and conflict has become a major area of interest, especially after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq. Many studies have explored the potentially constructive role of religion in conflict resolution and peace building.4 In the context of Islam, there have also been serious efforts in the last decade to capture the possible peaceful role that Muslim organizations, theologians, and communities can assume in responding to internal and external sources of violence.5 These scholars have explored and emphasized Islamic values of peace and conflict resolution in the Quran, deeds and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and have attempted to apply these principles to the current-day conflicts. Others have worked to uncover Muslim peacemakers in history.6 Mohammed Abu-Nimer and others have attempted to effectively combine Western and Islamic conflict resolution approaches to address the requirement of unique modern-day conflicts.7 These scholars agree upon various assumptions regarding the possible role of Islam in social and political change. Some of these common assumptions include the following: (a) There is a pressing need for Muslim theologians to reexamine their interpretations of the scripts and their ways of relating to the classic Islamic sources, especially when dealing with issues of violence and use of weaponry. (b) In the process of social and political change in the Islamic world, there is a crucial role for Muslim religious leaders in educating their followers in the art and strategies of nonviolent resistance and conflict resolution. (c) Nonviolence and conflict resolution frameworks and strategies are integral parts of Islamic theologies, culture, and history; and (d) Change in the Muslim communities should not be imposed by external actors or organizations, but be nurtured internally and adapted to fit the needs and aspirations of these communities.

Although there is a growing literature exploring Islamic principles of peace and conflict resolution, research analyzing how these principles are put to use by Muslim actors to resolve their conflicts lags behind. The lack of systematic studies that identify and analyze the contributions and shortcomings of Muslim peace-building actors working toward peace in their communities creates the impression that there are no peace-building organizations or institutions in the Muslim world. On the basis of their research, the authors of this article argue to the contrary. Indeed, there are quite a number of nongovernmental organizations, as well as local leaders around the Muslim world, working in their communities to resolve conflicts, build peace, and encourage interfaith dialogue.

Because of a lack of systematic research that analyzes and explores their work and contributions, the invaluable and courageous endeavors undertaken by these actors go unnoticed. Analyzing these efforts and identifying the needs of these Muslim actors could be of enormous use in understanding conflict resolution in the Muslim world and in developing effective policies and approaches to resolve conflicts involving Muslims. Policies and conflict resolution approaches that take into account and work with these organizations can be one of the most effective ways to counter radical voices and groups in the Muslim world. Additionally, working with these groups could also provide legitimacy to nonregional peace actors and conflict resolution scholars.

On the basis of these observations, this article focuses on Muslim peace-building actors in the Balkans and Africa and discusses their characteristics, areas of operation, and the challenges they face. This article also offers an analysis of how Muslim peace-building actors differ from their Western counterparts in terms of their strengths and limitations. Finally, the article concludes by offering suggestions for nonregional actors and conflict resolution scholars who work in these regions.

This article is based on research undertaken by the authors during March 2005, in which they identified more than fifty Muslim peace-building actors in the Balkans and Africa, receiving information on thirty of them and analyzing the work and contribution to peace of fourteen.8 The discussion of Muslim peace-building actors presented here is also based on academic literature such as books and journal articles, literature from donor agencies (e.g., USAID) and research organizations, newspapers, newsletters, and magazines, Internet databases, self-reporting (e.g., organizational Web sites, telephonic and in-person interviews), as well as a survey. The survey consisted of eleven questions aimed at gathering information regarding the content of their work, how Islamic values and practices inform their mission and work, two practical examples of their work, and major challenges they face.9 Thus, most of the analyses of Muslim peace-building actors relied on self-reporting and self-description, mainly via e-mail surveys and interviews. Reporting based on self-description via e-mail surveys limits a more detailed analysis, as many of the participants are reluctant to mention failures, what did not work, and unsuccessful practices and projects because of the fear that it might affect their chances for future grants and funding. This raises the question: to what extent is this information reliable? To overcome this shortcoming, the authors have tried to substantiate and support information presented here via academic journals, newspaper articles, and Web searches.

Muslim peace-building actors included in this study were chosen because of their visibility, relatively easy access to information about their work, and the relevancy of their work to this study as well as their responsiveness to the survey questions. Also, the organizations included in this research (see Table 1) constitute the most visible actors: those who can read English, have the capacity to internationalize their work by electronic media, and have the means to respond to the survey questions via electronic mail. Nevertheless, these organizations certainly do represent a segment of Muslim peace-building actors operating in these regions.

Table 1.  Categorization of Muslim Peace-Building Actors
ActorLevel of Action (local, national, international)Geographic FocusPrimary BeneficiariesCore Activities (advocacy, intermediary, observation, education, interfaith dialogue, transnational justice)
Federation of Muslim Women's Association, GhanaLocal and nationalGhanaMuslim womenEducation
Wajir Peace and Development Committee, KenyaLocal, national, and internationalKenya, Somalia, UgandaMuslim and non-Muslim communitiesIntermediary
COPA, KenyaLocal, national, and internationalAll of Africa, particularly Anglophone, Lusophone, and Francophone countriesDifferent religious and ethnic communitiesIntermediary
Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, KenyaInternationalAll of AfricaDifferent religious and ethnic communitiesInterfaith
Christian Muslim Dialogue and Interfaith Mediation Center, NigeriaLocal, national, and internationalMostly NigeriaMuslim and Christian communitiesInterfaith mediation
Center for Research and Dialogue, SomaliaLocal, national, and internationalSomaliaMostly Muslim communitiesAdvocacy
Kisima Peace and Development Organization, SomaliaLocal and nationalSomaliaMuslim communitiesObservation
IQK (Holy Quran Radio), SomaliaLocal and nationalSomaliaMuslim communitiesAdvocacy
Federation of Muslim Women's Association, Sierra LeoneLocal and nationalSierra LeoneMuslim womenEducation
United Council of Imam Women's Organization, Sierra LeoneLocal and nationalSierra LeoneMostly Muslim womenEducation
Hanafiyat Muslim Youth Organization, Sierra LeoneNationalSierra LeoneMuslim communityEducation
Interreligious Council of Sierra LeoneNational and internationalSierra LeoneDifferent religious and ethnic communitiesInterfaith mediation
Muslim Women's League, SudanNationalSudanMuslim womenAdvocacy
Sudanese Women Civil Society Network for Peace or Sudanese Women's Initiative for Peace, SudanNationalSudanMostly Muslim womenAdvocacy
Dar Es Salaam Islamic Club, TanzaniaLocalTanzaniaMuslim communityAdvocacy
Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, UgandaLocalUgandaMuslim communityEducation
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, UgandaLocal, national, and internationalMostly Uganda and SudanDifferent religious and ethnic communitiesIntermediary
Uganda Muslim Women Vision, UgandaLocal, national, and internationalUgandaMuslim womenAdvocacy
Albanian Foundation for Conflict Resolution of Disputes, AlbaniaNationalAlbaniaDifferent religious and ethnic communities, both religious and secular groupsIntermediary
Islamic Community of Bosnia-HerzegovinaNationalBosniaMuslim communityAdvocacy
Interreligious Council of Bosnia-HerzegovinaNationalBosniaDifferent religious and ethnic communitiesInterfaith
Women to Women, Bosnia-HerzegovinaLocal and nationalBosniaDifferent religious and ethnic communities, both secular and religious groupsAdvocacy (also transnational justice)
Merhamet, Bosnia-HerzegovinaLocal and nationalBosniaMostly MuslimsHumanitarian, advocacy
Faculty of Islamic Studies, KosovoNationalKosovoMuslimsEducation
Interreligious Council of KosovoNationalKosovoDifferent religious and ethnic groupsInterfaith
Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, U.S.InternationalGlobalDifferent religious and ethnic groupsEducation
Salam Sudan Foundation, U.S.InternationalU.S., France, and SudanDifferent religious and ethnic groupsAdvocacy
Muslim Peace Fellowship, U.S.InternationalGlobalMostly Muslim communitiesAdvocacy
The Islamic Human Rights Commission, UKInternationalGlobalMuslimsAdvocacy
World Council of Muslim Women Foundations, CanadaInternationalCanada and BosniaMuslim womenEducation

Based on Cynthia Sampson's categorization,10 Muslim peace-building actors were considered as such if they identified conflict resolution and peace building as a critical aspect of their mission and/or if their activities involved at least one of the following means toward resolving conflicts and establishing peace:11

  • • Advocacy, especially religiously motivated advocacy, includes those activities primarily concerned with empowering the weaker party(ies) in a conflict situation, restructuring relationships, and transforming unjust social structures. It also refers to activities aimed at strengthening the representativeness and inclusiveness of governance.
  • • Intermediary refers to activities aimed at bringing the parties together to resolve their conflict and establish peace. These activities include fact-finding, good offices, peace-process advocacy, facilitation, conciliation, and mediation.
  • • Observing refers to the watchful, compelling physical presence of religious actors that is intended to discourage violence, corruption, human rights violations, or other behavior deemed threatening and undesirable. Observers may actively monitor and verify the legitimacy of elections, or may form “peace teams” or “living walls” between sides active in conflict situations.
  • • Education and training activities aim to sensitize a society to inequities in the system; to foster an understanding of and build the skills of advocacy, conflict resolution, pluralism, and democracy; and/or to promote healing and reconciliation.
  • • Transnational justice refers to activities that aim to seek accountability for atrocities and human rights abuses during war times via local and international tribunals or truth commissions.
  • • Intrafaith and interfaith dialogues refer to those dialogues organized by religious actors that aim to bring together religious groups with the goal of contributing to the peace process.

Having ascertained that the actors indeed are involved with peace building, the authors categorize them as Muslim if the peace-building actors12 identify themselves as Muslim or Islamic (e.g., Muslim Women's League —Southern Sudan) and/or any of the following apply: they operate in a community where Muslims are the majority (e.g., Kisima Peace and Development Organization in Somalia, where Islam is the state religion and 90 percent of the population is Muslim);13 are led by a Muslim religious actor (e.g., Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa as led by Sheikh Mbacke); include Muslim religious leaders as equal partners (e.g., Interfaith Mediation Center, Nigeria); use Islamic values, teachings, and practices to transform conflict (e.g., Coalition for Peace in Africa, which uses the Islamic conflict resolution mechanism of Suluh); are led by, or established by, Muslims inspired by Islamic values (e.g., Merhamet in Bosnia-Herzegovina).


Islam has a direct impact on the way peace is conceptualized and the way conflicts are resolved in Islamic societies, as it embodies and elaborates upon its highest morals, ethical principles, and ideals of social harmony. Irrespective of the Islamic tradition they adhere to, Muslims agree that Islam is a religion of peace and that application of Islamic principles will bring justice, harmony, and order, thus peace.14 Indeed the word Islam is derived from the Arabic word Salam/silm (peace), suggesting peace through submission (taslim) to the will of God. Islamic principles and practices of peace building and conflict resolution are derived from the Quran and the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (the Hadith and the Sunna), which conceptualize peace as a positive state of safety or security that includes being at peace with oneself, with fellow human beings, nature, and God.15 As such, peace in Islam is associated with concepts such as justice, human development, wholeness, salvation, perfection, and harmony.16

The Quran urges Muslims to resolve their conflicts peacefully.17 Islamic principles and values that underpin the Islamic conception of peace include, but are not limited to: the fundamental unity of all humankind and all life (Tawhid);18 compassion and mercy (Rahmah and Rahim); the original constitution of human beings, which is deemed good and innocent (Fitrah); justice (Adl); forgiveness (Afu); social responsibility and vicegerency (Khilafah); the pursuit of love, kindness, benevolence, wisdom, and knowledge; service, social empowerment, universality, and the dignity of human life; the sacredness of human life; equality; the quest for peace and harmony; creativity and innovation; individual responsibility and accountability; patience, collaboration, and solidarity; inclusion and participation; and diversity and unity, among others.19 Thus the Quran impels Muslims to work for coexistence, mutual understanding, and cooperation with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Even though many Muslim societies across the globe have developed different traditional-cultural dispute resolution mechanisms over the centuries, referred to as sulha (e.g., the Middle East), sulh (e.g., Bosnia), or suluh (e.g., Kenya, Indonesia), because of the references to sulh (reconciliation/peace building) in the Quran, these traditional conflict resolution mechanisms become internal sources for resolving conflicts and peacemaking in different parts of the Muslim world. Conflict resolution and peacemaking mechanisms are legitimized and guaranteed by communal leaders, such as elders and religious leaders, who know the Quran, the Sunna, the Hadith, and the history of the community well. These religious leaders, who serve as mediators, reconciliators, judges, or advisors, refer to Quranic stories, sagas, and other religious myths and imagery in the peacemaking process.20 They draw on the examples of the prophets, saints, and other important religious figures in reestablishing harmony and peace.

More specifically, peacebuilding and conflict resolution practices of Muslims communities draw on Islamic values, social relations, and rituals;21 focus on repairing and maintaining social relationships; emphasize linkages between people and group identity, collective responsibility for wrong-doing, face-saving, restorative justice, and maintenance of social harmony; and call for reconciliation, public apology, forgiveness, and compensation, among other things.22

Although there is a rich reservoir of peace-building values and conflict resolution mechanisms in the Muslim world, they are not put to use effectively to address modern-day conflicts involving Muslims. Moreover, we observe the rise of radical and militant voices that seem to contradict these values and principles. There are various reasons for this. Many Muslim communities are taken aback with the impact of colonization, imperialism, and dependency on the West and are lagging behind in terms of economics, technology, and science. Many also suffer from poverty and economic deprivation as well as the pressure of globalization. They feel their identity and civilization are threatened. The experience of colonization, imperialism, and underdevelopment, among others, which caused resentment toward the West, impacts the way Islamic texts are understood and interpreted.23 Thus many Muslims are easily influenced by radicalized interpretations of Islamic beliefs and values.

In addition, many Muslim communities do not have direct access to original Islamic texts such as the Quran, as the majority of Muslims in the world today do not speak Arabic. Because of the high illiteracy rate, especially among women, many Muslims have limited access to the wide range of religious interpretations of Islam, which limits their access to the Quran and increases their dependence on certain clergy. Many Islamic educational institutions, e.g., madrasas, are outdated and the quality of education is quite low. Texts used in the Islamic educational institutions do not emphasize the peacemaking values of Islam or tolerance and dialogue. Many imams or religious leaders also lack the proper education and training to engage with religious texts. All these factors contribute to a lack of knowledge as well as misunderstanding of religious texts by Muslims.

One way to counter these radical and militant voices is to engage with and strengthen the peace-building capacity of Muslim actors that focus on Islamic conflict resolution and Muslim peacemaking traditions. This includes empowering these organizations through: supporting programs of general literacy, education, and training of religious leaders in Islamic approaches to peace building and conflict resolution; preparation and distribution of textbooks and handbooks on Islamic values of peace building and tolerance, and peace curriculum development for madrasas; and supporting radio programs that address Islamic values of peace and tolerance. Such empowerment is critical for peace-building efforts in the Muslim world to be sustainable. This, however, requires understanding specific characteristics of Muslim peace-building actors, their strengths, and the challenges they face. The next section provides an overview of the main characteristics of Muslim peace-building actors and their strengths.


One of the defining characteristics of conflicts in Africa and the Balkans is that ethnicity and religion have become so enmeshed that they cannot be separated. Moreover, religion plays an important role in the social life of many people in Africa and the Balkans, and is one of the key components of people's identity. Even though the main reasons for conflicts in these regions are not religious, religious traditions and myths have often been abused for use in stereotyping and dehumanizing the “other.”24 Religious texts are used to justify violence and hatred. As a result, religion, and in the case of Muslims, Islam, becomes an important aspect of conflict generation as well as conflict resolution and peace building in the region.25

Muslim communities in Africa and the Balkans view conflict as a negative phenomenon that disturbs communal harmony and social relations. Thus Muslims in these regions contend that to restore God's balance, it becomes necessary to resolve conflicts. Various local leaders, other individuals—men and women alike—and organizations have been working to restore communal relations and to establish peace in their communities. Since Islamic principles and values are critical to legitimize their efforts, these actors heavily utilize them as well as stories stated in the Quran, prophet's examples, and historical examples to support their work. These actors are competent, take peace building very seriously, and devote a lot of energy, time, and their limited funds. Their respectable position in their community and their moral and spiritual authority give them a legitimacy and credibility that is not available to secular organizations; thus they are more effective.26

There are major differences between Muslim and Western peace-building actors. For example, Islam influences all aspects of life in Muslim societies; therefore it is usually not possible to separate the religious from the nonreligious. For that reason, quite often many groups do not feel the need to indicate or emphasize the role of Islam in their work, but take it for granted. Thus, they do not explicitly refer to their organization or work as specifically “Muslim” or “Islamic.” They do, however, rely heavily on Islamic values, principles, and sacred texts in their work since they are Muslim and the communities they work within are Muslim. The role of Islam is thus assumed, a given, though not explicitly stated. As they do not refer to themselves as such, it becomes hard for an outside observer to distinguish Muslim peace-building organizations.

There are also various organizational differences between Western and Muslim communities and institutions. Although Muslim communities have a long tradition of social services, community assistance, and charitable work, they do not have organized institutions devoted solely to peace building. Many Muslim organizations, such as Merhamet in Bosnia-Herzegovina, insist on operating as relief and humanitarian agencies. Still, in conflict-affected regions, many of these humanitarian organizations extend their efforts to include activities such as peace building, pursuing justice, and reconciliation.

Muslim peace-building organizations have less experience operating through formally constituted NGOs.27 Peace-building practices are not organized into stable institutions, but are rather ad hoc bodies, emerging as the situation requires. Who is going to be chosen as the third party is based on the requirements of the particular situation. Traditionally, religious leaders intervene either at the request of one of the parties or on their own initiative to resolve conflicts in these communities, both between Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims. Indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms such as sulha (or suluh) are based on the formation of an ad hoc delegation to intervene into the conflict, mostly at the request of one of the parties. Peace-building activities in this context are not viewed as a separate job, but a social-religious responsibility of the individual, part of their life and leadership role.

Peace-building activities are usually ad hoc and informal. In terms of the personal initiatives of individual religious leaders, their language skills add to their visibility and their ability to receive international funding and support. These actors have a strong presence and immense credibility in communities of their faith and have strong negotiating positions with local authorities who share their faith.28 If the conflict is international, interethnic, or involves another religious group, the elected official of the Muslim Council of that community undertakes this role. More visible actors are usually involved in interfaith organizations, working together mostly with their Christian counterparts.

Because peace-building activities are viewed as part of the social and religious responsibility of religious leaders, and because most of the time they undertake peace-building activities in their personal capacity, there are not many peace-building institutions organized as stable organizations. Therefore, Muslim peace-building organizations have less experience with formally constituted bodies and stable institutions. For that reason, it is not easy to identify Muslim peace-building NGOs or other institutions similar to those in the West. Nevertheless in many Muslim societies, NGOs in the modern sense are a new phenomenon, evolving because of contacts with Western/Christian institutions.

Additionally, Muslim communities are generally less individualistic and more community oriented. They are high-context cultures29 and focus on relationships and gestures rather than written documents, and may be more expressive of their feelings. Members of these communities may have difficulty saying no or refusing another person directly. They might rely more on body language to avoid shame and to save face. Building working relationships with Muslim peace actors in these regions requires an understanding of these cultural communication differences. Otherwise these stylistic differences may lead to misunderstanding between the nonregional and Muslim actors.

One quite interesting observation of the authors was that women's peace organizations in the Muslim world are more visible than others, because they are included in many women's databases. The reason behind their higher visibility is that they have been documented and endorsed by very active international women's organizations. However, their higher visibility does not mean that they are particularly more effective than other groups, although they have their particular strengths. For example, in various traditional communities, elderly women can participate in communal peace building. In others (e.g., Sudan) women sing songs at times of war on war, courage, etc., usually to encourage fighting. Women, especially elderly women, are respected highly in their communities and are listened to. Being involved in raising children, they can also influence their children more effectively.30 However, in many of the traditional African communities, women's roles in the public realm in general, and in peace building in particular, are not recognized. Here, traditional structures usually hinder women's participation in public decision-making, and women are usually restricted to the private realm. Their movement is also restricted.


On the basis of the criteria stated in the methodology section, the authors have mapped and analyzed thirty Muslim peace-building actors in Africa and the Balkans.31 These actors, which have included religious leaders and Muslim institutions, operate mainly in the areas of advocacy, education, interfaith networking, intermediary activities, observation, and transnational justice. Most of these actors undertake multiple tasks and peace-building activities rather than work in one specific area. However, for the sake of analytical clarity, the authors identified one core area of activity for each actor, which was based on the information they gathered through e-mail surveys, interviews, and Web searches. Still, it is important to note that it is not always so easy to distinguish these activities from each other as they are usually combined. Many of these actors assume different roles (e.g., advocate, intermediary, educator, observer) as particular needs emerge, which also complicates classification.

The majority of the Muslim peace-building actors identified by the authors operate in the area of advocacy (twelve actors, 40 percent). This is followed by education (seven actors, approximately 23 percent), intermediary (six actors, 20 percent), interfaith (five actors, approximately 17 percent, and two of the interfaith actors conduct interfaith mediation), and observer (one actor, 3 percent). Although various organizations, such as Zene Zenema in the Balkans, engage in transnational justice activities such as the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, none of the organizations included in this study undertakes transnational justice as their main area of operation. Additionally, eighteen of the organizations analyzed (60 percent) focus on resolving conflicts mainly among the Muslim communities and twelve of them (40 percent) focus on resolving conflicts involving different religious and ethnic communities. Of the eighteen organizations that focus on Muslim communities, seven of them (approximately 39 percent of the organizations that target Muslims and 23 percent of all the organizations) focus mainly on Muslim women.32

On the basis of the analysis of these organizations, the authors conclude that the contribution to peace building in the communities of the Muslim actors included in this study has been significant in many ways (see, for example, Table 2). Following are some of the main contributions of Muslim peace-building actors.

Table 2.  Contribution of Muslim Peace-Building Actors to Peace
Actor NameAltering BehaviorHealingDissemination of IdeasAbility to Draft PeopleChallenging StructuresPolicy ChangeMediationEncourage ReconciliationConnecting to Other Actors
Wajir*  ** ** 
COPA* *  * * 
Islamic Community of BiH*  *   * 
Acholi*    ****
IFAPA  **   **
CDR* *    * 
Interfaith Mediation Center**    ** 
Faculty of Islamic Studies  **   * 
Women to Women  *  * * 
Interreligious Council of Sierra Leone* ** ****
Sudanese Women's Initiative for Peace*   *    
Salam Institute  *    **
Salam Sudan  *  * * 
IQK* * *  **

Altering Behavior, Attitudes, Negative Stereotypes, and Mind Frames, and Rehumanizing the “Other”

Islam plays a critical role in the lives of the Muslim communities in Africa and the Balkans. Muslim leaders have moral and spiritual legitimacy to influence the opinions of people. They are very respected and listened to in their communities. Local imams and sheikhs know the history and the traditions of the parties well and they also know the needs (both physical and emotional) of their communities, and therefore are better equipped to reach out to the people, to mobilize them, and to rehumanize the “other.” They do this using Islamic values such as justice for all, forgiveness, harmony, and human dignity to motivate them to work toward peace. As people of faith and God, Muslim leaders are perceived to be more even-handed and trustworthy, and thus to have stronger moral/spiritual legitimacy then secular leaders, especially in communities where corruption and bribery has been a problem. For these reasons, Muslim leaders have a unique leverage to reconcile conflicting parties. Also, Muslim peace-building actors contribute to altering negative perceptions of stereotyped Muslim leaders. The majority of actors included in this study, such as Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative for Peace of Uganda, the Interfaith Mediation Center of Nigeria, and the Wajir Peace and Development of Kenya, among others, have contributed in many ways to altering behavior.33

Healing of Trauma and Injuries

Because of gross violations of human rights and excessive violence, communities involved in conflict are usually traumatized and have deep injuries. Painful memories of conflict, loss of loved ones, and other injuries suffered have caused deep emotional and psychological stress. Healing these injuries and trauma becomes a major component of peace-building efforts especially for reconciliation at the grassroots level. When that is the case religion provides emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources for healing trauma and injuries (see also Gopin, 1991). Islam, like other religious traditions, is usually a source of healing in these cases. Together, the Islamic values of peace building, reestablishment of harmony and order, respect for others, and the Islamic ideals regarding fate, predestination, and total sovereignty of God, among others, serve as a basis for healing and reconciliation. Organizations such as the Interfaith Mediation Center, for instance, focus on healing trauma and injuries inflicted during times of conflict.

Contributing to More Effective Dissemination of Ideas Such as Democracy, Human Rights, Justice, Development, and Peacemaking

Moral and spiritual legitimacy of religious actors provide Muslim peace-building actors, especially sheikhs and imams, with leverage to disseminate ideas among their constituents. Through sermons and lectures, these actors connect various issues to Islamic values and principles and thus influence their constituents. In that respect, Muslim peace-building actors can contribute to dissemination of ideas and acceptance of human rights, democracy, justice, development, and peace building among the community members, especially the youth, by emphasizing Islamic values, such as respect for human dignity, compassion, forgiveness, consultation, and participation in decision making based on the principle of Shura34 and justice, among others. For example, involvement of Muslim religious leaders in the Coalition of Peace in Africa (COPA) of Kenya seems to have contributed to the dissemination of democracy and human rights in the Muslim community. Other Muslim peace-building actors, such as the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice (based in Washington, D.C.) and Žene Ženama (Women to Women) of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which are not run by religious leaders such as sheikhs and imams, also contribute to disseminating these ideas through education by basing their claims on religious texts, values, and principles, thus legitimizing these ideas from a religious perspective. Being Muslim and having the necessary training and background is crucial for their effectiveness. The quality of their work in their own communities and the respect they have earned based on their work is also crucial.

Their Ability to Draft Committed People from a Wide Pool Because of Their Broad Community Base

Muslim groups have a broad community base, which provides a wide pool from which to draft committed and unwavering staff. This staff can devote the necessary time to mediation, reconciliation, or peace education as part of their service to God. Muslim leaders have access to community members through mosques, community centers, and educational institutions, such as Quran schools. This allows them to reach out to a larger number of individuals than secular groups, and thus increase their effectiveness. For example, Wajir, Inter-Faith Action for Africa (IFAPA), Kenya, Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL), Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina, as well as Interreligious Councils of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, among others, have been able to utilize their broad base for peace-building work.

Challenging Traditional Structures

Many Muslim societies have traditional structures that restrict effective peace-building efforts and contribute to continuation of conflicts in many ways. Some of these traditional structures include hierarchical social structures and discrimination based on religious affiliation and gender. With their moral authority, knowledge of sacred texts, and by providing successful examples, Muslim peace-building actors can reinterpret religious texts and challenge these traditional structures. Along these lines, by providing successful examples of reducing violence and resolving conflict, and by involving religious leaders and elders, Wajir and the Sudanese Women's Initiative for Peace Network were able to challenge and change traditional perceptions of women's role in society in general and in peacemaking in particular. Because women's participation in public decision-making is not recognized in many of these communities, they often face significant challenges. At times, to overcome these difficulties, women's groups initially need to work within the traditional social structures and garner the support of sympathetic religious and other community leaders, as was the case with Wajir.35

Many women in these societies were not initially confident that they could make a difference, as stated by the Sudanese Women's Peace Initiative (survey answers), because they were used to their traditional roles. Encouragement and empowerment through support and the subsequent success of their efforts not only contributed to their self-confidence but also to change in the way women are perceived in this society. The advocacy work of the Sudanese Women Civil Society Network for Peace in developing a women's agenda for peace contributed to orientation of the Sudanese peace agenda toward civil society groups and other community members as well; educating these groups on the peace process thus led to policy change. This novel development contributed to the inclusion of women's perspectives and issues in the peace process, thus challenging traditional perceptions and structures in which women's perspectives and voices were excluded. They were also able to build solidarity among Sudanese women from different religious and ethnic backgrounds (Africa Faith and Justice Network and survey answers).36

Mediating between Conflicting Parties

Their moral and spiritual authority and their reputation as honest and evenhanded people of God places Muslim actors in a better position to mediate between conflicting parties. By employing traditional conflict resolution methods, such as suluh, as is the case with Wajir, COPA, Center for Research and Development in Somalia, Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), Interfaith Mediation Center, Wajir, and others, Muslim actors can contribute significantly to reduction of violence, disarmament, demilitarization, and reintegration. Islamic practices of conflict resolution are important for the Muslim community because they are familiar and local, and thus considered authentic and legitimate. For example, ARLPI mediated violent conflicts between the Acholi and their Jie neighbors, between Teso and Karimojong rural communities, and also between rebels and the government.37 Imam Asafa, cofounder of the Inter-Faith Mediation Center, was one of the initiators of a peace agreement between the religious Muslim and Christian bodies of the Kaduna State, and facilitated the outcome of the signing of a peace agreement and peaceful coexistence within the warring communities of the Birom and Fulani communities in the Plateau. He also successfully mediated the ethnic-religious conflict in Zangon Kataf.38

In another example, some of the founders of the IRCSL acted as a bridge between the government and rebels throughout the Abidjan peace talks in 1996. Although the IRCSL could not prevent the coup in 1997 and stop the violence completely, they actively pursued dialogue with the coup leaders, listened to their complaints, and condemned the coup and human rights abuses committed by the junta. Their engagement with the junta prevented greater abuses against civilians.39 Their involvement and attitudes have earned the respect of both the government and the rebels, and when violence returned in late 1998, the UN Secretary General's special envoy turned to the IRCSL as a key player in the search for peace to initiate a dialogue between the government and the rebels. The IRCSL launched a campaign for a negotiated settlement and recommended the convening of a national consultative conference, the closing of the border with Liberia, and the appointment of a peace ambassador. More specifically, the IRCSL met with rebel leaders as well as heads of state of Guinea and Liberia. The council appealed to President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who they suspected had great influence over Col. Foday Sankoh and his rebels. During the violence, the religious leaders stayed in the country to advocate peace. They issued press releases over the national radio and two international broadcasting services, the BBC and Voice of America. They have written statements to those who usurped power asking them to hand over power and met in face-to-face meetings with junta leaders, talked through ham radio, networked with partners, provided humanitarian assistance, and participated in peace talks.40 The involvement of the IRCSL led to restoration of a democratically elected government; disarmament, demobilization, and now reintegration of ex-combatants; and the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court and the 1999.41

Encouraging Reconciliation, Interfaith Dialogue, Disarmament, Demilitarization, and Reintegration

The involvement of Muslim leaders in peacemaking can contribute to a change of attitudes and encourage interfaith dialogue and reconciliation, as has been the case with the Islamic community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina, Kosovo, Wajir, IFAPA, CRD, IRCSL, and the Interfaith Mediation Center, among others. Specifically, the ARLPI mediated various conflicts in the region and their effort to mediate between the Government of Uganda (GOU) and the rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has won ARLPI international recognition as the voice of the suffering people of Northern Uganda. Their contacts with the rebel officers led some of them to lay down their arms and to take advantage of the current government amnesty.42 In another example, Wajir's efforts to resolve regional conflicts led to a major conference in 1993, where a twenty-eight-member committee was set up. The outcomes of this conference include the cease-fire of 1993 between the conflicting parties in the Wajir district of Kenya and the fourteen-point resolution called the Al-Fatah Declaration to stop the violence in the region, which is still used as the basis for most conflict resolution in the district today.43

Reaching Out to the Government, Effecting Policy Changes, and Reaching Out to Youth

Because of their legitimacy and moral authority, Muslim actors can reach out to government authorities and contribute to policy changes at higher levels. For example, Wajir's efforts in terms of incorporating peace education in schools (Peace Education Network, or PEN) also resulted in the Kenyan government's agreement to provide peace education at schools, which has become part of school curricula in the district. Moreover, although they might not succeed in eliminating the conflict completely, Muslim actors can be a bridge between the rebels and the government, and succeed in convincing the parties to meet or even sign agreements, as was the case with the Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative and the IRCSL, among others.

Connecting with Muslim Communities and Non-Muslim Leaders for Support and to Convene Large Meetings

Muslim peace-building actors are part of an international Muslim network to which they can connect for support. Consequently, they have the capacity to mobilize the community, both national and international, in support of the peace process. Through their networking potential, they can also help spread peace work to wider communities, and as has been the case with the IFAPA, the Islamic community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the IRCSL, for example, they can organize large meetings and conferences and initiate interfaith dialogue and reconciliation on a larger scale. The IFAPA, for example, was able to convene a major interfaith peace initiative, the West African Interfaith Peace Summit in December 2003. The Second Interfaith Peace Summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 18–25, 2005.44 These summits aimed at bringing together major religions of the continent to contribute toward peace and harmony and to deal with issues of poor governance, corruption, and the HIV-AIDS pandemic.


Although Muslim peace-building actors have contributed to peace building significantly in their communities, they also face various challenges and difficulties. Without understanding these challenges, the analysis of Muslim peace building actors cannot be viewed within its proper context. Some of these challenges and difficulties include the following.

Challenges Presented by Traditional Structures Especially to Women Peace-Building Actors

Often, traditional social structures such as patriarchy and hierarchy restrict the participation pf various segments of the community, e.g., women and youth, in public decision-making. The potential contribution of these segments of society is thus limited. To overcome the challenges posed by traditional structures, these groups have to work initially within the traditional structures by getting the support of sympathetic religious and other community leaders. Finding financial resources to cover the expenses of their activities is more difficult for these groups, which also affects their peace-building capacities.

Competing Interpretations of Islamic Texts and Slandering Campaigns

Muslim peace-building actors have to deal with competing interpretations of Islam regarding issues of war, peace, and justice within the Muslim community.45 Deep mistrust toward Western communities, including peace-building organizations, based on the experiences of colonization, globalization, and imperialism, among others, influences the way intentions of Westerners are perceived as well as the way religious texts are understood and interpreted. Often the poor quality of the educational systems in Muslim communities does not afford the education and training necessary for addressing issues regarding peace and tolerance in the Islamic context, and frustrated youths are easily seduced by radical and fundamentalist interpretations of the texts. This necessitates peace-oriented Muslims to compete with these more radical interpretations. Hostile and suspicious groups attempt to undermine the works of these groups by stating that they are aiming to create another religion, serving the interests of Westerners, etc. They may initiate slandering campaigns against peace-oriented actors who are accused of being collaborators.

Limited Resources

One of the main challenges faced by Muslim peace-building actors is lack of resources. Especially in Africa, many of the communities have no or very limited access to basic resources such as electricity, phone, e-mail, and fax. Poverty and underdevelopment is a major issue. This lack of resources is also evident in the fact that local peace-building actors often travel to remote parts of their country with very limited resources under extremely difficult conditions. Moreover, many Muslim peace-building actors lack educational resources such as libraries, books, and the most basic of communication devices, even pens and paper.

Lack of resources has wide-ranging consequences. It hinders the communication abilities of Muslim peace-building actors with the international community and impedes their organizational capacity and effectiveness in their communities as well. Lack of resources also impacts significantly the relationship between civil society and the possibilities of nonviolent action. For example, the majority of the civil society organizations that we covered in our research were concerned mostly with basic development needs and programs, as many of them lacked even the basic infrastructure and resources. Still they encouraged or sponsored various peace-building and interfaith activities in their communities. The peace-building activities articulated by these organizations, however, indicate that these groups and individuals have not developed the conceptual framework to incorporate nonviolent action or political resistance as part of their operation or mind-set. Such reality is different in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and other countries in which many Muslim organizations have been actively engaged in direct interfaith dialogue and direct political nonviolent action. For example, in Palestine throughout the history of the resistance movement, Islamic values, ritual, and organizations have played a significant role in mobilizing their community to resist the British colonial mandate in 1936 and Israeli occupation in 1987.46 The lack of direct nonviolent action campaigns can be attributed to the small number of Muslims in these areas and their concern with their basic needs for economic survival because, as a result of lack of resources, these communities have less access to wider Islamic resources, such as texts, books, etc. They also have a limited opportunity to interact with other Muslim communities and to learn from their experience. However, a more comprehensive research analysis is needed to arrive at a more definitive conclusion.


In many African communities large numbers of the population, especially women, are illiterate. Also, newspapers and other sources of news do not reach these sectors of the communities in a timely manner. They therefore have limited opportunities to learn from written texts. They cannot read the Quran, or books regarding Islamic values of peace and tolerance. Radio is the main connection to the outside world for many people, especially in Africa (Peace Bulletin).47 Radio provides a safe platform for debate and dialogue and reaches broader segments of society such as women and youth. Visual media (video documentaries like the ones developed by COPA) as well as audio media (radio programs of IQK) can be more effective ways to educate larger portions of the population on peace building.48

Deep Ethnic-Religious Divisions and Painful Memories

Peace building between different ethnoreligious communities who live in close proximity and have suffered greatly as a result of conflict is itself quite a challenge. Often these communities develop strong exclusionist ethnoreligious identities, where religion is used to justify violence and conflict. Changing such mind frames takes a very long time, as does harvesting the fruits of peace work, whether advocacy, education, or mediation. Moreover, progress toward peace is not linear. Any event can worsen the situation and reinforce negative stereotypes. Many peace actors work under extreme conditions and with major difficulties. They sacrifice not only their time and funds but also risk their own lives as well as lives of their family members. Establishing sustainable peace in these conditions is itself a major challenge faced by Muslim peace-building actors.

Lack of Special Peace-Building Organizational Capacities (Institutionalization and Professionalization of Peace Building in Muslim Communities)

Because of increasing interaction between Christian and secular Western organizations, and also because of the spread of the means of mass communication and dissemination of information (e.g., via the Internet), Muslim communities are now beginning to establish their own centers for peacemaking and peace building. However, in this process they are faced with major challenges such as the difficulties inherent in receiving training and experience and finding funding to create sustainable and effective institutions. Additionally, because these peace-building actors are not organized into stable bodies or NGOs, their work and contribution is much less visible, and they are rarely included in Internet databases. Thus, the visibility of many of these organizations or bodies to the outside researcher via the Internet, academic publications, or documentation is quite limited and seems to depend on the personal communication and language skills of the individuals involved in terms of connecting with non-Muslim groups, organizations, academic institutions, and media; their fund-raising skills; and whether or not they are adopted or supported by non-Muslim, mostly Christian, groups. For that reason they have limited access to international resources, which impacts their effectiveness.

Lack of Long-Term Funds and Commitment from Nonregional Actors

Violent conflicts involve a history of violence, hatred, stereotyping, pain, and trauma. Although a peace agreement might be signed by governments, a genuine and sustainable peace requires changing the mind-sets of people, rehumanizing the “other,” healing, rehabilitation, reconstruction of infrastructure and trust between communities, and rebuilding of the economy to provide livelihoods to people affected by conflict. Changing the attitudes and behaviors of people usually takes a long time and does not necessarily show a linear progression. Many Muslim peace-building actors operate under dangerous conditions with very limited funds. Peace building requires core capacity building and long-term stable funds to support the long-term investment of peace-building efforts. Quite often Muslim peace-building actors in these regions depend on external actors for funding their efforts. This becomes a challenge when donors require concrete indicators of the effectiveness of the work of Muslim peace-building actors, which is quite hard to produce in a short time.


Despite these challenges that render peace work very frustrating, Muslim peace-building actors continue to contribute to reconciliation and resolving conflicts in their communities. Local actors are in a better position to identify the needs of their communities and know the social, political, religious, and cultural contexts of the conflicts they strive to resolve. Thus they have a better understanding of the constraints and possibilities of various peace initiatives in these communities. Under these conditions, it is critical to empower peace-oriented Muslim actors as well as to enable them to connect with each other through supporting intrafaith meetings. Empowering these actors would add to their credibility and effectiveness, and the success of their work significantly.

There are different avenues to empower Muslim peace-building actors. First of all, it is imperative that they establish a network to connect with each other and exchange information regarding their work, failures, and success stories. Such a network is also important to initiate an intra-Muslim dialogue to discuss and clarify Islamic approaches on issues such as peace building, conflict resolution, human rights, democratization, and interfaith dialogue, among others. Currently there is no single agency or network in the world that invests in institutionalizing Muslim peace-building actors. Muslim peace-building organizations have no separate space for meetings or gatherings in any region or international organization. It is also important for them to have access to financial resources to undertake peace-building activities and acquire organizational management skills through having access to scholarship and training opportunities in these fields.

Because many Muslim peace-building actors lack educational resources, particularly in terms of peace building and conflict resolution, providing books and other educational tools; translating articles and books— especially on Islam, peace building, and conflict resolution; and investing in developing materials, such as a manual on Islamic peace building, would be an invaluable contribution to peace-building capacity in these regions. Curriculum development in madrasas is also important. Because underdevelopment is a significant issue in these communities, as conflicts destroy livelihoods and economic infrastructure, and frustration with lack of jobs and livelihoods is a major contributor to conflict and violence in these communities, it is also critical to combine development work with peace-building efforts to achieve sustainable peace in these regions.


  • 1

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islam (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003); R. Scott Appleby, ed., Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); David W. Ausburger, Conflict Mediation Across Cultures: Pathways and Patterns (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1992); Kevin Avruch, Culture and Conflict Resolution (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 1998); Marc Gopin, “Religion, Violence, and Conflict Resolution,”Peace & Change, 22:1 (1991); Douglas M. Johnston, “Religion and Conflict Resolution” (paper presented at Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Winter/Spring 1996); S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Religion, Violence and the Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence,”Turkish Yearbook of International Relations 34 (2003); Cynthia Sampson and J. P. Lederach, eds., From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); David R. Smock, Religious Perspectives on War (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 1992).

  • 2

    S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories (Lexington, KY: Lexington Books, 2007).

  • 3

    A. A. Said and N. C. Funk, “The Role of Faith in Cross-Cultural Conflict Resolution,” Peace and Conflict Studies, 9:1 (2002): 3738.

  • 4

    Cynthia Sampson, “Religion and Peacebuilding” in Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques, W. Zartman and L. Rasmussen, eds. (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997), 273–316; Sampson and Lederach, From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Smock, Religious Perspectives on War (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 1992); David R. Smock, ed., Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 2002); Abu-Nimer, Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islam; Gopin, “Religion, Violence, and Conflict Resolution”; S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Religion and Peacebuilding,” in Handbook on Conflict Resolution, Jacob Bercovitch, Victor Kremenyuk, I. William Zartman, eds. (London: Sage, forthcoming 2008).

  • 5

    For example, see Amr. Abdalla, “Principles of Islamic Interpersonal Conflict Intervention: A Search Within Islam and Western Literature,” Journal of Law and Religion, 15 (2000): 151184; Mohammed Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions,” Peace & Change, 21:1 (January 1996): 2240; William C. Chittick, “Theological Roots of Peace and War According to Islam,” The Islamic Quarterly, 34:3 (1990): 145163; Karim Douglas Crow, “Divided Discourse: Muslim Discussion on Islam and Peace” (paper presented at Nonviolence International, Washington, DC, July 1997); S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories; S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence: A Hermeneutical Approach,” in Identity, Morality, and Threat: Towards a Theory of Identity-based Conflict, Rothbart and Karina Korostelina, eds. (Lexington, KY: Lexington Books, 2007); Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C. Funk, and S. Ayse Kadayifci, “Islamic Approaches to Conflict Resolution and Peace,”The Emirates Occasional Papers, 48 (Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 2002); Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C. Funk, and S. Ayse Kadayifci, eds., Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (New York: University Press of America, 2001).

  • 6

    Robert C. Johansen, “Radical Islam and Nonviolence: A Case Study of Religious Empowerment and Constraint Among Pashtuns,” Journal of Peace Research, 34:1 (1997): 5371; M. Elaine Combs-Schilling, “Sacred Refuge: The Power of a Muslim Female Saint,”Fellowship 60 (May/June 1994): 5–6; Eknath Easwaran, A Man to Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan: Nonviolent Soldier of Islam (Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press, 1984).

  • 7

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions,” Peace & Change, 22:40 (January 1996): 2240; Abdalla, “Principles of Islamic Interpersonal Conflict Intervention: A Search Within Islam and Western Literature”; Ahmad S. Mousalli, “An Islamic Model for Political Conflict Resolution: Tahkim (Arbitration),” in Conflict Resolution in the Arab World: Selected Essays, Paul Salem, ed. (Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 1997); Ralph H. Salmi, Cesar Adib Majul, and George K. Tanham, Islam and Conflict Resolution: Theories and Practices (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998).

  • 8

    For the list of organizations included in this study see Table 1. For more information on these organizations see Mohammed Abu-Nimer and S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans” (Washington, DC: Salam Institute for Peace and Justice Report, 2005).

  • 9

    Ibid, p. 55.

  • 10

    Cynthia Sampson, “Religion and Peacebuilding” in Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques, W. Zartman and L. Rasmussen, eds. (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997), 273316.

  • 11

    See also Tsjeard Bouta, S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, and Mohammed Abu-Nimer, 2005, “Faith Based Peacebuilding: Mapping and Analysis of Christian, Muslim and Multi-Faith Actors” (The Hague, Netherlands and Washington, DC: Netherlands Institute for International Relations “Clingandael” in cooperation with Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, 2005); Mohammed Abu-Nimer and S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans”; and Center for Research and Dialogue Somalia Web site,

  • 12

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer and S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans.”

  • 13

  • 14

    Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories.

  • 15


  • 16

    S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Religion, Violence and the Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence,” p. 43; and Said et al., Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice, p. 8.

  • 17

    For example, the Quranic verse 49: 9 reads: “If two parties among the believers fall into a fight, make ye peace [sulh] between them [....] make peace between them with justice, and be fair; for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).”

  • 18

    Abdul Aziz Said et al., Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice, p. 248.

  • 19

    Abu-Nimer and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans,” p. 7; and Abu-Nimer, Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islam.

  • 20

    Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories; and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence: A Hermeneutical Approach.

  • 21

    For more information see George Irani and Nathan Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation: Arab-Islamic Perspectives,” in Arab Studies Quarterly, 20:4 (1998): 5373.

  • 22

    Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions;” Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories.

  • 23

    For a more detailed analysis regarding the impact of the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts in which religious texts are understood and interpreted, see Kadayifci-Orellana, “Religion and Peacebuilding.”

  • 24

    Appleby, Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East; Gopin, “Religion, Violence, and Conflict Resolution;” Kadayifci-Orellana, “Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence: A Hermeneutical Approach.”

  • 25

    Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories; Kadayifci-Orellana, “Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence: A Hermeneutical Approach.”

  • 26

    Abu-Nimer and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans.”

  • 27

    Leban Mojca, “Faith-Based NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” in The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, 6:1 (September 2003),

  • 28


  • 29

    Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1976).

  • 30

    A more detailed and expanded study is needed to address all the strengths and limitations of Muslim women's roles in peace building in Africa.

  • 31

    For an analysis, see Abu-Nimer and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans.”

  • 32

    See Table II for specific areas of operation for each actor.

  • 33

    Abu-Nimer and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans.”

  • 34

    Shura is the principle of consultative decision-making according to Islam. Shura is considered obligatory by Islamic scholars, and is based on the Quranic verse, “And consult with them on the matter (3:159).” Also, consultation is praised in the verse, “Those who conduct their affairs by counsel (43:38).” Islamic scholars who argue that Islam and democracy are compatible base their argument on the principle of Shura. See also Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories, chapter three.

  • 35

    Janice Jenner and Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, “Voices of Local People Initiatives-Kenya: Peace and Development Network, Wajir Peace and Development Committee, National Council of Churches of Kenya and Amani People's Theatre,” in Reflecting on Peace Practice Project (Cambridge, MA: Collaborative for Development of Action, October 2000); Emma Dorothy Reinhardt, “Kenyan Women Lead Peace Effort,” in Peace Paths National Catholic Reporter Online (2005), (March 2008).

  • 36

    Africa Faith and Justice Network Web site,

  • 37

    Lam Oryam Cosmas, “A Journey to Interfaith Work and Peacebuilding,” in Taking Our Experience Home: A Journey of URI Peacebuilding United Religions Initiative, pp. 11–12, in United Religions Initiative,,com_docman/task,doc_details/gid,41/Itemid,160.html.

  • 38

    Tanenbaum Organization Web site,

  • 39

    Thomas Mark Turay, “Civil Society and Peacebuilding: The Role of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone,”

  • 40

    Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, “Case Study Sierra Leone Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone” (paper presented at Inter-Faith Peace Summit in Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 14–19, 2002). See Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa Web site,

  • 41

    Turay, “Civil Society and Peacebuilding: The Role of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone,” p. 5.

  • 42

    Acholi Peace Web site

  • 43

    Reinhardt, “Kenyan Women Lead Peace Effort.”

  • 44

    This information is based on self-description via e-mail correspondence and responding to survey questions as well as the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa Web site,

  • 45

    Kadayifci-Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in Palestinian Territories.

  • 46

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution, Culture, and Religion: Toward a Training Model of Interreligious Peacebuilding,” Peace Research, 38:6 (2001): 685704.

  • 47

    Peace Bulletin,

  • 48

    Abu-Nimer and Kadayifci-Orellana, “Muslim Peace Building Actors in Africa and the Balkans.”