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The escalation of radicalism, violence and civil wars in the Middle East since the so-called Arab Spring revolts began in 2010 has exacted a massive toll in human lives and welfare. The need to build effective states that support peace, provide greater opportunity and prosperity, and protect human rights could not be more urgent.Already, the violence that has surged in the last few years has left more than 180,000 Iraqis and 470,000 Syrians dead. As a result, Islam is often viewed primarily as a threat.But, as the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor explains, the real threat is not Islam itself, but "block thinking". None of this is to say that religion does not play a role in Middle East violence.What the Middle East needs are effective social and economic strategies and policies that tackle the complex nonreligious reasons behind the violence – and its decidedly nonreligious effects. While cultural, ethnic and religious factors may need to be considered, they are not the main causes of unemployment and marginalization.More broadly, schools should also embody the separation of church and state – and well-protected religious freedom – that will be needed to end religion-based violence in the Middle East.
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