The Catholic University of America






Professor Robert Destro Calls for Greater Clarity in War on Terrorism


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Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro was among four participants in an International Religious Freedom Roundtable held in the Canon House Office Building on Sept. 19.  The group used its Capitol Hill perch to urge the United States government and other Western powers to more realistically understand the nature of Middle Eastern terrorism, especially as posed by the “Islamic State of Syria and the Levant” (ISIS/ISIL). 

Destro released a statement from one minority group within Iraq,the Izidis, that detailed the horrific violence directed against them in recent months by religious extremists.

As a co-director of the Iraqi Kurdistan Religious Freedom Project, Destro has been deeply involved for years in efforts to document and support religious freedom for all the residents of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Project’s first effort was to undertake a census of the religious communities in the Kurdistan Region so that human rights advocates would have a better sense of where these communities are located, and who lives in them.

“Working closely on the ground with Christian, Islamic and Jewish religious leaders, among others, is the first step in an effective human rights effort,” said Destro. “It is possible to build a culture of greater religious tolerance everywhere, but knowledge of local communities, culture and leaders is essential.” 
The Sept. 19 panel, which included an imam and a rabbi, was “a model of interfaith cooperation in the quest for religious liberty,” said Destro.
“What’s now clear is that if we are to succeed in our efforts to protect religious freedom both at home and abroad, we must not only work together, we must be seen to be working together,” Destro remarked.  
Together, the four discussants in a statement urged the governments that fight terrorism to drop artificial distinctions between groups and motives that only serve to confuse.  
Speaking for the group, Destro stated,
“It is time that we begin, in a systematic way, to connect the dots between criminal activities and the state, private, and business sponsors of terrorism who perpetrate and support them.  Let me repeat: It is time that we reject distinctions between state and non-state sponsors of terrorism. All of those who support the killing of innocents are criminals. If the evidence (or the money trail) points a little too close to those whom we count as allies, we must follow it where it leads.
It is also time that we stop taking sides in religious disputes that we neither understand, and in which we have no business meddling. There are no ‘moderate’ religious extremists. Nor do we have any business meddling in political and religious disputes between Sunni and Shia Muslims. If we are really advocates for religious liberty, we must advocate for the freedom of all.”