Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: In your view, are we seeing the rise of sectarian politics in the Middle East? Is religion increasingly a source of tension within and between countries? Can religion be a constructive force for peace and dialogue? If so, how?

Antonella Appiano: Most assuredly, one of the drivers of conflicts in the Middle East today is the tension between Sunni and Shia. In Iraq, for example, the country and its politics are divided between Sunni and Shia, which is part of what allowed the Islamic State to rise among the Sunni minority there. But religion is just the tip of the iceberg, visible to the eyes of everyone: underneath there is much more which is invisible to the majority. Various conflicts are not about religion, even if are expressed along religious lines.

The crux of the question is power, territory.

The struggle for influence in the area, between Iran and Saudi Arabia and their allies. Religion, contrary to the opinions of many western mass media sources, is not the cause of the wars and terrorist attacks. It is just an excuse, to legitimize a series of acts, a propaganda tool to hide the true reason, the power struggles. Speaking of terrorism, there is for sure a certain religious fanatism based on incitement, it’s a particular characteristic of the Salafist ideology upon which the terrorist cells are based. Their goals are clear: they intend to use religion for subversive means, allocating the responsibility for worldwide destruction to the West. Without any doubt, the fundamentalist propaganda exploits anticolonial and third-world arguments to influence the masses who are handicapped by lack of education and frustration.

“How the arab revolts have changed the Middle East” – Epos converses with Antonella Appiano