Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

May 12th, 2016

On France’s theologico-political crisis

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Nations have different ways of talking about themselves. Americans tend to discuss their country in an idiom of national greatness, however radically they may disagree about the nature of this providential blessing. The French, on the contrary, make berating their country a national sport. Anyone who has recently spent time in France has heard the exasperation with which its citizens are prone to speak of their homeland, often describing it as “little country” whose glory days are behind it. Such talk is hardly new. In the 1930s, the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline—a master in the genre—mused about his nation’s fate: “We’ll disappear body and soul from this place like the Gauls … They left us hardly twenty words of their own language. We’ll be lucky if anything more than ‘merde’ survives us.”[footnote]Louis-Ferdinand Céline, L’École des cadavres (Paris : Denoël, 1938).[/footnote]

April 4th, 2016

Why citizenship (still) matters in France

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In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attack, French president François Hollande decided to reinforce France’s security legislation. In addition to a raft of police and intelligence measures, he proposed two major constitutional revisions: the first was to “constitutionalize” the state of emergency, previously an ad hoc piece of legislation; the second was to formalize the conditions under which French citizens can be stripped of their nationality.

February 20th, 2015

The ISIS shock doctrine

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The rapid and shockingly violent establishment of a self-declared Islamic Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq by The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), rebranded in 2014 as The Islamic State (IS), has led to what Issam Eido describes as an explosion of narratives about ISIS, many of which seek a doctrinal basis for its beliefs and behavior from within the Islamic tradition.

February 17th, 2015

Values and violence: Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

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Until last month’s attack, Charlie Hebdo was little known beyond France. In the wake of the massacre, however, it was quickly valorized as a symbol of freedom of expression and French secularism, and the hashtag #JesuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) spread rapidly across social media. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared a “war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.” On January 11, 2015, more than a million people, including 40 of the world’s political leaders—not all of whom are otherwise known for their support of free speech—marched together in Paris.

The week after the massacre, Charlie Hebdo’s “All is forgiven” issue featured a cover depicting the prophet Muhammad in tears, holding a sign that read “Je suis Charlie.”

The violence, and responses to it, have raised a slew of questions. Is it helpful, or even accurate, to characterize these killings as religiously motivated? How have the attack and responses to it helped to construct or entrench the identities said to be in conflict? Should the events be understood in the context of France’s history of satire or its history of colonialism? Can the two be separated in this case? What is the significance of the willingness of many not only to affirm free expression, but also to identify themselves with the magazine? Are there limits to the freedom of expression?

January 13th, 2015

The Charlie Hebdo shootings

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On Wednesday, January 7th, two masked assailants stormed the Paris headquarters of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, killed 12 people, and wounded 11 others. Police quickly identified 3 suspects—the shooters and a suspected getaway driver. The following day, in a suburb of Paris, a masked gunman (later linked to the brothers suspected of carrying out the magazine massacre) fatally shot a policewoman. By Friday, all three gunmen had been killed in separate hostage situations, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that they were intended to teach the French “that the freedom of expression has limits and boundaries.”

October 8th, 2013

The “good” and the “bad” Muslims of China

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The slim crescent that rose above the skyline on July 9th signifies the beginning of this year’s holy month of Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where I have been teaching for the last four years. Pious Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, swearing, and other unlawful behaviors from dawn to dusk, following the traditions of the Prophet to get closer to God. During this sacred month of spiritual renewal, the ritual of sharing food after sunset, known as Iftar, serves important social functions such as bringing families together and reinforcing community bonds. As the last strands of sunlight disappear from the horizon, many celebrate the day by enjoying a lavish dinner with friends and family. In the UAE, as everywhere else, Iftar parties have also become an opportunity for Muslims to reach out to non-Muslims and for non-Muslims to reciprocate the hospitality.

I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of Iftars parties this Ramadan, hosted by several institutions, both secular and religious. The most recent Iftar party that I attended was hosted by the Chinese Consulate General in Dubai, in a popular family restaurant situated on the legendary Sheikh Zayed Road. To strengthen the Unified Front and in the interest of building harmonious relationships among Chinese communities overseas, the Consul General extended invitations to more than 150 Chinese expatriates from various walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

July 9th, 2013

Buddhists, Time, and religious unrest in Burma

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At Religion Dispatches, Alan Senauke writes about Time magazine’s July 1st issue and its consequences in Burma.

September 11th, 2012

11 years after 9/11

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In the days immediately following September 11, 2001, the Social Science Research Council invited a wide range of leading social scientists from around the world to write short essays for an online forum, After September 11.

September 20th, 2011

I thought we were all past this

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Spencer Ackerman discusses at length the “dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired,” each one exposing practices and teachings of blatant discrimination, racial profiling, and cultural ignorance.

September 9th, 2011

9/11 chronomania

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Under its congressional mandate to “examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the terrorist attacks…[and] make a full and complete accounting of the[ir] circumstances,” the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission Report, begins with a narrative timeline. In the simple past, in a voice devoid of interiority but rich in temporal data, the Report tracks movement in time and space.

August 29th, 2011

Democracy under exception

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I agree with Kahn (and with Schmitt) about the fact that political theory should leave room for decision and exception. But to me, the main question is: to what extent? Are there no principles that admit no exception? When I read Kahn, as when I read Schmitt, I don’t seem to encounter any such principles—anything like what Habermas thematized in Law and Morality as “indisponibility,” that is, rights that are not at the disposal of the sovereign. Can the sovereign decide that torture is a legitimate practice? The answer, to me, should be no without exception.

August 22nd, 2011

Islamophobia and terror in Norway

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At openDemocracy, Sindre Bangstad writes on the domestic conditions in which Anders Behring Breivik concocted and attempted to justify his recent dual attacks on a government building and summer camp in Norway

July 28th, 2011

What federal agents are reading about Islam

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Spencer Ackerman, at Wired‘s Danger Room blog, reports on the recommended reading on Islam provided to incoming FBI agents, as well as other documents obtained by the ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus pursuant to a recent FOIA request.

July 26th, 2011

Breivik and “Christianism”

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Andrew Sullivan discusses the difference between Christianity and “Chritianism” in light of the recent terrorist attack in Norway.

March 26th, 2011

Have the jihadis lost the moral high ground to the rebels?

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It has been a season of earthquakes, and the political ones in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East may have shifted the moral high ground within Islamic opposition movements. Put simply, Tahrir Square may have trumped jihad.

March 9th, 2011

Brigitte Gabriel, Peter King, and the scrutiny of American Muslims

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New York Times national religion correspondent Laurie Goodstein has written a bio/exposé piece on Brigitte Gabriel: “Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.”

September 30th, 2010

Holy ground zero?

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More than nine years (and a few weeks) have now passed since the events of 9/11, and as Religion in America blogger Paul Matzko noted on the attacks’ ninth anniversary earlier this month, the religious overtones of how Americans remember that day are palpable.

August 24th, 2010

Fuel on the fire

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As Dina Temple-Rastin of NPR reports, controversy over Park51 has reached a new zenith in way of irony.  Far from helping to win the “War on Terror,” the Right Wing’s open and vociferous hostility has seemingly done the exact opposite.

August 17th, 2010

The UK’s first “anti-terror” summer camp

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Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri has founded the United Kingdom’s first anti-terrorism camp, reports Dominic Casciani for the BBC.

July 27th, 2010

Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

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John Calvert, Professor of History at Creighton University and a specialist in political Islam, in hisforthcoming biography of Sayyid Qutb, “rescues Qutb from misrepresentation, tracing the evolution of his thought within the context of his time.”  InSayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism(2010), he does not look to absolve Qutb of his virulent rhetoric but pushes the reader to understand Qutb in his own setting and time and to delve deeper into the writing of the influential Islamist thinker. Qutb, who was executed in Egypt in 1966, has been studied extensively but Thomas Hegghammer from Harvard University states: “We are dealing with a rare book that is likely to become a classic in the field of political Islam.”

July 26th, 2010

“Why Americans should care about Ahmadiyya Muslims”

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Naseem Mahdi, vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, hopes to call attention to the Ahmadiyya movement as a promoter of tolerance and peace.

July 23rd, 2010

Conflict resolution curtailed

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At altmuslim, civil rights attorney Sahar Aziz comments on the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (pdf), which found the provision of conflict resolution training to terrorist groups unlawful.

July 23rd, 2010

Cosmic war on a global scale: An interview with Mark Juergensmeyer

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As director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Mark Juergensmeyer brings the sociology of religion to bear on the analysis of violent conflict in the contemporary world. His recent books include Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State and Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, both published by University of California Press, and he is currently working on God and War, based on his 2006 Stafford Little Lectures at Princeton University. Together with the SSRC’s Craig Calhoun and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, he is a co-editor of the forthcoming volume Rethinking Secularism. We spoke at his home office at UCSB, perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

July 21st, 2010

“Can you do counterterrorism without theology?”

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“Can you do counterterrorism without theology?” Increasingly, critics are calling into question the Western strategy of supporting moderate and more “acceptable” forms of Islam throughout the world.  In response to the question above, posted at The Guardian, Mehdi Hasan, a senior editor at the New Statesman, argues that “it is not the business of the state to back one or other interpretation of Islam – or any other faith.”

July 20th, 2010

Germany offers rehab for Islamic radicals

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USA Today reported yesterday on a novel tactic for combating Islamic radicalism now being implemented in Germany.

July 12th, 2010

A rhetorical challenge

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Criticism from counterterror experts targeting President Obama’s recent attempt to curtail the demonization of Islam and Muslims by way of limiting the number of rhetorical references to Islamic radicalism makes the headlines.

June 17th, 2010

The continuing plight of American Muslims

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Kevin Drum is duly indignant about the case of Yahya Wehelie, a U.S. citizen placed on the no-fly list and effectively banned from returning to his home in Virginia.

May 11th, 2010

Where does Europe end and Islam begin?

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In an interview with Eren Güvercin, Olivier Roy tries to clear up some of the misconceptions that plague and exacerbate debates over the cultural commensurability of Islam and contemporary Europe.

April 21st, 2010

Good Muslim, bad Muslim

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In my opening post, I suggested that a second assumption underpinning the Chicago Report is that American foreign policy should more effectively engage with and support the “good Muslims.” In this post, I seek once again to consider the coherence and plausibility of this prescription. Is it really true that you can read people’s political behavior from their religion or culture? Again, as Mamdani asks, “Could it be that a person who takes his or her religion literally is a potential terrorist? And only someone who thinks of the text as not literal, but as metaphorical or figurative, is better suited to civic life and the tolerance it calls for? How, one may ask, does the literal reading of religious texts translate into hijacking, murder, and terrorism?”

This raises the complex question of what, in the words of Saba Mahmood, “constitutes religion and a proper religious subjectivity in the modern world,” and how such a conception relates to the language and normative structure of religious freedom in international law and politics. It is not possible here to address the details of such a complex set of issues, but let me offer just a couple of observations and lines of inquiry for future thought and discussion.

March 5th, 2010

Prominent Pakistani cleric condemns political violence

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John Esposito reports at On Faith that Muhammad Tahir Qadri, an influential Pakistani cleric, has “issued a 600-page fatwa, described as an ‘absolute’ condemnation of terrorism without ‘any excuses or pretexts.’ He declared that terrorists and suicide bombers were unbelievers and that ‘Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts.'”

February 10th, 2010

The power over life and death

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Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka describes the desperate situation in his native Nigeria in an interview with The Daily Beast’s Tunku Varadarajan.

February 8th, 2010

The “next door” jihadists

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Ever since the capture of John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban,” the media has been on the lookout for overly enthusiastic high school students who convert to Islam and end up on the front lines of the war on terror.

February 6th, 2010

Gandhi meets Bin Laden

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James L. Rowell, an assistant professor of religion at Flager College, examines divergent forms of religious leadership through studies of Gandhi and Osama bin Laden.

January 7th, 2010

Responding to terrorism

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At the Huffington Post, John L. Esposito explores the appeal of extremist Islamic stances and suggests how the United States might aptly respond to the threat of terrorism and curtail its spread.

December 21st, 2009

Thomas Friedman taken to task

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At the Huffington Post John O. Voll and John Esposito rebut in no uncertain terms Thomas L. Friedman’s most recent New York Times op-ed, which misleadingly claimed broad Muslim support for acts of political violence.

December 15th, 2008

Violence, publicity, and sovereignty

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Today we are once more at a time when lawless violence proliferates and territorial boundaries are infringed upon, when state leaders invoke “non-state actors” and argue for the need to respond in kind. Are new political formations taking shape in our midst, even as we defend the old order?

December 12th, 2008

Attacking Mumbai

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Whatever the global elements involved in these brutal events, from militant methods to media coverage, crucial is the fact that they were plugged into a local history of religious violence in Mumbai and elsewhere in the country, if only to scramble and so utterly transform this past.

December 9th, 2008

Jihad, fitna, and Muslims in Mumbai

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While the dichotomy of “moderate” Muslims and “extremists” is prevalent in many media representations, this binary hides more than it reveals.

December 7th, 2008

Is Mumbai’s resilience endlessly renewable?

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I grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) in the 1950s and early 1960s. I spoke Tamil with my mother, a combination of English and Tamil with my siblings and my father, and various brands of Gujarati, Marathi and Hindi with friends, domestic helpers, neighbors, bureaucrats and shopkeepers. […]

December 4th, 2008

The death of secular India is greatly exaggerated

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As the citizens of this vast metropolis seek to restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives, it is important to probe the possible reasons for this horrific episode and explore its ramifications for the future of India’s plural, democratic and secular state. […]

December 4th, 2008

Reflections on the future of Indian democracy

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It is difficult to be completely impersonal about what happened in Mumbai last week. Some friends lost their near and dear ones to the mindless bullets of murderous terrorists. […]

September 11th, 2008

The religious undercurrents of Muslim economic grievances

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In his contribution to a web forum organized by the SSRC immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Timur Kuran wrote.

January 16th, 2008

Beating radical Islam

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“People of faith want a candidate who can beat radical Islam.” So claimed Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, in a statement endorsing John McCain for the Republican primary in South Carolina. Graham’s statement is deeply disheartening, but hardly unexpected, especially for one who watched the Republican candidates debate just before the New Hampshire Primary. Ron Paul, who is loony on just about every other issue, was the one sane voice when it came to foreign policy and the Middle East. […]