Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Generation Caliphate: Links to Articles on Islamism's Apocalyptic Vision

Let me draw your attention to a recent conference on a widely ignored factor in Islamism and Islamism's appeal among Muslims: Islam's apocalyptic dreams. Here's the announcement:
#GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

Sponsored by the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Most Westerners associate the terms apocalyptic and millennial (millenarian) with Christian beliefs about the endtime. Few even know that Muhammad began his career as an apocalyptic prophet predicting the imminent Last Judgment. And yet, for the last thirty years, a wide-ranging group of militants, both Sunni and Shi'i, both in coordination and independently, have, under the apocalyptic belief that now is the time, pursued the millennial goal of spreading Dar al Islam to the entire world. In a manner entirely in keeping with apocalyptic beliefs, but utterly counter-intuitive to outsiders, these Jihadis see the Western-driven transformation of the world as a vehicle for their millennial beliefs, or, to paraphrase Eusebius on the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity: Praeparatio Califatae.

The apocalyptic scenario whereby this global conquest takes place differs from active transformative (the West shall be conquered by Da'wa [summons]) to active cataclysmic (bloody conquest). Western experts have until quite recently, for a wide range of reasons, ignored this dimension of the problem. And yet, understanding the nature of global Jihad in terms of the dynamics of apocalyptic millennial groups may provide an important understanding, both to their motivations, methods, as well as their responses to the inevitable disappointments that await all such believers.
The conference is over, but this site offers links to related articles by some of the speakers, and here's a foretaste of one of the related articles, this one by Paul Berman:
Why . . . do people who are not clinically insane throw themselves into this kind of [Islamist] insanity? Why do they do so even in the world's wealthiest and most peaceful of countries? They do so because the apocalyptic dreams and the cult of hatred and murder and the yearning for death are fundamentals of modern culture. They enlist because they are unhappy, and the eschatological rebellion against everyday morality satisfies them. The Islamist idea, in its most extreme version especially, offers every solace that a mopey young person could desire. It proposes an explanation of unhappiness. It ascribes the alienation to a conspiracy. Its stipulation of Jewish evil justifies the joys of loathing and murder. It promises a radiant future. (Paul Berman, "Why Is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing? Explaining Sayyid Qutb, Bin Laden, Djamel Beghal, Chérif Kouachi, Amedy Coulibaly, Hayat Boumeddienne, and those yet to come," Tablet, January 28, 2015)
Berman is good at drawing links back to the Western Fascism of the 1930s - hence his reference to modern culture as a source of Islamism. This claim makes more sense if you've read a bit more of Berman's books and articles, and he certainly doesn't downplay Islam's own central texts and their role in generating Islamism. But I put more emphasis upon Islam's early texts than he does.

Anyway, read the entire article to judge for yourself.

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