Monday, May 18, 2015

Westerners Disbelieving the Jihadists

Muhammad on a Camel and Jesus on a Donkey
Jesus Ahead by A Head

I recently mentioned a conference held on May 3-4, 2015 at Boston University (BU) on "Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad," and one of the readers of my blog sent me a link to a report on that conference by one of the participants, Timothy R. Furnish, "Talking Honestly About Islamic Hate Speech" (History News Network, May 9, 2015). Among other things, Furnish cited Dr. Jeffrey Bale, who described a tendency among Westerners to disbelieve jihadists:
Dr. Jeffrey Bale, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, . . . . focused on the phenomenon of "mirror imaging" among Westerners - the tendency to assume that the other "thinks like me," or at least not too differently . . . . Thus, no matter how many times ISIS or al-Qa'idah or Boko Haram or the Taliban states, unequivocally, that they are waging jihad fi sabil Allah ("holy war in the path of Allah"), unbelieving Westerners try to explain it as really being motivated by political grievances, lack of jobs, or Western meddling in the Middle East.
I get some of this when I explain that the so-called "sword verses" in the Qur'an abrogate the earlier verses of peace, but some people prefer to cling to the "no compulsion in religion" verse even though it's been abrogated.

I understand them . . . I also prefer that verse, but reality tells me otherwise . . .

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At 6:45 AM, Blogger skholiast said...

I am less alarmist than some about jihad, more than others. But the phenomenon you, or Furnish, or Bale is pointing to is in part attributable to a wider phenomenon in the west pertaining to religion; a tendency not to accept religions own categories. It has been some while since I read Pascal Boyer's book Religion Explained, but I recall that there he expressly held that religious terms and expressions do not mean what believers claim they do and that religious accounts of religious practices cannot be accepted at face value. Like every post-Freudian, I accept that we are often not the best judges of our own motives for all kinds of reasons, but this seems to me to take the legitimate "hermeneutic of suspicion" in critique of ideology a bit far, and it stems, I would submit, from a (scientisitc) prejudgment that we already know the kinds of explanations that are valid. (The science in question may be neurology, or economics -- is that still a science? -- or what have you.) In reductionist anthropology, apparently, these accepted explanations are functionalist accounts married to certain neuro-modular ones. In liberal western foreign policy among a certain class, they are these sorts of socio-politico-economic themes you mention. This sort of thing just makes it hard to understand religious motives at all. (I should add that I do not know Boyer's position on jihadism and he should not be implicated by my gloss on this one aspect of his work).

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Skholiast, for probably the best comment I've seen on my blog.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Timothy Furnish said...

Thanks for following, Gypsy Scholar. Of course, the crux of the BU conference was not Islam per se, nor even jihad--but apocalyptic Islam, across space and time. The West's refusal to acknowledge the eschatological element in groups like ISIS, the 1979 al-Utaybi group's attempt to overthrow the al-Sa`uds, or Boko Haram is problematic, but was not the the point.
Tim Furnish

At 5:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the clarification. I wanted to look at more articles, but the links at the conference page mostly went to just one article - some sort of glitch.

Jeffery Hodges

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