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Does Religion Cause Violence?: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Violence and Religion in the Modern World
 1501333852, 9781501333859

Table of contents :
FC
Half title
Violence, Desire, and the Sacred
Title
Copyright
Dedication
Contents
Notes on Contributors
Introduction
Part 1  Does Religion Cause Violence?
1 Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence William T. Cavanaugh
2 The Complex Relationship between Violence and Religion: A Response to William T. Cavanaugh’s “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence” Petra Steinmair-Pösel
3 Why is God Part of Human Violence? The Idolatrous Nature of Modern Religious Extremism Joel Hodge
4 Love Your Enemies: God’s New World Order Anthony J. Kelly
Part 2  Violence and Deterrence in the Modern World
5 “The War to End All Wars”: Mimetic Theory and “Mounting to the Extremes” in a Time of Disaster Sandor Goodhart
6 The Sacred is Back—But as Simulacrum Jean-Pierre Dupuy
7 Forms of the Sacred and the Texture of Hope Sarah Bachelard
8 The End of Politics? Chris Fleming
9 Rites of Expulsion: Violence against Heretics in Early Modern Catholic France Carly Osborn
Part 3  Islamic Terrorism: A Case Study of Contemporary “Religious Violence”
10 Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths Asma Afsaruddin
11 Violence, Religion, and the Sacred: In Dialogue with Asma Afsaruddin’s “Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths” Paul Dumouchel
12 Religion, Radicalization, and Violent Extremism? Julian Droogan and Lise Waldek
13 Religious Extremism, Terrorism, and Islam: A Mimetic Perspective Wolfgang Palaver
14 The Jihadist Current and the West: Politics, Theology, and the Clash of Conceptuality Jonathan Cole
Appendix: René Girard at a Glance Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge
Glossary of Key Girardian Terms Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge
Further Reading
Index

Citation preview

Does Religion Cause Violence?

Violence, Desire, and the Sacred Series Editors: Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge Volumes in the series: Vol. 1. Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge Vol. 2. René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge Vol. 3. Mimesis, Movies, and Media edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge Vol. 4. René Girard and Raymund Schwager: Correspondence 1974–1991 edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Mathias Moosbrugger Vol. 5. Mimesis and Atonement: Rene Girard and the Doctrine of Salvation edited by Michael Kirwan and Sheelah Treflé Hidden Vol. 6. Möbian Nights: Reading Literature and Darkness by Sandor Goodhart Vol 7. Does Religion Cause Violence?: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Violence and Religion in the Modern World edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Carly Osborn Vol 8. Mimetic Theory and Film (forthcoming) edited by Paolo Diego Bubbio and Chris Fleming

Does Religion Cause Violence? Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Violence and Religion in the Modern World Edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Carly Osborn

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2018 © Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, Carly Osborn, and Contributors, 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the editors. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Cowdell, Scott, editor. Title: Does religion cause violence? : multidisciplinary perspectives on violence and religion in the modern world / edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Carly Osborn. Description: New York : Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. | Series: Violence, desire, and the sacred | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017020572 (print) | LCCN 2017030551 (ebook) | ISBN 9781501333842 (ePub) | ISBN 9781501333859 (ePDF) | ISBN 9781501333835 (hardcover : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Violence--Religious aspects--Islam. | Terrorism--Religious aspects--Islam. | Violence. | Islam. Classification: LCC BP190.5.V56 (ebook) | LCC BP190.5.V56 D64 2017 (print) | DDC 297.2/7--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017020572 ISBN: HB: 978-1-5013-3383-5 ePub: 978-1-5013-3384-2 ePDF: 978-1-5013-3385-9 Series: Violence, Desire, and the Sacred Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com. Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events, and the option to sign up for our newsletters.

The editors dedicate this volume to their friends and collaborators in the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COVR)

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Contents Notes on Contributors

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Introduction 1 Part 1  Does Religion Cause Violence? 1

Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence  William T. Cavanaugh

2

The Complex Relationship between Violence and Religion: A Response to William T. Cavanaugh’s “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence”  Petra Steinmair-Pösel

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Why is God Part of Human Violence? The Idolatrous Nature of Modern Religious Extremism  Joel Hodge

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Love Your Enemies: God’s New World Order  Anthony J. Kelly, CSsR

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3 4

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Part 2  Violence and Deterrence in the Modern World 5

“The War to End All Wars”: Mimetic Theory and “Mounting to the Extremes” in a Time of Disaster  Sandor Goodhart

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6

The Sacred is Back—But as Simulacrum  Jean-Pierre Dupuy

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7

Forms of the Sacred and the Texture of Hope  Sarah Bachelard

107

8

The End of Politics?  Chris Fleming

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9

Rites of Expulsion: Violence against Heretics in Early Modern Catholic France  Carly Osborn

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Part 3  Islamic Terrorism: A Case Study of Contemporary “Religious Violence” 10 Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths  Asma Afsaruddin

147

11 Violence, Religion, and the Sacred: In Dialogue with Asma Afsaruddin’s “Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths”  Paul Dumouchel

167

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12 Religion, Radicalization, and Violent Extremism?  Julian Droogan and Lise Waldek

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13 Religious Extremism, Terrorism, and Islam: A Mimetic Perspective  Wolfgang Palaver

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14 The Jihadist Current and the West: Politics, Theology, and the Clash of Conceptuality  Jonathan Cole

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Appendix: René Girard at a Glance  Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge 229 Glossary of Key Girardian Terms  Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge 233 Further Reading Index

239 251

Notes on Contributors Asma Afsaruddin (PhD, Johns Hopkins University) is Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author and editor of seven books, including Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) and the award-winning Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2013). Her research has been supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Sarah Bachelard (PhD, Australian National University) is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, Canberra. An Anglican priest, she is also the founder of Benedictus, an ecumenical contemplative congregation in Canberra. She is the author of Experiencing God in a Time of Crisis (Convivium, 2012) and Resurrection and Moral Imagination (Ashgate, 2014). William T. Cavanaugh (PhD, Duke University) is Professor of Catholic Studies and Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University, Chicago. He is the editor of three books and author of seven, including The Myth of Religious Violence (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Field Hospital (Eerdmans, 2016). He is co-editor of the journal Modern Theology. Jonathan Cole (MA, Australian National University) is a PhD candidate in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University, Canberra. His doctoral research is in the area of political theology; his MA was in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic theology, and Arabic. He worked in the Australian intelligence community for seven years, including as a Senior Terrorism Analyst at the Office of National Assessments (2010–14) and the Australian Signals Directorate (2007–10). Julian Droogan (PhD, University of Sydney) is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology, Macquarie University, Sydney. He is

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Notes on Contributors

editor-in-chief of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (Routledge). He currently leads two funded research projects examining the extremist religious narratives used by terrorist groups such as al-Qa‘ida and IS, and evaluating what motivates the audiences of violent extremist social media. He serves as an advisor to the Premier of New South Wales in matters of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. Paul Dumouchel (PhD, University of Waterloo, Canada) is Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. He is co-author, with Jean-Pierre Dupuy, of L’Enfer des choses: René Girard et la logique de l’économie (Seuil, 1979), and author of Emotions: essai sur le corps et le social (Les Empêcheurs de Penser en rond, 1999). He co-edited, with Jean-Pierre Dupuy, L’auto-organisation de la physique au politique (Seuil, 1983), and edited Violence and Truth: On the Work of René Girard (Stanford University Press, 1988). His latest books include Le sacrifice inutile: essai sur la violence politique (Flammarion, 2011), Economia dell’invidia (Transeuropa, 2011), and The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays (Michigan State University Press, 2013). Jean-Pierre Dupuy (PhD, Ecole des Mines de Paris) is Professor Emeritus of Social and Political Philosophy, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University. He is a member of the French Academy of Technology, a spinoff of the Academy of Sciences, and of the Conseil Général des Mines, the French High Magistracy that oversees and regulates industry, energy, and the environment. He chairs the Ethics Committee of the French High Authority on Nuclear Safety and Security. He is the Director of the Research Program of Imitatio, a San Francisco foundation devoted to the dissemination and discussion of René Girard’s mimetic theory. He is the author of numerous major works, including, in English, The Mechanization of the Mind (Princeton University Press, 2000), On the Origins of Cognitive Science (MIT, 2009), The Mark of the Sacred (Stanford University Press, 2013), Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith (Michigan State University Press, 2014), A Short Treatise on the Metaphysics of Tsunamis (Michigan State University Press, 2015), and Enlightened Doomsaying (Michigan State University Press, 2018). Chris Fleming (PhD, Western Sydney University) is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Social and Cultural Analysis in the School of Humanities



Notes on Contributors

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and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University, and Founding Vice President of the Australian Girard Seminar. He is the author or editor of seven books, including René Girard: Violence and Mimesis (Polity, 2004) and Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid (Bloomsbury, 2014), co-authored with Emma A. Jane. Sandor Goodhart (PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo) is Professor of English and Jewish Studies at Purdue University’s Department of English, and author of five books on literature, philosophy, and Jewish Studies: The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical (Michigan State University Press, 2014); Sacrifice, Scripture, and Substitution (Notre Dame University Press, 2011; co-edited with Ann Astell); For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and Truth (Michigan State University Press, 2009; co-edited with J. Williams, T. Ryba, and J. Jørgensen); Reading Stephen Sondheim (Garland, 2000), and Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). A sixth, Möbian Nights: Reading Literature and Darkness (Bloomsbury, 2017). He is a founding board member of the North American Levinas Society, a former President of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (2004–7), and the author of over one hundred essays. Joel Hodge (PhD, University of Queensland) is Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at the Australian Catholic University (St Patrick’s Campus, Melbourne), and Founding Treasurer of the Australian Girard Seminar. He is the author of Resisting Violence and Victimisation: Christian Faith and Solidarity in East Timor (Ashgate, 2012) and co-editor of six books, including Vatican II: Reception and Implementation in the Australian Church (Garratt, 2012). Anthony J. Kelly CSsR (DTheol, Anselmianum, Rome) is a Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, a Redemptorist priest, and a Fellow of the Australian Catholic Theological Association. He is the author of many articles and books, including ‘Laudato Si’: An Integral Ecology and the Catholic Vision (ATF, 2016), Upward: Faith, Church, and the Ascension of Christ (Liturgical, 2014), God is Love: The Heart of Christian Faith (Liturgical Press, 2012), The Resurrection Effect: Transforming Christian Life and Thought (Orbis Books, 2008), Eschatology and Hope (Orbis Books, 2006), and, with Francis J. Moloney, Experiencing God in the Gospel of John (Paulist, 2003).

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Carly Osborn (PhD, University of Adelaide) is a Research Fellow in the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions at the University of Adelaide, and Secretary of the Australian Girard Seminar. Her PhD thesis, “Tragedy, Sacrifice and the American Dream: A Girardian Reading of Some Post-War American Novels,” won the University of Adelaide Doctoral Research Medal, and she was named the 2015 South Australian History Council Emerging Historian of the Year. She is the author of The Theory of René Girard: A Very Simple Introduction (AGS, 2016). Wolfgang Palaver (Dr. theol., University of Innsbruck, Austria) is Professor of Catholic Social Thought at the School of Catholic Theology of the University of Innsbruck, Austria (where he was also Dean from 2013 until 2017). From 2007 to 2011, he was President of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion and in 2016 he became an honorary member of its board. His most recent book is René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (Michigan State University Press, 2013). He is co-editor of The European Wars of Religion (Routledge, 2016), Mimetic Theory and World Religions (Michigan State University Press, 2017), and The Palgrave Handbook of Mimetic Theory and Religion (Palgrave, 2017). Petra Steinmair-Pösel (PhD, University of Innsbruck, Austria) is Director of the Institute for Religious Education at the Catholic College of Education–Edith Stein in Feldkirch, Austria. She co-edited, with Wolfgang Palaver, Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology (LIT/Transaction, 2005). Following her dissertation on the doctrine of grace in the light of Raymund Schwager’s dramatic theology and Girard’s mimetic theory, Gnade in Beziehung: Konturen einer dramatischen Gnadenlehre (LIT, 2009), she is interested in the possibilities and preconditions for evading the traps of mimetic rivalry. This has inspired subsequent contributions to the topic of positive/peaceful/receptive mimesis, as well as her Habilitationsschrift: Im Gravitationsfeld von Mystik und Politik: Was Christliche Sozialethik von M. Maria Skobtsova, Dorothee Sölle und Chiara Lubich lernen kann (In the Gravitational Field of Mysticism and Politics: What Christian Social Ethics Can Learn from M. Maria Skobtsova, Dorothee Sölle and Chiara Lubich). Lise Waldek (MA, University of Kent, England) is a Lecturer in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University, Sydney, where she researches and lectures in terrorist dynamics. She has worked with the British Government on security issues and sociocultural analysis.

Introduction

Dear God, sorry to disturb you but I feel that I should be heard loud and clear. We all need a big reduction in the amount of tears. And all the people that you made in your image See them fighting in the street, ’Cause they can’t make opinions meet about God. —XTC, “Dear God”1 British New Wave band XTC didn’t initially intend for the song “Dear God” to be included on their ninth studio album, Skylarking. The song was originally just a B-side for the single “Grass,” but DJs across the United States picked up the song enthusiastically, and so it was included in all subsequent re-releases of the album. The song came to be seen by many as controversial, and so a number of retailers in the US refused to stock the album. Predictably, that controversy is now thought to be the principal reason that the band managed to crack the tough US market. In some ways, this contains some of the signal elements involved in how much contemporary culture operates. We are sold supposed “heresies” that are said to challenge the status quo and provoke us to our very core—but the fact that such challenging messages often sell as well as Big Macs should give us pause to think about just how challenging they actually are. In a book that received favorable reviews in the mainstream press and spent a considerable time on the New York Times Bestsellers List, E. O. Wilson—inveterate tractarian, sociobiologist, and proponent of the “religion is violent” thesis—predicts that his “challenging” kind of thinking will upset people: I know that true believers will be scandalized by this line of argument. Their wrath falls on outspoken heretics, who are considered at best troublemakers and at worst traitors to the social order.2

The scandalized kept a very low profile in this instance it seems. At one level, it’s very difficult to understand what people at the time saw as being provocative in XTC’s lyrics. (Wilson’s book, on the other hand, could only

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hope vainly for a controversy that never came.) After all, the idea that violence and religion are joined at the hip is hardly unconventional. We might even call it The Reader’s Digest View of Religion. The terms “violence and religion” seem to belong together like “country and western,” “law and order,” and perhaps “Abbott and Costello.” Everyone knows that religion causes violence—which is also to say, nobody knows it. That is, this claim isn’t so much a truth as a truism. And as scholars who are interested in questions of religion, culture, and social order, we cannot content ourselves with truisms. Hence the conference that gave rise to this collection.3 To question the links between violence and religion is not equivalent to denying that they exist. Surely one of the most pressing issues of our time is the outbreak of extremist violence and terrorism, much of it done in the name of religion. This volume critically analyzes the link made between religion and violence in contemporary social and cultural theory, particularly with reference to the mimetic theory of René Girard, and proposes that “religion” does not have an exclusive relationship to violence, especially when “religion” is a term used to demarcate a realm that stands apart from culture, ideology, or nationalism. To the contrary, religion and violence—and their links and fissures—must be understood with relation to fundamental anthropological and philosophical categories such as culture, desire, disaster, and rivalry. Building on this theoretical perspective (explored in Part 1), the volume explores contemporary instances of religious violence in Part 2, particularly by analyzing and applying Girard’s thought, as well as by examining the legitimacy and efficacy of modern cultural mechanisms, such as nuclear deterrence and the application of law, to contain violence. In Part 3, the volume turns to a case study of modern religious violence—focusing on the most prominent example of it—in Islamist terrorism and radicalization. This section analyzes Islamic extremism from multiple disciplinary perspectives, examining its various political, economic, religious, military, and technological dimensions. In particular, it focuses on the way in which violence is justified by Islamic extremists, and analyzes how scholars seek to understand the actions and perspectives of such adherents. In part, it explores the motivations and causes for Islamic radicalization and the way Islamic theology is being used for violence by Islamist groups whose connection to Islam is far more contingent than its proponents are apt to claim. The present volume analyzes religious violence from multiple disciplinary perspectives, with experts from mimetic theory, theology, philosophy, terrorism

Introduction

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studies, and Islamic studies all bringing their expertise to bear on the questions and themes in focus. It brings together the insights of René Girard, arguably the premier theorist of violence in the twentieth century, with the most recent scholarship on religion, culture, and violence. A dialogue is opened utilizing Girard’s sophisticated apparatus for understanding violence and the extant multidisciplinary scholarship on religious violence. —Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Carly Osborn Canberra/Sydney/Melbourne/Adelaide, March 2017

Notes 1 2 3

© Andy Partridge. Sound recording by Geffen Records, Santa Monica, 1986. Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (London: Abacus, 1998), 274. The conference was co-hosted by the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COVR) and the Australian Girard Seminar, at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia, on July 13–17, 2016. It was entitled “Violence in the Name of Religion …”. COVR is an international and interdisciplinary scholarly association committed to developing, critiquing and commending the mimetic theory of René Girard (1923–2015). This COVR Conference, the first held in the Southern hemisphere, was organized by the editors.

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Part One

Does Religion Cause Violence?

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1

Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence William T. Cavanaugh

There is something ironic about an address to the Colloquium on Violence and Religion by the author of The Myth of Religious Violence.1 To an outsider it would appear that we are deeply at odds. Your learned society is dedicated to the exploration of the link between religion and violence, while I am dedicated to debunking that link. A few years ago, I was asked to contribute a chapter to The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence. I submitted an essay entitled “Why This Book Is a Very Bad Idea”: the editor changed my title. Some might suppose that I am here to tell you that the Colloquium on Violence and Religion is, likewise, a very bad idea, but that is not the case. In fact, I will argue that we are in fundamental agreement about what I call the “myth of religious violence.” I will explore the work of René Girard, around which the colloquium is organized, and argue that—far from supporting the myth of religious violence—the work of Girard, in fact, undermines it. It does so in two ways. First, there is an important sense in which the author of Violence and the Sacred undermines the religious/secular distinction upon which what I refer to as the myth of religious violence depends. Second, Girard critiques the scapegoating of religion by secularists. The myth of religious violence, as I define it, is a myth in the precise sense in which Girard uses the term: a story that encodes a méconnaissance or mis-knowing about how violence is actually cured. Rather than religion representing the cure for violence, as Girard would have it, the myth of religious violence proclaims a secular cure for the violence that religion uniquely embodies. In the first part of this chapter, I will define what I mean by the myth of religious violence and briefly consider some misuses of Girard that support the myth. In the second part, I will give a very brief summary of my argument against the myth, showing how it depends on a transhistorical and transcultural

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distinction between the religious and the secular that is untenable. I will then show how Girard, too, undermines that distinction, despite some ambiguities in his use of the term “religion.” Finally, in the fourth part, I will explain more fully how the myth of religious violence functions as a myth in Girard’s sense.

Misuses of Girard What I have labeled the “myth of religious violence” can be summarized in three steps: 1. There is a transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion that distinguishes it from essentially secular phenomena like reason, or politics and economics; religions like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are essentially different from secular phenomena like nationalism, consumerism, and Marxism. 2. Religion has more of a tendency to promote violence than secular phenomena have. 3. Therefore, religion should be marginalized from public power and secularism should be encouraged. This myth is absolutely central to secular social orders. It is repeated daily by government officials, jurists, journalists, bloggers, and the proverbial common man or woman in the street. The actions of Islamist terrorists are widely held to confirm the myth, as if confirmation were even necessary. The myth is the basis for the marginalization of Christian and Muslim practices at the domestic level, and the basis for an aggressive foreign policy aimed at converting the Muslim world to Western-style secular social order. Given Girard’s positing of a close bond between religion and violence, it is not surprising that some commentators have taken Girard as providing evidence for the myth. Mark Juergensmeyer, for example, has edited a volume in which various social scientists who write on the peculiar link between religion and violence interact with Girard’s work. Not all buy wholly into Girard’s theory, but most use various Girardian themes to illuminate various case studies of religious violence, trying to determine not if but why religion has a special propensity to encourage violence. According to Juergensmeyer, “Perhaps one of the reasons that Girard is regarded with such interest … is that he supplies



Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence

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a straightforward answer to a question that has vexed thoughtful observers of religion for centuries: why violence is so central to religion.”2 What counts as “religion” for that volume? The volume, Juergensmeyer writes, consists of examinations of religious violence caused by Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and Buddhists, in conversation with Girard.3 Most of the chapters maintain a sharp distinction between religious and secular violence. David Rapoport’s contribution, for example, draws on Girard to give reasons why religion is peculiarly prone to violence, one of which is its ability to command loyalty. He acknowledges that “in the modern world the nation sometimes has surpassed religion as a focus of loyalties,” but instead of recognizing the nation as a font of secular violence, he claims that the fact that academics speak of the nation’s “civic religion” points to the “special significance of religion.”4 Another reason that religion is peculiarly linked to violence, according to Rapoport, is that it uses violent language. He illustrates this point by giving examples of explicitly secular movements that have appropriated religious language in the service of violence. He quotes the secularist Abraham Stern: Like my father who taught me to read in Torah I will teach my pupils; stand to arms, kneel and shoot Because there is a religion of redemption—a religion of the war of liberation Who ever accepts it—be blessed: whoever denies it—be cursed.5

Instead of concluding that secular violence can be just as virulent as religious violence, or that there is no essential difference between secular and religious, as Stern himself seems to acknowledge, Rapoport uses secular violence as evidence of the violence of religion. As with nationalism, secular terrorism acts like a religion and might even be called a religion, but it is not religious, even though it counts as evidence of religion’s violent tendencies. Bruce Lawrence’s contribution to the volume is interesting and different because Lawrence contends that Islam is not an independent variable in Muslim societies like Indonesia6 and that it is in fact “the nation state which has implemented violence at a new level.”7 Juergensmeyer takes Lawrence’s argument to be that in Indonesia violence is political, not religious. “In Lawrence’s view, Girard’s theory, which initially emerged from the analysis of classical literary images, is not so much wrong in its own terms as irrelevant to the modern social situation.”8 In Girard’s own response to the volume, however, he—writing with Mark Anspach—commends the way that Lawrence resists demonizing Islam, commenting that, “Generally speaking, the object in focusing on sacrifice is

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not to stigmatize the ‘other’ for primitive savagery, but to uncover the continuity among many distinct varieties of violence, including those our own societies practice.”9 By “our own societies” Girard means “secular” Western ones. In contrast to Girard’s attempt here to blur the line between religious and secular violence, Juergensmeyer, Rapoport, and others in the volume need that distinction to hold firm so that the indictment against the peculiar tendency of religion to encourage violence can hold.

Why the myth of religious violence is false There is no question that Christianity, Islam, and other sets of beliefs and practices that are usually labeled “religions” can and do foment violence under certain circumstances. Arguments that Crusaders were not really Christians or ISIS fighters are not really Muslims might faithfully reflect normative Christian or Muslim beliefs, but descriptively they are specious, a form of special pleading.10 In other words, it is important for Christians to claim that the Crusaders misunderstood Christ and for Muslims to claim that ISIS has misconstrued Islam, but neither group can thereby excuse Christians and Muslims from complicity in violence. I also do not argue that the cause of such violence is really political or economic and not really religious. To argue this way assumes a sharp distinction between, for example, the religious and the political, which is precisely what I call into question. The myth of religious violence does not only say that religion foments violence, but that religion foments more violence than what is not religion, the secular. The myth of religious violence, therefore, depends entirely on the cogency of the religious/secular distinction as a basic way of dividing up human activities in all times and places. It is precisely this distinction that I call into question. Imagine a line with religions on one side and secular ideologies and practices on the other. On the religious side stand what are usually considered religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, and so on. On the secular side are politics, economics, the social, and political and economic and social realities like nationalism and capitalism and Marxism and liberalism, as well as antireligious movements like atheism and humanism. All proponents of the myth of religious violence must operate with such a line, though what ends up on each side varies widely. Atheist Christopher Hitchens, for example, recognizes that atheist ideologies like Stalinism and the Communism of North



Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence

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Korea have caused tens of millions of casualties. He deals with this problem by simply moving the offending ideologies over to the other side of the line. Totalitarianism is essentially religious, he says, because “the object of perfecting the species—which is the very root and source of the totalitarian impulse—is in essence a religious one.”11 Religion is violent because everything violent gets labeled as religion. At the same time, everything good ends up on the other side of the religious/secular divide. Hitchens says of Martin Luther King, Jr., “In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he a Christian.” Hitchens bases this remarkable conclusion on the notion that King was nonviolent, while the Bible preaches violence from cover to cover. What is not violent cannot possibly be religious, because religion is defined as violent. As we have already seen in the examples of Juergensmeyer and Rapoport cited above, the myth of religious violence depends on the sharp distinction between religion and the secular, but things keep getting smuggled back and forth across the border between religious and secular, depending on what the author is trying to indict. In my book, I give example after example of this type of smoke and mirrors ploy. Juergensmeyer has made a career out of exploring the peculiar tendency of religion to contribute to violence, but the whole project falls into confusion when he states flatly that “secular nationalism is ‘a religion’”12 and even that “the secular is a sort of advanced form of religion.”13 What becomes of the dividing line between “secular” and “religious”—upon which the whole argument depends—if the secular is a form of religion? Richard Wentz’s book Why People Do Bad Things in the Name of Religion includes not only Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and the like, but also consumerism, secular humanism, football fanaticism, faith in technology, and a host of other ideologies and practices under the rubric “religion.” He concludes, “Perhaps all of us do bad things in the name of (or as a representative of) religion.”14 Wentz has intuited correctly that people do violence for all sorts of reasons. But instead of an argument for why religion has a greater tendency than the secular to promote violence, Wentz has simply taken everything for which people do violence and labeled it “religion.” Most of those who claim that religion promotes violence are substantivists, that is, those who define religions based on the substance of their beliefs in a god or gods or the transcendent or some such. “Religion” in this sense refers to a set of belief systems such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Daoism, and a few others. Things like nationalism, capitalism, Marxism, liberalism, and so on are considered secular. Those called “functionalists,” like

12

Does Religion Cause Violence?

Richard Wentz, tend to follow Durkheim and regard whatever functions like a religion—including so-called “secular” things like nationalism or consumerism—as religions. Functionalist approaches are potentially helpful in showing that so-called “secular” ideologies and practices like nationalism can be just as violent as those usually labeled “religions.” Both substantivists and functionalists, however, assume there is a clear line between religious and secular, though they locate the line in different places. The religious/secular distinction, however, is not transhistorical and trans­ cultural; it is a contingent product of the modern West. What counts as religious and what counts as secular in any given circumstance depends on the political purposes of the one making the distinction. The distinction is commonly used to endorse as rational and peacemaking certain beliefs and practices, labeled secular, and to condemn others, labeled religious, as essentially irrational and prone to violence. The distinction does not simply describe the way the world is, but rather tells us about how the West distributes power. In the wake of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Talal Asad, and others who are sometimes labeled “constructivists,” there now exist extensive genealogies showing conclusively that the religious/secular distinction is a contingent product of the modern West. Smith could find no concept equivalent to what we call “religion” in ancient Greece, India, Egypt, China, or Rome. The Romans had religio, but it referred to all kinds of binding civic duties, some referring to gods and some what we would call “secular.” Augustine says in the City of God that the “normal meaning” of religio is “an attitude of respect in relations between a man and his neighbor.”15 The religious/secular distinction in medieval Christendom was the distinction between two kinds of priests, those who belong to an order and those who belong to a diocese. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1400, the “religions” of England were the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and so on. There was of course a distinction between civil and ecclesiastical authorities, but the religious/secular distinction as we know it did not exist. Timothy Fitzgerald has shown that the first use of the religious/secular distinction in the modern sense in the English language appears in the works of William Penn and John Locke in the late seventeenth century. The modern religion/politics distinction is even later.16 These distinctions were invented as a byproduct of the struggles for power between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in early modern Europe. The creation of the sovereign state meant that the ambit of ecclesiastical authorities would gradually be confined to religion—the



Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence

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realm of belief—while the civil authorities would take charge of the political. The civil authorities appropriated powers formerly in the hands of the church; ecclesiastical courts were abolished, and the rights to nominate bishops and abbots, control over church revenues, monopoly on the means of violence, and the primary allegiance of the people were transferred to the nascent state. The religious/secular and religion/politics distinctions helped eventually to create the expectation that the natural place of the church was the private sphere. The Enlightenment distinction between religion and reason fortified this expectation, and the idea that religion tends to foment violence reinforces this demand that religion be removed from wielding power in the public sphere. Once the religious/secular distinction was established in Europe, the same distinction was imposed on much of the rest of the world as a byproduct of colonialism. The distinction was entirely foreign to non-Western cultures. In their first encounters with peoples across the globe, European explorers reported home with remarkable consistency that the natives had no religion at all. Once colonies were established, however, Western scholars and bureaucrats began to fit indigenous cultural systems into taxonomies of “world religions.” Confucianists and Hindus protested that Confucianism and Hinduism were not religions. The religious/secular dichotomy was nonetheless imposed on non-Western cultures; as in Europe, the distinction encoded acts of power. There is an abundance of scholarly work done over the last few decades that traces in great detail the colonial uses of the religious/secular distinction. For example, David Chidester’s work on the concept “religion” in southern Africa shows how the British and the Dutch denied religion to the native peoples when they were at war with them, but subsequently discovered Hottentot, Xhosa, and Zulu religions once they had been subjugated.17 When subdued, attributing religion to the indigenous people was at once a way of depoliticizing their cultures and a way of entering their cultures into a comparative framework in which—compared to the norm of religion, Christianity—their practices would be found wanting. Likewise, Derek Peterson’s study of colonial government among the Gikuyu people of Kenya shows that the term “religion” artificially separated out certain aspects of Gikuyu culture: “naming a certain practice or disposition religious rendered it something other than real.”18 What I have offered here is the briefest of summaries of what I do over 120 pages in the first two chapters of my book. The point is that there simply is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion with a peculiar propensity for violence. The religious/secular distinction upon which the myth of religious

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Does Religion Cause Violence?

violence entirely depends is a modern Western creation that encodes certain Western arrangements of power, which are sometimes benign and sometimes not. The point is not only that people are just as likely to kill for secular things like Marxism and capitalism as they are for religious things like Islam and Hinduism. The point is that the religious/secular distinction is itself an act of power that labels certain things “religious,” and therefore essentially nonrational and potentially dangerous, while authorizing as “secular” other belief systems and practices whose violence is accepted as rational and peacemaking.

Girard and the religious/secular dichotomy The question to which I now turn is “Where does René Girard fit into this argument? Whose side is he on?” I think he’s on my side, though it is not always easy to make the case, because Girard is not always clear on how he uses the term “religion,” and confusion around the term is common among commentators on Girard. It is worthy of note that the “Glossary of Key Girardian Terms” in the edited volume René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature has no entry for the term “religion,” despite the centrality of the concept for Girard.19 If I were to write such an entry, I would need to acknowledge that Girard himself appears to use the term in several different ways. Girard sometimes speaks like a substantivist, as in his interview with Rebecca Adams when he seems to include Christianity as one of today’s religions,20 or when in Battling to the End he acknowledges the archaism in Communism but writes “Leninism had some of these features, but what it lacked was religion.”21 Here there seems to be a sharp distinction between religion and Leninism, an atheistic ideology that is presumably secular, or nonreligious. The predominant way in which Girard uses the term “religion,” however, is not to denote some set of religions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.—that can be compared and contrasted with secular social arrangements. For Girard, “religion” most commonly denotes the myths and practices by which violence is legitimated and controlled in any social order. Girard writes, “Any phenomenon associated with the acts of remembering, commemorating, and perpetuating a unanimity that springs from the murder of a surrogate victim can be termed ‘religious.’”22 Religion, in this sense, is not a sui generis phenomenon that can be separated out from culture, reason, politics, economics, or society. The Girard Reader defines religion as simply “Indistinguishable from culture in



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archaic societies.”23 Culture, in turn, is defined as “Everything—assumptions and common ideas, roles, structures, etc.—which enables human beings to exist together without being overcome by chaos, violence, random murder. According to the mimetic scapegoat theory, culture is founded by scapegoating and maintained by a system of differences which is rooted in a nonconscious, concealed scapegoat mechanism.”24 In this sense, religion is certainly linked with violence, but religion is not what it is taken to mean in the myth of religious violence, that is, something distinct from culture or politics or economics or other essentially “secular” phenomena against which religion can be compared and found more violent. In one sense, Girard uses “religion” to refer to the way that the scapegoating mechanism is an idol in archaic cultures. Girard does consider religion an ancient and universal phenomenon, which seems to contradict my genealogy of religion as a modern, Western phenomenon. In another way, however, Girard thinks the influence of the Christian revelation bears fruit in modernity by separating religion from violence, allowing the emergence of “true religion,” of which Christianity is the prototype, but in which other “world religions” could participate. In other words, Girard could acknowledge my genealogy of the emergence of a new category of “religion” in modernity, but claim it as meaning something like “religion which has been purified of its entanglement with culture and violence.” That is, Girard could use the category of religion to denote the search for God that has been freed from the false worship of the scapegoat.25 But this is clearly not how the myth of religious violence uses the category of religion, and Girard’s use of the religious/secular distinction is complicated by the fact that he continues to spy archaic religion still at work in supposedly “secular” phenomena. I have not found evidence that Girard paid attention to the genealogies of the religious/secular distinction that have become increasingly numerous since Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s work on the subject. I believe we can provide clarity to Girard’s whole project by being attentive to the history of the term “religion” and by clearly parsing the very different meanings of the term. Girard often uses the term “religion” to refer to an archaism, that is, the ways that archaic murder is disguised and misremembered. He also contrasts religion in this sense with “modern theory” and with the modern secular judicial system that appears to put vengeance and the control of violence on a more rational footing.26 One might be led to believe, then, that Girard does have a sharp religious/secular dichotomy of the kind on which the myth of religious violence depends. Girard,

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Does Religion Cause Violence?

however, emphasizes the ways in which secular forms of rationality have only appeared to replace the ancient mechanisms of sacrifice that he diagnoses. Girard claims that rudimentary sacrifice and more advanced judicial forms of containment are both “imbued with religious concepts”: Religion in its broadest sense, then, must be another term for that obscurity that surrounds man’s efforts to defend himself by curative or preventative means against his own violence. It is that enigmatic quality that pervades the judicial system when that system replaces sacrifice. This obscurity coincides with the transcendental effectiveness of a violence that is holy, legal, and legitimate successfully opposed to a violence that is unjust, illegal, and illegitimate.27

Girard thus uses religion in a narrow sense to refer to the archaic (mis)representation of sacrificial violence, and in a broader sense to refer to the ways that all societies—even modern secular ones—employ the same mechanisms to legitimate and control violence. In good Durkheimian fashion, Girard uses the term “religion” to name the way that any society—including any “secular” society—represents itself to itself. As Girard writes, “There is no society without religion because without religion society cannot exist.”28 What this means is that Girard undermines the religious/secular dichotomy upon which the myth of religious violence depends. The functional equivalent of archaic religion is still operative in modern societies. So Girard writes in Violence and the Sacred, “The judicial system and the institution of sacrifice share the same function, but the judicial system is infinitely more effective.”29 It is more effective in part because it keeps mimetic crises from escalating by preventing acts of vengeance between persons. But Girard is clear that modern judicial systems, though apparently abstract and rational, are still legitimized vengeance that establishes the unanimity of the court—and the society the court represents—against the accused. Such vengeance remains concealed, however, under the guise of impartiality and rationality.30 A modern judicial system is more effective, precisely because it is not recognized as religion. The mechanism cannot work if people are aware of it. The religious/secular dichotomy then works to hide the violence of the judicial system from our eyes. The religious/secular dichotomy is itself part of the apparatus whereby violence is concealed. Girard’s goal is to reveal it, and thereby undermine the religious/ secular dichotomy. Secularism, therefore, is not the same as archaic religion for Girard, but neither is secularism something essentially new and different from religion.



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Secularism is certainly not the triumph of an enlightened and peaceful rationality over a violent religion, as it is in the myth of religious violence. For this reason, Girard frequently refers to the secular as religious, as when he says that “the ideology promoted by Stalin already contained para-religious components”31 or when he refers to France’s “national religion” whereby “Napoleon has literally been divinized.”32 In Battling to the End, Girard frequently uses this kind of language to describe rationalism, which is the very basis for the religious/secular dichotomy as propagandized by the Enlightenment. Girard says, “Rationalism’s disdain of religion not only turns reason into a religion, but makes for a corrupted religion.”33 In Battling to the End, Girard does not do much to distinguish the terms “religion” and “myth”; rationalism is both religion and myth. So Girard contends, “I would go so far as to say that rationalism, the refusal to see the imminence of catastrophe (which is something archaic societies saw very clearly indeed), is our way of continuing to fend off reality. As Péguy said, we are ‘the coarsest and most superficial of mythologists.’”34 Secular rationalism presents itself as the antithesis of religion and myth, but Girard sees beneath the surface to the underlying unity behind the religious/secular dichotomy. When Benoît Chantre challenges Girard for “rejecting the distance from religion that Western thought has been taking for three centuries,” Girard responds: I’d like to reverse your reasoning by saying that it is because we have wanted to distance ourselves from religion that it is now returning with such force and in a retrograde, violent form. The rationalism that you mention was thus not real distancing, but a dike that is in the process of giving way. In this, it will perhaps have been our last mythology. We “believed” in reason, as people used to believe in the gods.35

For Girard there is a way in which modernity is a distancing from religion, if religion is understood in the narrower sense of the systems of myth and ritual that obscure the founding murders. He is clear about the desacralizing effects of Christianity; it is not a coincidence that secular modernity arises out of Christendom. He writes that “all demystification comes from Christianity. Even better: the only true religion is the one that demystifies archaic religions.”36 But Girard does not think that secularism—whether inspired by Christianity or not—vanquishes the violence of religion, as the myth of religious violence contends. Indeed, Girard points to a violent resacralization or reenchantment in the secular, as we have just seen. At times, Girard speaks as if the sacred in

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Does Religion Cause Violence?

the secular is a holdover from archaic religion, as when he says that “the market, fundamentally, like all modern institutions, is a complex combination of an archaic sacrificial basis combined with aspects of Jewish-Christian revelation.”37 But Girard does not appear to think that the secular is simply incompletely secularized, that it has not yet been swept clean of the remnants of religion. In its attempts to vanquish Christianity and other so-called religions, secularism becomes itself another form of religion, that is, a violent form of obscuring the origins of violence that is unaware that it is doing so. As Girard says: The [Christian] Revelation deprives people of religion, and it is this deprivation that can increasingly be seen around us, in the naïve illusion that we are finished with it. Those who believe in the defeat of religion are now seeing it reappear as the product of that very demystification, but what is being produced is something sullied and demonetized, and frightened by the revelation of which it was the object. It is the loss of sacrifice, the only system able to contain violence, which brings violence back among us. Today’s antireligion combines so much error and nonsense about religion that it can barely be satirized. It serves the cause that it would undermine, and secretly defends the mistakes that it believes it is correcting.38

Girard does, then, link archaic religion and violence, though he thinks that violence causes religion, and not the other way around. Girard, however, does not think that religion promotes violence in the sense of religion employed by the myth of religious violence, that is, religion as that set of ideologies and practices including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and so on that are restrained by a nonreligious secular social order. On the contrary, what Girard confusingly calls the “true religion,” Christianity, is the key to undoing violence, and the secularist myth of religious violence “serves the cause that it would undermine, and secretly defends the mistakes that it believes it is correcting.”

“The most superficial of mythologists” Girard addresses the myth of religious violence directly in the context of academic scapegoating in his interview with Rebecca Adams. “Behind our universal tolerance and multiculturalism an enormous amount of crude scapegoating is going on which should be denounced,”39 he tells Adams, and he appears to consider the idea that religion causes violence to be an example of such scapegoating:



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I do not agree that ideas and beliefs are the real cause of violence. Religious beliefs, especially. It is fashionable, nowadays, to say that religion is extremely violent and the real cause of most wars. Both Hitler and Stalin were hostile to religion and they killed more people than all past religious wars combined. When Yugoslavia started to fall apart, there were dark hints once again that the true culprit was religion. Since then, I have not seen one single piece of evidence that religion has anything to do with the various abominations that are going on there. If we had more genuine religion, we would have less violence.40

Here Girard seems to mean by “religion” what the myth of religious violence means by religion, though Girard would prefer to exculpate rather than blame religion. What is much more interesting here, however, is Girard’s hint that the myth of religious violence is a form of scapegoating. As he says later in the interview, in the name of Christian concern for victims, we have now turned around and scapegoated our own tradition.41 If this is true, then the myth of religious violence is truly a myth in Girard’s sense, that is, a distorted account of an originating act of violence by which the real cause of violence is hidden. This is essentially the account of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European “Wars of Religion”—so-called—that I give in my book, though I did not have Girard in mind when I wrote it. The “Wars of Religion” are typically narrated everywhere from liberal political theory to journalistic accounts as the founding chaos from which our secular social order saved us. According to the common tale, the Reformation introduced religious difference into Europe, and religion cannot tolerate difference. Protestants and Catholics killed each other in the ensuing “Wars of Religion,” and the solution was the rise of the secular state and the marginalization of religion from public power. Religion was the violent problem, and secularism the peacemaking solution. This is the ur-story on which Western unanimity is based; we have defeated religion, the original guilty party, and founded a rational, peaceloving social order upon religion’s demise. Even a cursory examination of the historical evidence, however, raises serious questions about this story. In the so-called “Wars of Religion,” Catholics killed Catholics, Protestants killed Protestants, and Catholics and Protestants collaborated in great numbers. To give only one example, Cardinal Richelieu formed an alliance with the Lutheran Swedes against the Habsburgs, and the second half of the Thirty Years’ War was essentially a battle between the two great Catholic dynasties of Europe. Even more significantly, religion was not so much a cause of these wars as a product of them; as I have already indicated, the

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Does Religion Cause Violence?

religious/secular, religion/politics, and other similar distinctions did not exist in the modern sense prior to these wars. These distinctions were byproducts of the creation of the modern state, and the rise of the centralized territorial state was not the solution but the primary cause of these wars. José Casanova is right when he remarks that “the so-called ‘religious wars’ could also more appropriately be called the wars of early modern European state formation.”42 A consequence of the wars was the invention of religion as the “other” of politics and of the secular. Paul Dumouchel has recently made similar remarks about the typical tale of reason overcoming violence through the founding of the state with a monopoly on legitimate violence: The Girardian reading invites us to inverse [sic] this founding relationship and suggests that the monopoly of legitimate violence is what provides reason with its claim to be violence’s Other, thus making itself “Reason.” The difference between reason and violence, on which we would like to base the unanimous agreement of members of society, does not precede the action that establishes the political order, but flows from it.43

The myth of the un-reason and violence of religion provides unity for the nation-state. In the last chapter of my book, I give many examples. Martin Marty cites the many instances of mob violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses who were attacked, beaten, tarred, castrated, and imprisoned in the United States in the 1940s because they believed that followers of Jesus Christ should not salute a flag. With war raging in Europe, Marty comments, “The country had to stand together.” One would think that he would draw the obvious conclusion that zealous nationalism can cause violence. Astonishingly, Marty concludes, “it became obvious that religion, which can pose ‘us’ versus ‘them’ … carries risks and can be perceived by others as dangerous. Religion can cause all kinds of trouble in the public arena.”44 For Marty, “religion” refers not to the ritual vowing of allegiance to a flag, but only to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal to do so. In this way the myth of religious violence is used to draw attention away from nationalist violence and toward so-called “religious” violence, even though in this case the Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered rather than perpetrated the violence. Today the most significant use of the myth of religious violence is in Western dealings with the Muslim world. The basic contrast is drawn between liberal social orders, which have learned to marginalize religion from public power, and Muslim social orders, which continue to brew a volatile mix of religion



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and politics. We must encourage Muslim social orders to be more like us, but reason alone is unlikely to do the trick, since as New Atheist Sam Harris puts it, “Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion … We will continue to spill blood [in the Muslim world] in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.” The myth of religious violence thus becomes a justification for the use of violence. We will have peace once we have bombed the Muslims into being reasonable. I am uneasy with some of Girard’s comments on Islam in the epilogue to Battling to the End. When he writes that terrorism brings “up to date something that has always been present in Islam,”45 his comments are easily assimilated to the kind of West vs. Islam binary that contributes to escalation. In the context of the current war on terrorism, I think Girard is much more helpful in undermining the idea that so-called “religious” violence is of an essentially different and more virulent nature than secular violence. Girard can help the West to be appropriately self-critical, to see the way that the myth of religious violence operates to hide our own violence from our sight. Such demythologization may not be enough to save us from the apocalypse that demythologization threatens to unleash. It may be one step, however, toward what Girard regards as the only thing that will save us: “to adopt the behavior recommended by Christ: abstain completely from retaliation, and renounce the escalation to extremes.”46

Notes 1

2

3 4 5

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). As noted in the Introduction, above, the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COVR) is the interdisciplinary, international scholarly association devoted to developing, critiquing and commending the mimetic theory of René Girard (1923–2015), arguably the twentieth-century’s leading theorist of culture, violence, and religion. Mark Juergensmeyer, “Editor’s Introduction: Is Symbolic Violence Related to Real Violence?,” in Violence and the Sacred in the Modern World, ed. Mark Juergensmeyer (London: Frank Cass, 1992), 2. Ibid., 1. David C. Rapoport, “Some General Observations on Religion and Violence,” in Juergensmeyer, Violence and the Sacred, 120. Ibid., 121.

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Does Religion Cause Violence?

Bruce Lawrence, “The Islamic Idiom of Violence: A View from Indonesia,” in Juergensmeyer, Violence and the Sacred, 84. 7 Ibid., 85. 8 Juergensmeyer, “Editor’s Introduction,” 6. 9 René Girard and Mark R. Anspach, “A Response: Reflections from the Perspective of Mimetic Theory,” in Juergensmeyer, Violence and the Sacred, 146. 10 In this respect, I find Girard’s comments on the Crusades in Battling to the End disappointing. Girard writes, “The Crusades were an archaic regression without consequences for the essence of Christianity.” René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 215. I am sympathetic with Girard’s attempt to identify nonviolence as the core of the Christian message, but I am unsatisfied with any attempt to simply dismiss acts of Christian violence as unworthy of attention. The conviction that nonviolence is the core of Christ’s action in our world should move Christians to deep penitence for our complicity in violence. 11 Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), 232. 12 Mark Juergensmeyer, The New Cold War?: Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 15. 13 Mark Juergensmeyer, Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Qaeda (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 23. 14 Richard E. Wentz, Why People Do Bad Things in the Name of Religion (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1993), 37. 15 Augustine, City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972), 10.1 (373). 16 Timothy Fitzgerald, Discourse on Civility and Barbarity: A Critical History of Religion and Related Categories (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). 17 David Chidester, Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996), 35–69, 103–23. 18 Derek R. Peterson and Darren R. Walhof, “Rethinking Religion,” in The Invention of Religion: Rethinking Belief in Politics and History, ed. Derek R. Peterson and Darren R. Walhof (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002), 7. 19 Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge, eds., René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature, Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, vol. 2 (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014). See glossary, 259–62. There are entries for “myth” and “sacred,” but not “religion.” There is also no entry for “secular.” 20 Girard says, “I sense some hypocrisy in those Christians who do not want to



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acknowledge Christianity’s uniqueness anymore … They do not want to offend the believers of other religions. Behind this attitude I see not so much a genuine respect for other creeds as a lack of respect for all religions, a gnawing suspicion that all are equally mythical, including Christianity.” Rebecca Adams and René Girard, “Violence, Difference, and Sacrifice: A Conversation with René Girard,” Religion and Literature 25, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 33. 21 Girard, Battling to the End, 213. 22 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 315. 23 See the glossary in René Girard, The Girard Reader, ed. James G. Williams (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 292. 24 Ibid., 289. 25 Joel Hodge has put this suggestion to me in a series of emails and conversations. 26 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 37. 27 Ibid., 23. 28 Ibid., 221. 29 Ibid., 23. 30 Ibid., 17–23. See also Nathan Kensey’s Girardian analysis of the international criminal law system in Nathan Kensey, “Scapegoating the Guilty: Girard and International Criminal Law,” in Cowdell, Fleming, and Hodge, René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature, 67–80. 31 Girard, Battling to the End, 214. 32 Ibid., 179. 33 Ibid., 207. 34 Ibid., 64. Girard similarly says, “Western rationalism operates like a myth: we always work harder to avoid seeing the catastrophe. We neither can nor want to see violence as it is.” Ibid., 213. 35 Ibid., 119. 36 Ibid., xv. 37 René Girard, with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origin of Culture (London: Continuum, 2007), 7. 38 Girard, Battling to the End, 198. 39 Adams and Girard, “Violence, Difference, and Sacrifice,” 14. 40 Ibid.,16. 41 Ibid., 27. 42 José Casanova, “Eurocentric Secularism and the Challenge of Globalization,” Innsbrucker Diskussionspapiere zu Weltordnung, Religion, und Gewalt, no. 25 (2008), 9–10, http://www.uibk.ac.at/plattform-wrg/idwrg/idwrg_25.pdf. 43 Paul Dumouchel, The Barren Sacrifice: An Essay on Political Violence, trans. Mary

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Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015), xvii (italics in the original). 44 Martin Marty, with Jonathan Moore, Politics, Religion, and the Common Good: Advancing a Distinctly American Conversation about Religion’s Role in Our Shared Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 24. 45 Girard, Battling to the End, 213. 46 Ibid., xiv.

2

The Complex Relationship between Violence and Religion: A Response to William T. Cavanaugh’s “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence” Petra Steinmair-Pösel

As the title of William T. Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, indicates,1 the political theologian advances the hypothesis that the notion of specifically and substantially “religious” violence—especially if seen in contrast to allegedly secular nonviolence—is a myth.2 He does so by resorting to a mostly historical argument, keeping theology in the background in order to address an audience as wide as possible.3 On the other hand, one of the cultural anthropologist René Girard’s main works bears the title Violence and the Sacred and has inspired the foundation of an international academic society calling itself the “Colloquium on Violence and Religion” (COVR), thus implying a substantial relationship between religious phenomena and violence. What at first glance might look like two contradictory theories prove to converge upon closer examination.4 Actually, it seems possible to agree, from a Girardian point of view, to Cavanaugh’s main hypothesis. His hypothesis can be summarized as follows: the widespread and, in Western societies, almost conventional understanding of religion as something completely different and distinct from the secular, the political, and the economic, and as something especially prone to foment violence and thus something that should be marginalized from the public, contains a profound méconnaissance.5 Due to this méconnaissance, the notion of a transcultural and transhistorical essence of religion that is distinct from secular realities and exhibits a specific tendency to promote violence beyond the extent of secular violence, such that religion needs to be kept at a safe distance from public power, does not

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help to reduce violence in our contemporary world. According to Cavanaugh, quite the contrary is the case: “The religious/secular dichotomy is itself part of the apparatus whereby violence is concealed.”6 Functioning as a myth in the Girardian sense, the myth of religious violence “is one of the foundational legitimating myths of the liberal nation-state”7 and “becomes a justification for the use of violence.”8 As an example, Cavanaugh mentions the opinion frequently heard, especially since 9/11, that “we will have peace once we have bombed the Muslims into being reasonable.”9 I would like to highlight some fundamental aspects of mimetic theory that open a slightly different perspective on the connection between violence and religion. The aim is to enrich dialogue with Cavanaugh’s project and even, by suggesting a few slight shifts of emphasis in his thesis, to help avoid some of the misinterpretations to which Cavanaugh’s approach has been subjected.10 I will offer my reflections by formulating and then elaborating five short theses.

Violence is first and foremost human, not religious or secular A first thesis concerns the understanding of violence. As Cavanaugh indicates in the third part of his chapter in this volume, Girard’s approach is anthropological rather than theological. Basically, Girard says that humans are amazing beings but they have one fundamental problem: that, unbound from the instinctual fetters of their animal ancestors, human mimetic capacities not only make them extremely adaptive, but also prone to rivalry and violence.11 This could have led them to extinguish their whole kind, had there not been the scapegoat mechanism. The Janus-faced archaic sacred—always tremendum et fascinosum12—is born out of this mechanism. And with it come the myths, sacrificial rites, and taboos of what Girard calls archaic or sacrificial religions.13 What follows from that, and what seems at the same time very simple and very important with respect to the discourse opened by Cavanaugh’s book (though not explicitly mentioned in his chapter), is this: violence, first and foremost, is neither religious nor secular, but a very basic, transhistorical, transcultural, universal human phenomenon. Note, however, that Girard neither assumes an aggressive gene nor ontologizes violence, as some of his critics have suspected.14 While conceding that this criticism is understandable, given the affinity between political philosopher



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Thomas Hobbes, who is known for drawing upon the old Latin proverb homo homini lupus, and René Girard, Wolfgang Palaver dismisses this reproach. Palaver grounds his argument in a detailed comparison between Hobbes and Girard. He points out that in spite of some commonalities, substantial differences remain between the two thinkers. Breaking from the Christian tradition at this point, Hobbes advances a modern ontologizing of violence that Palaver contrasts with Augustine’s ontology of peace. Palaver identifies Girard’s mimetic theory with this Augustinian ontology of peace, even though this connection to Augustine and divergence from Hobbes has been uncovered only through careful research.15 As this difference is important with respect to Cavanaugh’s project, I would like to offer a more detailed account of Palaver’s argument. Looking at current approaches in political philosophy, Palaver notices that for our modern world an ontology of violence has become almost determinative. Comparing Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington, he asserts that while marking opposing poles in the debate,16 the two authors in principle share a view of humans as conflict-prone and violent beings. Their anthropologies thus converge in the proverb homo homini lupus. The same holds true for thinkers like Alexandre Kojève and Carl Schmitt from the 1950s, with Kojève prefiguring the position of Fukuyama,17 and Schmitt that of Huntington.18 Palaver illustrates this deep-rooted anthropological consensus from Kojève’s and Schmitt’s positive identification with Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, from The Brothers Karamazov. Like the Grand Inquisitor, Kojève wants to turn the world into a harmonious anthill, thus sacrificing humanity, as we know it, while Schmitt is likewise fascinated by the Grand Inquisitor’s enmity and readiness to sacrifice. Based on these paradigmatic examples, Palaver identifies this ontology of violence as the dominant paradigm in international political theory—indeed, as characteristic of modern anthropology and mainstream present thinking. He detects it in Max Weber’s sociology and in Sigmund Freud’s cultural theory, with Hobbes’s approach prefiguring (and representing the ideal type of) all variations of this modern ontology of violence. Schmitt realized that Hobbes’s political philosophy, like Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, tries to do away with Christ’s impact in the social and political realm. Christ as the incarnation of divine nonviolence has to be excluded, since he fundamentally challenges all kinds of social order built on violence.19 And what about Girard? Like Hobbes, who assumes a belligerent natural state, Girard sees human civilization as rooted in a war of all against all. Like Hobbes, Girard perceives crisis to be the rule in social relationships and peace

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to be the exception. For Hobbes, the initial war of all against all is overcome by means of a social contract, in which the crowd confers power on one individual to rule over them, thus creating a mortal god (i.e., Leviathan). For Girard, the belligerent crowd is pacified by the scapegoat mechanism, thus creating the Janus-faced sacred. Palaver calls it the “transformation of the crisis-laden homo homini lupus to a peaceful culture of the homo homini deus.”20 However, unlike Hobbes, Girard does not adopt Hobbes’s optimistic view with regard to a rational social contract. Instead, with the scapegoat mechanism, he assumes an unconscious and religiously concealed “solution” of the violent crisis.21 Notwithstanding this difference regarding the role of rationality, Palaver points out yet another similarity between Hobbes and Girard, which lies in their anthropologies. For Hobbes human beings are competitive beings, always striving to beat their peers. Power and glory is what they are craving, and they seek it by means of endless comparison. Palaver argues that Hobbes and Girard agree in identifying what the latter calls mimetic desire as the source of the human inclination to conflicts and violence. Given all these similarities between Hobbes, as the paradigmatic representative of an ontology of violence, and Girard, why is Girard not a proponent of ontological violence as well? Palaver addresses this question via a fundamental difference that he identifies. From a theological point of view, Girard’s approach must be understood in light of the fall and original sin. Girard himself frequently raised this topic,22 and the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk even calls mimetic theory a “scientific version of the doctrine of original sin.”23 Thus, when Girard talks about the emergence of culture from initial chaos, he does not speak about the (divine) order of creation, but about fallen humanity and the emergence of human civilization. Unlike Hobbes, therefore, Girard does not assume an originally violent nature of human beings.24 When he talks about the chaos from which religions and cultures arise by means of the scapegoat mechanism, he refers to an already fallen humankind, that is, to what emerges in creation after the fall.25 While Hobbes considers this fallen state of humans as the very nature of humankind, Augustine—and, with him, Girard—knows another state of humanity. Apart from the human driven by egoistic and rivalistic self-love (amor sui), Augustine and Girard also know the human who is guided by the love of God (amor Dei). Political philosopher Eric Voegelin has pointed out that in Hobbes’s anthropological understanding humans are reduced to the state of amor sui—a reduction that leads to Hobbes’s mere immanentism, which does not



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know a summum bonum or fruitio Dei any more. Instead, humanity is left with the fear of death—a summum malum—and the competition for worldly primacy. Palaver has pointed out that Voegelin’s comparison between Augustine and Hobbes is especially fruitful with regard to understanding Girard. As Augustine distinguishes between two types of love—amor sui and amor Dei—for Girard, there are two different types of mimesis. One is closely related to Augustine’s perversa imitatio Dei, the human wish to take God’s place—the acquisitive and rivalrous imitation that always leads to an escalation of conflicts. The other type corresponds to Augustine’s amor Dei and means the humble wish to follow Christ.26 As Girard points out in I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, and especially in his last book Battling to the End, only this second form of imitation allows escape from the pitfalls of rivalrous mimetic desire, while the other always fuels pride and leads to scandal.27 In Resurrection from the Underground, Girard stresses that: At the heart of everything there is always human pride or God, that is, the two forms of freedom. It is pride that maintains troubling memories deeply concealed; it is pride that separates us from ourselves and others. Individual neuroses and oppressive social structures stem essentially from pride hardened and petrified. To become aware of pride and its dialectic is to renounce the cutting up of reality … But to master this dialectic something other than intelligence is required. It requires a victory over pride itself.28

Thus, to overcome violence it is essential to choose the kenotic path of dying to one’s own pride and vainglory, “to identify [in a Christlike way] with the other, to efface oneself before him,”29 as Girard says in Battling to the End.30 This kenotic structure of Christ’s incarnation opens for Girard an alternative to those modern accounts that remain trapped in an ontology of violence. Palaver summarizes: “Insofar as people open themselves to grace, they are not dependent on the violence of the worldly state anymore, but can participate in the divine state, which is bound to an ontology of peace.”31 Being realistic about the fallen state of humanity, Girard is well aware that as long as we are still sinners we cannot altogether forego the protection that the Grand Inquisitor represents, that is, the logic of a sacrificial order and its modern echoes. However, the Christian tradition allows him to see these guardians of order in all their ambivalence, acknowledging at least partial guilt while hoping eschatologically for the coming reign of God.32 To summarize, the universal human propensity to violence is not religious or secular per se, but first and foremost human. However, for Girard this does

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not imply an ontology of violence, referring instead to humanity after the fall. Mimetic desire is not violent per se, but knows two types of actualization: an acquisitive and conflict-prone way, but also a receptive, kenotic, or nonviolent way.33 But why then do scholars of mimetic theory gather in COVR? Have they fallen victim to the myth of religious violence? My second hypothesis addresses this question.

There is a special relationship between violence and religion,34 though not exactly in the sense expressed by the “myth of religious violence” In Girard’s understanding, there is a close relationship between violence and archaic or sacrificial religion. In this sense, from a Girardian point of view, religious violence is no myth at all: sacrificial religion, which is “indistinguishable from culture in archaic societies,”35 is a violent means for containing spreading and contaminating human violence. It contains violence in the double sense of the word “contain,” as Jean-Pierre Dupuy has pointed out repeatedly: it uses violence, but it does not do so for the sake of fomenting more violence, but quite the opposite, to keep violence in check. It works according to the homeopathic principle of “like cures like,” whereby a very small dose of a venom or pathogen cures the disease. Girard even mentions the homeopathic analogy when he speaks about the Greek pharmakos.36 Having said this, we might diverge from Cavanaugh, at the end of the second part of his chapter in this volume, when he writes, “The point is that there simply is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion with a peculiar propensity for violence.”37 From a Girardian point of view, one would have to respond with both yes and no. Yes, there is a peculiar transhistorical and transcultural relationship between violence and religion (with one exception, or rather modification, which I will address shortly). And no, this relationship is not to be interpreted in the way Cavanaugh describes it as the “myth of religious violence” (i.e., in the sense that religion is especially inclined to foster violence, or that there is bad, irrational, violent religion compared with good, rational, nonviolent secular culture/politics/economics, etc.). According to Girard, and to Cavanaugh, this is because all culture (i.e., all political, judicial, and economic systems) issues from the scapegoat mechanism. Hence no clear dividing line



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can be drawn between religion and nonreligion when it comes to violence. As Girard puts it in Battling to the End: “Humanity results from sacrifice; we are thus children of religion. What I call … the founding murder … is constantly re-enacted in the rituals at the origin of our institutions.”38 This leads to my third thesis.

That there is a special relationship between violence and religion is true for both archaic/sacrificial religions and the Judeo-Christian revelation, though this takes different forms This third thesis might come as a surprise, since for some time Girard seemed to argue that there is a radical rift between what he calls archaic or sacrificial religions and the Judeo-Christian tradition. While the former clearly include violence, promote sacrifice to solve crises, and spawn myths that take the side of the mob, the latter—and for the first time—sides with the victims.39 While in his early works Girard emphasizes the discontinuity between sacrificial religion and the Judeo-Christian tradition, his later works assume more continuity. He does this in two ways. This newer emphasis on continuity emerges, first, by conceding that even sacrificial religion makes use of violence not to foment but to prevent more violence;40 and second, by addressing the rise of collateral violence accompanying Judeo-Christian unveiling of the scapegoat mechanism. On this second point, Girard explains that “Christianity demystifies religion. Demystification, which is good in the absolute, has proven bad in the relative, for we were not prepared to shoulder the consequences. We are not Christian enough.”41 Especially in Battling to the End, Girard shows how the Judeo-Christian revelation, while bringing a new and genuine impulse to a world shaped by sacrificial religion, entails risks of its own. By compromising the scapegoating mechanism, it unleashes violence again—unless, of course, we are willing to counter violence at its very roots, by following the kenotic path of Jesus. Such following of Christ, for Girard, means “abstaining completely from retaliation and renouncing the escalation to extremes”42—or, and even more profoundly challenging, effacing oneself before the other.43 This kenotic path, which runs like a golden thread through Girard’s work from Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (“creative renunciation”44) to Battling to the End, provides the only alternative to a violent “escalation to extremes.” However, many who call

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themselves Christians have not chosen this narrow path. Instead of following the new way opened by Christ, hybrid forms have developed, such as “sacrificial Christianity” (i.e., the interpretation of the passion of Christ in terms of archaic religions and the assimilation of biblical teachings into the very structures that had been uncovered by them45). In Battling to the End, Girard seems to interpret Islam as another hybrid offspring of the Judeo-Christian tradition—as a religion that retains archaic aspects along with some “intelligence of the victim.”46 Cavanaugh rightly calls on scholars of mimetic theory to refine and further develop their understanding of Islam (and other religions) in the wake of Girard’s approach.47 However, in this context a fourth thesis may be offered, this time formulated as a question.

Might secularism be understood as a mutilated offspring of Judeo-Christian revelation? The hypothesis here is that the secular, understood in this framework, reflects one side of the Judeo-Christian revelation though not the other. It grasps and embraces the truth of God’s nonviolence: that there is no violent God asking for bloody sacrifices or calling humans to kill each other. Therefore, the secular is scandalized by acts of violence done in God’s name while it is normally far less scandalized by other types of violence.48 That is, the secular is less alert to “secular violence,” when it is the work of a secular power, for instance, or of a modern nation-state. In this sense, the secular doesn’t embrace the other side of the JudeoChristian revelation—the kenotic and self-critical path of renouncing violence altogether—as emphatically as it embraces the first. And thus the blame again falls on someone or something else, with the return of scapegoating—more precisely, with what Girard calls scapegoating to the second degree (i.e., scapegoating the scapegoaters). So, the secular myth of religious violence is in fact a myth in the Girardian sense. The secular could indeed be understood as a “hybrid religion,” and thus as one of the many phenomena following in the wake of Judeo-Christian revelation that no longer function like archaic religions, nor yet fully reflect what James Alison calls the “intelligence of the victim.” Understood that way, even Juergensmeyer’s statement (following Talal Asad, and mentioned by Cavanaugh in his chapter), that “secularism is a sort of advanced form of religion,”49 is more readily explicable—that “secularism



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has become a natural successor to religion in the evolution from premodern to modern societies.”50 What follows from that for our understanding of religion? Obviously, in spite of Cavanaugh’s warnings, I have continued writing about religion in an equivocal way. But should we not rather avoid talking about religion at all, given the problems of essentialist and functionalist definitions of religion and the concomitant religious/secular dichotomy? In one of his recent articles Cavanaugh describes how, in discussion with students after calling on them to avoid the term “religion” altogether, he realized that “we do need to talk about religion … but as a lens, not [as] an object.”51 From a Girardian perspective I would say: not as a cause of, but as a means of, dealing with (an already present) violence. And I conclude with my fifth and last thesis.

We must not stop talking about religion and the connection between violence and religion At the end of my response to Cavanaugh’s chapter I turn to use of the term “sacrifice” in Christian tradition. There, contrary to Girard’s original intention to deny any proper Christian sacrifice because of its equivocality, Raymund Schwager encouraged its retention—moreover, to let this equivocality be the key to elucidating the similarities and differences between archaic religions and the Judeo-Christian revelation. Girard eventually agreed, pointing to the paradoxical unity of all that is religious in human history as the reason for this equivocality.52 In an analogous way, when it comes to Cavanaugh’s reservation about using the term “religion,” I recommend its retention. It is helpful to bear in mind the distinctions between substantivist and functionalist approaches to religion, in order to distinguish these categories without separating them. We can talk about the major world religions (substantivist) and also the religious traits of whichever worldviews, systems, and ideologies (functionalist). We should be aware that the religious as something completely distinct from and opposed to the secular is a construction that is often used in the sense of Cavanaugh’s “myth of religious violence”: to justify religion’s marginalization from the public square. We can then use this equivocality of “religion” to explore the complex relationship between violence and religion beyond what is not remotely graspable by the dualistic myth of religious violence.

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Notes William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 2 Myth thereby is understood as a narration, which is as untrue as it is tenaciously held. Ibid., 3–5; Michael Kirwan, “William T. Cavanaugh and René Girard,” Political Theology 15, no. 6 (2014): 512. 3 In his assessment of Cavanaugh’s argument, theologian Michael Kirwan has pointed out that Cavanaugh’s “plea for a radical reassessment of assumptions about secular and religious power during early modernity, require that theology, as in Walter Benjamin’s parable of the puppet and the dwarf, ‘remain hidden.’ Cavanaugh’s thesis needs to be assessed soberly by historians, philosophers, and political scientists, free of suspicion that they are being press-ganged into a religious crusade.” Kirwan, “William T. Cavanaugh and René Girard,” 509. 4 Notwithstanding their diverse approaches—mostly historical in Cavanaugh’s case, mostly anthropological in Girard’s—Kirwan speaks about “a broad convergence between Cavanaugh’s argument in MRV and the insights of Girard’s ‘mimetic theory.’” Ibid., 510. 5 However, in explaining the essence of this méconnaissance a Girardian approach differs slightly from Cavanaugh’s, as will be shown below. 6 William T. Cavanaugh, “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence,” Ch. 1 in this volume, 16. 7 Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, 4. 8 Cavanaugh, “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence,” 21. 9 Ibid. 10 Cf. Cavanaugh’s own responses to critiques in William T. Cavanaugh, “Religious Violence as Modern Myth,” Political Theology 15, no. 6 (2014): 491–501. 11 Cf. René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001), 15; Raymund Schwager, Banished from Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation, trans. James Williams, Inigo Text Series 9 (Leominster: Gracewing, 2006), 11–48. 12 Cf. Rudolf Otto, Das Heilige: Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen, 15th ed. (Gotha: Klotz, 1926), 43. 13 Cf. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 89–118. 14 In his article, “Girards versteckte Distanz zur neuzeitlichen Ontologisierung der Gewalt,” Wolfgang Palaver mentions a number of critics who, especially in the German-speaking academy, have uttered this allegation: Edmund Arens, John Milbank, Georg Baudler, Eugen Biser, Christoph Lienkamp, and others. For 1



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detailed references, see Palaver’s article in Dramatische Theologie im Gespräch: Symposion / Gastmahl zum 65. Geburtstag von Raymund Schwager, ed. Józef Niewiadomski and Nikolaus Wandinger, Beiträge zur Mimetischen Theorie 14 (Münster: LIT, 2003), 113–26. 15 Palaver talks about a certain “hiddenness,” of this distance to Hobbes. Ibid., 114. 16 Fukuyama represents an approach that seeks to overcome traditional forms of violence or power politics by means of a globalized economy. Economy and management are supposed to bring about a peaceful end of history. But the costs for this pacified end of history are huge, and Fukuyama doesn’t try to conceal them. They consist in the abolition of humans as we know them. Huntington, on the other hand, represents a kind of world order, where mutually hostile cultural areas secure relative peace and social identity for their respective members. Ibid., 114–15. 17 “Only on the level of animals can humans persist without violence.” Ibid., 115 (my translation). 18 Schmitt theorized the pacification of essentially violent human beings by means of “official” political enmities against designated states, and out-groups in general, in order to sustain relative peace within. Cf. Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen: Text von 1932 mit einem Vorwort und drei Corollarien, 3rd ed. of the 1963 version (Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1991), 26–7. 19 Palaver, “Girards versteckte Distanz,” 114–17. This, of course, supports Cavanaugh’s thesis about the myth of religious violence as a way of marginalizing religion in order to protect the modern state’s use of violence. 20 Ibid., 119. 21 Ibid., 117–20. 22 Girard, I See Satan Fall, 7, 15–16; 150–1; 189–90; René Girard and Michel Treguer, Wenn all das beginnt: Dialog mit Michel Treguer, Beiträge zur Mimetischen Theorie 5 (Wien: LIT, 1997), 53, 67, 82, 161. 23 “Eine wissenschaftliche Fassung der Erbsündenlehre”: Peter Sloterdijk, “Erwachen im Reich der Eifersucht: Notiz zu René Girards anthropologischer Sendung,” in Ich sah den Satan vom Himmel fallen wie einen Blitz: Eine kritische Apologie des Christentums (Munich: Hanser, 2002), 241–54, at 250. 24 For a theological elaboration in the wake of Girard, cf. Schwager, Banished from Eden, 49–79; James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes (New York: Crossroad, 1998). 25 Palaver, “Girards versteckte Distanz,” 120–1. 26 Ibid., 121–4; cf. Girard, I See Satan Fall, 28–34. 27 Cf. Girard, I See Satan Fall, 7–18; 182–93; René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), xiv, 82.

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28 René Girard, Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky, ed. James G. Williams (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 139–40. 29 Girard, Battling to the End, 133. 30 This insight stands at the beginning and the end of Girard’s work. In Deceit, Desire, and the Novel Girard shows how it was only after their own fundamental conversion that great European novelists like Dostoyevsky were able to write novels that revealed the dynamics of mimetic desire. And in his last work, Battling to the End, Girard not only recommends the humble imitation of Christ’s nonviolence but also the kenotic withdrawal represented by the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, retreating to the literary solitude of his tower. Cf. René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, 2nd ed. trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 290–314; Battling to the End, 109–35. See also Wolfgang Palaver, “Girard und Hölderlin: Die Bedeutung der Kenosis für Girards apokalyptisches Denken,” in Eskalation zum Äußersten? Girards Clausewitz interdisziplinär kommentiert, ed. Wilhelm Guggenberger and Wolfgang Palaver (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2015), 135–55. 31 Palaver, “Girards versteckte Distanz,” 125. 32 Ibid., 124–6. 33 Cf. Girard, I See Satan Fall, 15. 34 In that order! It is important to keep in mind that violence is the basic phenomenon/problem that calls for a solution. 35 René Girard, The Girard Reader, ed. James G. Williams (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 292. 36 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 95–6. 37 Cavanaugh, “Girard and the Myth of Religious Violence,” 13. 38 Girard, Battling to the End, ix. 39 Girard, I See Satan Fall, 3: “The opposition between the scapegoat concealed in mythology and unconcealed in Judaism and Christianity illuminates not only archaic religions, not only many neglected features in the Gospels, but above all the relationship between the two, the unique truth of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Since all this knowledge comes from the Gospels, the present book can define itself as a defense of our Judaic and Christian tradition, as an apology of Christianity rooted in what amounts to a Gospel-inspired breakthrough in the field of social science, not of theology.” 40 René Girard, with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, trans. Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 401–2. 41 Girard, Battling to the End, x.



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42 Ibid., xiv. 43 Ibid., 133. 44 Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 307; cf. Wolfgang Palaver, “‘Creative Renunciation’: The Spiritual Heart of René Girard’s Deceit, Desire, and the Novel,” Religion and Literature 43, no. 3 (2012): 143–50; Wolfgang Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013), 220–1. 45 Cf. Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory, 246–55; Chris Fleming, René Girard: Violence and Mimesis, Key Contemporary Thinkers (Cambridge: Polity, 2004), 143–9. Witch hunts and the persecution of Jews are only two of the most obvious examples of “sacrificial Christianity.” 46 Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong, 87. 47 Quite some work in this field has been done by Wolfgang Palaver and Wilhelm Guggenberger: Wilhelm Guggenberger and Wolfgang Palaver, eds., Im Wettstreit um das Gute: Annäherung an den Islam aus der Sicht der mimetischen Theorie, Beiträge zur Mimetischen Theorie 25 (Wien: LIT, 2009). 48 Cavanaugh, e.g., mentions today’s widespread secular conviction that “killing and dying in the name of the nation state is laudable and proper.” Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, 4–5. 49 Mark Juergensmeyer, Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State from Christian Militias to al Qaeda, Comparative Studies in Religion and Society 16 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 23. 50 Ibid. 51 Cavanaugh, “Religious Violence as Modern Myth,” 493. 52 René Girard, “Mimetische Theorie und Theologie,” in Vom Fluch und Segen der Sündenböcke: Raymund Schwager zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. Józef Niewiadomski, Beiträge zur Mimetischen Theorie 1 (Thaur; Wien: Kulturverlag, 1995), 15–29, at 27.

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3

Why is God Part of Human Violence? The Idolatrous Nature of Modern Religious Extremism Joel Hodge

A central claim of modern Islamic extremists such as ISIS is that they are the only legitimate actors on behalf of God, which justifies their violence (however extreme). In this claim, a question arises: Why does violence need to be justified with reference to God/the divinity/the sacred (or, for others, with reference to the state or some form of ideology)? René Girard argues that human violence is invariably connected to some point of transcendent reference—what he calls “the sacred”—which is a projection and justification for scapegoating violence. This anthropological account helps to make sense of the false projections of modern religious extremists that concern a violent deity who commissions their actions.1 I review Girard’s anthropological account in this chapter to help understand modern religious violence, and aim to draw out some of its key points with reference to the question above. I argue that there is a neglected metaphysical dimension to Girard’s work that sheds further light on the problem of religious violence and its justifications with reference to the divinity: that violence is connected to the sacred/divine because of an underlying sense of the divine Other inherent in human consciousness. This sense of the divine can be demonstrated in the nature of mimetic relations and in the divinization of the victim. On this basis, I show that modern Islamic extremism uses a violent sense of the divine to resacralize culture (consistent with, though not as effective as, archaic scapegoating practices). Moreover, this violent sense of the divine is identifiable with what Girard calls “the sacred” and is being resuscitated in an extreme way by violent Islamist jihadists. However, because the violent sacred has already been undermined in modern cultures, the extreme manifestation of the sacred in jihadism (and similar forms of

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extremism) is more consciously totalitarian. I further argue that this effort of violent resacralization is inconsistent with the Abrahamic traditions, which seek to reveal the innocence of the victim and promote a nonviolent, merciful God. In this way, extremist groups such as ISIS can be shown to be idolatrous in both an anthropological and a theological sense, which is significant in that it undermines their own claims to speak and act for God.

Summary of Girard’s account of violence and religion Girard’s theory of violence is based on what he calls “mimetic desire” (or “triangular desire”), that is, that humans desire according to the desire of another. According to Girard, the origins of human relationality and self-identity, as well as culture, violence, and religion, are to be found in the dynamics of human desire. While mimetic desire enables social bonding and learning, Girard observed that it also becomes pathogenic and distorted when the subject of desire seeks to acquire what the model desires by grasping at the object of desire. In this circumstance, the subject asserts the ownership and priority of his/her desire over the other’s desire. Once the conflict and rivalry are established, it tends to escalate to the point where the object is forgotten and the rival becomes the focus of scandal for the subject (in a competition over the enhanced “being” that one perceives in one’s rival).2 Girard’s claim that humans are hypermimetic provides a basis for understanding how humans are formed relationally, but also come to engage in dangerous levels of violence. Girard’s understanding of violence contrasts with conventional views about it. He argues violence is customarily regarded as either a result of social, economic or political factors (e.g., oppression) or of biology as a spontaneous act of aggression from a subject to an object.3 Girard particularly rejects those views as superficial that portray “violent persons” as somehow different and deviant from an otherwise peaceful human norm. Girard claims that, in fact, violence comes from competition and rivalry over common desires, which implicates all humans in violence, not just “deviants.”4 Girard argues that violence and rivalry are not caused by differences between human beings, such as differences over culture or religion or between “good” and “bad” people.5 On the contrary, the fear of having nothing in oneself compared to the other—that one has no ontological or existential density, such that one’s appearance of substantiality is only a disguise—leads one to



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grasp for being through that which animates being: desire. This uncomfortable reality leads one to seek greater differentiation from the other, to whom one is integrally bound in “borrowed desire,” in rivalry. The accumulation of these rivalries leads to cultural breakdown. Through anthropological and literary analysis, Girard discovered that violence is culturally resolved by the accumulation of rivalries (“all against all”) being cast onto a victim (“all against one”). The unification of desire by such scapegoating produces a newfound cultural order, as a social group is unanimously united against one other in righteous violence (in what Girard called the “scapegoat mechanism”). The differentiation that collapsed into the free-for-all hostility of indistinguishable doubles then suddenly gives way to a definitive difference between the mob and the victim, generating cultural and existential order in a manner that is seemingly miraculous and certainly awe-inducing. This cultural order is justified through myth and perpetuated by ritual, especially in ritual sacrifices that safely imitate and hence reclaim the original scapegoating resolution. Because the victim or scapegoat is at the center of a process that dramatically transforms chaotic violence into order, the power of unanimous violence is transferred or projected onto the victim by the mob, which thus experiences the victim as godlike. The social group has suddenly gone from the prospect of destroying itself to having a miraculous order “bestowed” on it. This experience leads the group to believe that the victim was really responsible for the whole violent scenario in order to bring about peace and order. Thus, Girard claims that the twin power of the group’s violence—to cause and to resolve chaotic violence—results in a “double transference,” where both order and disorder, good and evil, are ascribed to the victim through supernatural agency.6 This transference onto the victim is the basis for the construction of what for Girard is “the sacred,” a variation of which is found across archaic cultures.7 Over the long expanse of human evolution, this double transference has acted as the means to stabilize human groups through an indivisible nexus of religion, language, and culture. In Girard’s view, “religion” and “culture” are fundamentally inseparable as “religious” rituals, myths, and laws develop from the “violent sacred” to become the foundation for all cultural order. By contrast, modernity is characterized by a breakdown in these religious and cultural structures that have traditionally restrained violence. Girard argues these structures have been undermined by the eventual exposure of the innocence of the scapegoat, most particularly thanks to the biblical tradition.

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However, the breakdown of sacrificially grounded religious forms yields negative as well as positive consequences. While the injustice of scapegoating the innocent has certainly become evident to modernity, this moral advance comes at the expense of weakened cultural protections. It leads to the possibility of unrestrained, “apocalyptic” violence, according to Girard. One notable example of this is the growth of “extremist violence” and terrorism in modernity, with violence escalating to unforeseen extremes. This breakdown gives rise to three possibilities for the modern world: (1) the unrestrained “escalation to extremes” of violence as humanity creates its own “biblical apocalypse”;8 (2) the recovery of sacrificial violence in an attempt to resuscitate the archaic sacred and its protections (Girard sees the Holocaust as an example of this9); or (3) the cultivation of pacific forms of relationality, which are exemplified in the imitation of Jesus Christ, that lead to peace without violence and without the age-old expedient of sacrificing the innocent.10 This third option represents a profoundly new and radical possibility in human cultural terms for what religion can mean, which is particularly embodied in the Abrahamic traditions. All the Abrahamic traditions can cultivate a pacific awareness of the victim (as Wolfgang Palaver importantly shows in Chapter 14 of this volume). According to Girard, the death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrate the essence and full potential of the Abrahamic tradition to transform sacred violence. Jesus’ life represents the definitive vindication of the victim, in which the mob’s action and story are completely undermined by an Other not involved in human violence.11 This occurs not just because the innocence of the victim is revealed, but because God’s gratuitous and self-giving love in Jesus overcomes mob violence and death, providing an alternative foundation for human relationality and identity and answering the deepest longings for being and unity.12 God does not just take the “side” of the victim in Jesus’ death and resurrection in opposition to the persecutors, but inhabits sacred violence with gratuitous love. This action turns “violence into suffering” of behalf of others in order to provide a way out of mimetic violence (cf. Mt. 12:6-7). As part of this way out, Girard highlights the anthropological and interpretative power of Jesus’ death and resurrection for revealing sacred violence. In particular, Girard claims the gospels reveal the roots of violence in distorted desire.13 For example, in St. Matthew’s passion account, Pilate knew why the Jewish crowd had handed Jesus to him: “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over” (Mt. 27:18). Furthermore, Girard identifies how the gospels identify the mimetic conflict and its consequences in “scandal.”14 The



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state of mimetic rivalry and scandal is what Girard identifies with the power of Satan, the “Accuser,” who corrupts mimesis with envy and fear and then rules it by ordering distorted desire through violent reconciliation against a victim.15 However, the scandal and distorted desire of the mob is not reciprocated by the victim. Jesus is not drawn into rivalry but instead provides a different way of being and desiring—of complete love for the other’s good. Showing his receptive mimetic nature, the gospels describe Jesus’ intimate relationship with his “Father,” out of which he receives his loving desire. In receiving from God the Father, Jesus was able to give of himself on the cross in order to offer the Father’s love to humanity, so that humans, too, could truly have God as “Father,” rather than be enslaved to their distorted mimetic condition that regards the Other as an enemy. The Christian tradition’s insistence on the importance and divinity of the human victim, Jesus, is not the result of the mob violence that killed him. Rather, it is his loving self-giving that expresses the true nature of humanity and divinity.16 Jesus provides a point of true transcendence to resist, overcome, and transform sacred violence: “To recognize Christ as God is to recognize him as the only being capable of rising above the violence that had, up to that point, absolutely transcended mankind.”17 Thus, in contrast to the mythic gods, the recognition of Jesus’ divinity is because of his nonviolence, that is, his ability to live outside the cycles of mimetic violence even in his death as crucified and risen victim.18 The gospels’ recognition of the injustice and self-sacrifice of Jesus’ death saw them relocate the experience of transcendence in the nonviolent love of Jesus, rather than in the violence of the mob.19 As Girard insists, “Love is the only true revelatory power because it escapes from, and strictly limits, the spirit of revenge and recrimination that still characterizes the revelation in our world, a world in which we can turn that spirit into a weapon against our own doubles, as Nietzsche also showed.”20 In this way, Christianity (supported by Judaism and Islam) becomes the mass disrupter of the social order by definitively undermining sacred violence and presenting God as the forgiving victim. Girard argues that those who have been most directly influenced by the biblical traditions, especially through the risen victim, Jesus, are able to be awakened from their persecutory unconscious by the gratuitously forgiving victim:21 The supreme paradox of the Gospels is that the Resurrection, far from being the supreme mystification, as it is now almost universally interpreted, is the source of all demystification. It is the Resurrection that enables the disciples to say no

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Does Religion Cause Violence? to unanimity. It demystifies the violent unanimity that is always visited upon the victim. To fully acknowledge one’s own role as a persecutor, one must realize that only the death of Christ, and with it the escape from satanic influence, made it possible.22

Girard’s understanding of religion Recent engagements with Girard’s mimetic theory (including those in this volume) have advanced the discussion of Girard’s work in the context of political theory, political theology, and violence/terrorism studies.23 In particular, William Cavanaugh’s chapter in this volume deftly identifies how Girard uses the term “religion” in two key ways: (1) for the sacred structures that develop based on the scapegoat mechanism, which are not separate from culture but in fact form the basis for culture (as discussed above); and (2) for “genuine” religion that moves away from forms of scapegoating violence by revealing the innocent victim. Cavanaugh notes that Girard’s second way of talking about religion needs to be specifically situated in the context of Girard’s understanding of biblical revelation, which subverts the first type of religion (the sacred) by identifying God with the victim (rather than against the victim). Cavanaugh has previously shown how Girard’s work is misused by those wanting to give substance to the category of “religion,” particularly to posit a distinctive category of religious violence.24 Girard’s position is not that religion motivates violence, however, but that violence gives rise to and is remedied by the cultural functioning of religion. The original function of religion according to Girard was to mitigate and minimize violence in order to prevent social collapse and to stabilize human societies. Such religious violence acts as a pharmakos or vaccination—a homeopathic dose of orderly or targeted violence to prevent larger amounts of chaotic violence—so that religious rituals, laws, and myths emerged for the repression of violence, and not for its manifestation. Thus, according to Girard, sacred violence (institutionalized in religio­ cultural rituals) is the means by which humans transcend the problems faced by their developing mimetic capacity, particularly the threat of their own violence. Religion (broadly understood), then, addresses the “excess of desire” that humans experience in their mimetic relations. It is this insight that can help explain the unusual recurrence and preponderance of religious forms across human societies over time.25 It can also help understand a surprising and widely



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unanticipated resurgence of religion in modernity, particularly in a violent form (which I examine below). Moreover, Cavanaugh argues that Girard’s work helps to augment his own by identifying that religion has been scapegoated in the modern period in order to exalt a problematic notion of secularity. According to Cavanaugh, religion has been incorrectly essentialized as a category to make it different from culture and politics, and as such, to accord it primary responsibility for causing violence. Cavanaugh calls this a modern “myth,” recognising how it functions according to Girardian criteria, in which “religion” is scapegoated in order to implicitly support the construction of a “secular state.”26

Why is God involved? Girard provides a convincing account for why humans draw on religion in their acts of violence. Yet, a question remains: Why do humans specifically resort to the category of the sacred or divinity to justify and even motivate their own violence?27 The category of divinity provides a repository for the violent transcendence against a victim, according to Girard, yet, as Gil Bailie asks, why does “a suddenly hushed mob” mistake “its hapless victim for a god” and not some other type of being?28 Why do humans not postulate an impersonal force or a really powerful human or spirit as the cause of their violence? Why is the category of divinity even part of the human worldview? For Girard, this also seems to be a question, for in one of his later works, he seems less definitive about the sacred as only being a projection. Girard says the sacred is “possibly tied” to the “emotional and cognitive event” of scapegoating.29 An answer to this dilemma is suggested in Girard’s own account of violence and religion. His mimetic understanding of religion and violence suggests a deeper level underlying both, which is important for understanding why the divinity is referred to in religiocultural rationales for violence. As discussed, the sacred provides order to human relations as a projection of scapegoating violence. It does so by (temporarily) answering the existential dilemma and yearning of humans for definitive mimetic transcendence and fulfillment in relationship with the other. Thus, the sacred is not merely a sociological device, but at the same time it concerns our very being in mimesis. The ontological drive or need that underlies mimetic violence manifests itself in the subject’s attempt to grasp at the other’s object of desire as an effort to gain the metaphysical or existential depth that the model seems to have in possessing

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a certain object.30 This ontological or metaphysical dimension of the subject– model relationship, which can manifest in positive (admiring) or negative (envious) forms, gives humans their distinctive capacity for self-determination and relationship with the other. This ontological dimension, which Girard calls “metaphysical desire,”31 orients the subject to yearn for and seek perfected or self-sufficient being. Because the human subject does not possess this selfsufficiency, he/she seeks it in others—a process that is always unsuccessful because of the imperfection of all other models. The subject, then, is in search of a perfect, self-sufficient model: “Mimetic desire is also the desire for God.”32 Thus, the search for the perfect Other is historically unfulfilled, and becomes part of the projection of the sacred onto the victim. In the victim, the human group believes they have found the perfectly self-sufficient Other responsible for life, the universe, and mimesis (in a way they are not), because the victim has “miraculously” resolved mimetic conflict and halted violence. This search for the perfect Other can be argued to be the fundamental anthropological basis for religion and the reference to divinity in human culture. However, the reference to the sacred or the divinity in human violence is a distortion or displacement of the sense of the perfect Other, the distorted conception of which arises as a result of violent mimetic relations and consciousness. In other words, the search for the self-sufficient Other/sacred/divinity is first actualized in unanimous mimetic violence in the focus on the divinized victim. Humans believe they have found the divinity in the powerful, though morally disconcerting, effects of scapegoating a victim. The victim is regarded as the ultimate self-sufficient being: the one who sits outside human insecurity and disorder to manipulate and resolve it. Thus, the victim is regarded as a god—as the one who has the ultimate power and divinity we all seek.33 The confusion of divine self-sufficiency with human violence, then, leads to violence being ascribed to the divinity (an “idolatry”). In this way, the yearning for being, which manifests as a search for the perfect Other, is projected onto a human or animal subject, becoming what the Bible calls “idolatry”: the replacing of the truly transcendent Other—the one with authentically self-sufficient being, for which humans long—with false and lesser beings.34 Yet, in some sense, the search for the Other (and being) is prior to the violence (ontologically, though not necessarily historically35), because the perfect Other is what humans are really searching for as a result of their unresolved and “ontologically needy” mimetic nature. The divinized victim is a historical instantiation of this perfect Other and catalyst for this search, but it is only a



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temporary and imperfect representation whose believability is effective only as long the scapegoating works to unite the members of the group. Once the effect of the scapegoating wears off, new scapegoats must be found to be made gods or new rituals of offering must be enacted to the gods. The search for God (and being) continues, but the particular instantiation changes. Thus, in this sense, the search for God is prior to the particular instances of scapegoating violence that result in divinized victims. Thus, divinity need not just be a functional projection or creation of the human mind. The scapegoating mechanism indicates that there is some deeper natural dependency in humans for divinity to provide the group with meaningful and ultimate transcendence, which overcomes all mimetic problems and existential angst. In ascribing divinity to their victims, human groups inherently search for a Being that is greater than themselves, who knows and controls life in some fundamental way and who possesses perfect mimetic life. This search may be illusory, but I argue it is part of being human and mimetic—of seeking answers to the chaotic dilemma of what it means to be human in mimetic relationship with others. This search seeks fulfillment and perfect being (“metaphysical desire”), which (as human groups realize through chaotic social life and their unanimous violence) can come only by way of communion with a Being who can provide definitive mimetic direction (telos).36 In this way, a metaphysical or theological account of the natural desire for God can begin to be seen to be implicit within the sociological account that Girard provides. Thus, instead of the real “God,” or religion per se, justifying violence, it is distorted desire, driven by the yearning for being, that justifies violence through the construction of a certain understanding of the divinity (“the sacred”). Violence fuels belief in this divinity through a deviated transcendence fundamentally motivated by a search for greater being. This deviated transcendence is, moreover, attracted to a discourse that identifies and scapegoats enemies and that is actualized in scapegoating violence. The same phenomenon is present amongst actors in state-sponsored violence, in which violence becomes the transcendent fuel for loyalty to the regime. Once the regime (like the cult or fundamentalist group) can entice someone to commit violence (through resentment, ambition, reward, or chemical inducement), it becomes addictive: it enforces and reinforces belief in the power of the Absolute regime (or divinity) through violent transcendence.37 This is what Cavanaugh describes as modernity’s transference of the sacred or religious function of culture to the nation-state.

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God and jihadist violence Reference to the divinity is obviously central to modern religious violence, especially Islamic terrorism. Jihadi terrorists make unabashed justifications for their violence based on the belief that they are doing the work of God to bring about a new order around a caliphate. This divine commissioning for jihadists is seen as justifying their sacred violence against apostates and enemies. While there are explicit scapegoating tactics used by Islamic extremists, there is an important difference between their violent justifications and those of archaic cultures: the victims of the extremists are not fully divinized. They are condemned as “dogs” and monsters, but they are not revered as supernatural gods, manifesting only one aspect of archaic religion’s aforementioned double transference. The cause for this lack of divinization, as discussed, is the growing awareness of the innocence of the victim in modernity and the desacralization of violence that results.38 This lack of divinization presents the underlying cultural and metaphysical crisis with which the jihadist is grappling: that traditional social rituals and structures are not functioning to produce order, and so the jihadist seeks to recover sacralized violence, though in an extreme form.39 More and more “infidels” are sought out for sacrifice to an arbitrarily constructed system of sacralized violence. The attempts to resacralize human violence and culture by jihadists are directly aimed at countering the effects of desacralization. The transcendent effects of violence are ascribed to the monotheistic God (rather than to the victim), and by way of God, to the jihadist group and its brand of religion.40 This is an important move as it seeks to resacralize the nonviolent God of the Abrahamic traditions—who, according to Girard, reveals the nature of human violence and fundamentally stands against it—with violence. In this way, the jihadist seeks to counter the effects of desacralization caused by the Abrahamic traditions. The jihadist views his/her construction of God as possessing absolute power to restore proper order through violence—an order structured by insiders (true Muslims) and outsiders (apostates). Yet, this God does not undertake direct violence himself, but rather divinely commissions the jihadists to have power over and legitimately execute violence. In this way, the jihadist is the agent of God, because God (ironically) does not act on his own behalf; rather the jihadist acts on God’s behalf, supposedly with God’s blessing and help. The jihadist becomes the true image of the transcendent God, who now demands violence rather than stands against it. In this way, the sacred power of violence is transferred away from the victim (as in the archaic context) onto the “true



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God” of the jihadists, who explicitly delegates the power over violence to his agents (the mob). Thus, the jihadist seeks to resuscitate the power of the mob, which possesses divine-like powers, over against the “victim mentality,” which has undermined cultural order, religion, and the sacred power of violence. The assertion of God as commissioning violence is similar to the archaic mythology born of unanimous violence, but with the jihadist there is an embrace of violence as somehow necessary for divine justice. Thus, this resacralized violence involves the novel phenomenon of the extremist mob wishing to be seen to be in direct relationship with violence, rather than as distancing itself from it (as archaic/traditional cultures sought to do). The jihadist is not afraid to wield or use violence (or come into proximity to it), but rather celebrates and glories in it as the means by which to achieve a totalitarian vision. In contrast to archaic cultures, violence is not unconsciously pharmaceutical but, for the jihadist, it is (semi)consciously seen as necessary and righteous surgery. In this way, the jihadist uses the violently resacralized category of divinity to fill a deep existential and social gap. Such resort by jihadists to fill this gap is consistent with Girard’s identification of metaphysical desire experienced by all humans in mimesis. It is consistent with the archaic use of the divinity to the degree that it uses the divine to justify violence, which idolatrously mistakes (and co-opts) the divine in search of unity and peace. Jihadists demonstrate a violent and frenetic grasping for being and identity amid a lack of social unity and peace. This same movement, according to Girard, is at the heart of all human violence and has been exposed and accelerated by the desacralization caused by the revelation of the innocent victim. However, because jihadists cannot divinize their victims, they attempt to resacralize the divinity through their own violence, and so are much more explicit about their violence than those in traditional cultures.41 Yet, their mistake is to believe that the divinity requires violent sacra­ lization and worship in order to bring about order, whereas the problem lies with their inability to effectively use violence unanimously and sacralize their victims, which is the crucial component of the traditional social order.

Divine pacific transcendence Thus, by trying to transcend the supposed “corruption” and disorder of modernity, religious extremists seek to resuscitate the violent sacred in an intentionally totalitarian form. Yet, they do so in a thoroughly mimetic

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way—through the mechanism of rivalry and scapegoating that is no longer effective and can only exacerbate the violent sacred’s decline. The idolatry of modern religious violence is revealed in this way: it replaces true transcendence (which comes with the Abrahamic God, who reveals himself as being opposed to the violent repetition of scapegoating) with a false transcendence that replicates and distorts the false sacred of archaic cultures. Tragically, its adherents believe they avoid idolatry and do the work of God by doing away with corrupt apostates, yet they cause suffering, injustice, and evil. Because they misunder­ stand the nature of the Abrahamic God (who suffers violence, rather than commits it), they construct a false and violent notion of God that they think will restore social order, justice, and peace through violence: ‘The false god, writes Simone Weil, turns suffering into violence, the true God turns violence into suffering.’42 Hence the adherents of Islamic terrorism and other religious extremists have not learned the message of the Abrahamic faiths—that only God can bring about the kingdom of peace and justice, and does so mercifully and with or as victim. Human cooperation is necessary for this kingdom to come, but this cooperation involves transcending the violent dynamics of conventional human culture and religion. This kind of transcendence is to be found in solidarity with our victims. Humans don’t easily discover their victims, but rather require help to confront their victim-making violence, and the availability of this help is the distinctive trait of the Abrahamic traditions. The insistence of these traditions on resisting idolatry is located in rejecting false notions of God bound up with violence, and the discovery of the true God (in, e.g., “the lamb slain since the foundation of the world” [Rev. 13:8; cf. 1 Pet. 1:19-20]), who creates an alternative transcendence not dependent on violence. Thus, to resist the different forms of violent sacralization that underlie all forms of idolatry—whether they be explicitly “religious” in a modern sense or “secular” in appearance—requires an awareness of one’s involvement in unjust victimization. For Girard, the recognition of the innocence of the victim is the great breakthrough of human civilization, most particularly pioneered by the Abrahamic traditions. This breakthrough—most evident in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—leads to a gradual deconstruction of sacred violence and the false distinctions that it gives rise to: “the mob and the victim,” “us and them,” “self and other.” Nevertheless, it is important to note that the Abrahamic traditions do not stand in violent opposition to archaic social systems but seek to peacefully undistort and redirect them in their misguided search for unity



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and peace.43 Thus, for any society wishing to resist sacred violence, the resources of the Abrahamic traditions can be important, both in cultivating a deeper attentiveness to violence and victimization and in providing an alternative way of relating that is nonviolent and merciful. Girard claims that the distinctive feature of those who live within the biblical traditions, especially Christianity, is that they undergo repentance from their distorted desire and violence.44 In the encounter with the risen and forgiving victim, Jesus Christ, humans are given faith to believe in a nonviolent, loving God, and so an ability to see themselves in a new way—that they are lovable and loving, and that this is enough to satisfy their mimetic existence—through faith in the Other who loves them and wants to share life with them. The chasm between creature and Creator is overcome: the Creator has become a creature— a brother—in order to overcome humanity’s rejection of him in sacred violence and to share his life with them. Yet, the Christian answer to mimetic violence can be criticized for redivinizing the victim: “for Judaism, as well as for Islam, Christianity should appear as a regression, a return to mythology.”45 Yet, Girard argues that this interpretation is problematic as Christianity clearly contrasts to ancient mythology by proclaiming the victim innocent. The victim is not divinized in the mythological sense, but rather is already divine and is affirmed as such in his resurrection. Jesus’ divinity does not rely on sacred violence, but rather on his absolutely loving nature shared with his Father. Furthermore, Girard argues that the immanence of God as human (in Jesus) helps to balance the absolute transcendence of God and to provide a definitive revelation to disrupt the unanimity of the scapegoat mechanism.46 This radical immanence combined with an absolute transcendence—both infused with gratuitous love for the other—is the ultimate antidote to violence. Anything less—anything that cannot marry absolute transcendence with immanence through self-giving love—risks becoming distorted and twisted into sacred violence because God is either too remote to make a difference to human violence or too close in commissioning it. The challenge that Islam faces (perhaps more so than Christianity) is on the side of transcendence: in whether it over-emphasizes the transcendence of God and allows for the possibility of a distorted transcendence that results in a resacralized violence. Within Christianity, the revelation of the nonviolent God can be so easily twisted to construct new enemies with sacred violence. It is in the way of merciful love, which Jesus exemplifies and which is present in some form in each Abrahamic tradition, that humanity can resist sacred violence.

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When in solidarity with the forgiving victim, then, the Abrahamic traditions can open spaces free from sacred violence.

Conclusion This chapter has proposed that the use of the category of the divinity in religious violence is related to the way that it seems to arise in human consciousness through the influence of mimesis. It arises because of the universal, existential, and mimetic search for being (which implies the Other), and is manifested in the ritual justifications of violence against a victim in human culture. If the divinity is a natural category that can arise for humans in their search for being, this search is historically distorted in human culture by violence and victimization (to produce a deluded or “idolatrous” notion of the divinity). Yet, because scapegoating has been exposed and weakened, attempts to revive it take more extreme forms. In this way, the sacred reemerges in a new guise, unprotected by its previous sacred covering, but reenergized by its perversion of that which revealed it. Modern religious extremism is part of this perversion, seeking to distort and obscure the legacy of the Abrahamic traditions in revealing human violence and a nonviolent God. Thus, there is a battle at the heart of modern “secular” culture: between those seeking to transcend violence in solidarity with the victimized, and those utilizing forms of sacred violence that either seek a return to the archaic sacred explicitly (through extremist violence) or more subtly resuscitate forms of victimization based on expelling unsavory or marginalized others (secular democratic politics). There is, however, a third, more properly secular (in the sense of eschewing the false sacred) option: the pacific pattern of life based on Jesus as model, and on others who have avoided sacred violence from the enlightened position of other Abrahamic faiths.

Notes 1

2

For more on this point, see Joel Hodge, “Terrorism’s Answer to Modernity’s Cultural Crisis: Re-Sacralising Violence in the Name of Jihadist Totalitarianism,” Modern Theology 32, no. 2 (April 2016): 231–58. Girard also discusses “appetites” (e.g., bodily needs) that operate alongside mimetic desire and can be directed by desire.



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René Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, trans. M. B. DeBevoise (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014), 4; “Violence, Victims and Christianity,” The D’Arcy Lecture, University of Oxford, 1997, https://www.uibk. ac.at/theol/cover/girard/videos.html. 4 Girard, “Violence, Victims and Christianity.” 5 Ibid. 6 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 257–64; I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001), 71–2. 7 The term “archaic” is not used in a chronological or pejorative sense, but rather as a descriptor of certain types of societies that Girard identifies as based around the violent sacred, untouched by the later Judeo-Christian revelation of the innocent scapegoat. Postarchaic (or modern) societies are affected by this revelation, such that violence can no longer be as effectively, unanimously, and unproblematically divinized and deployed. 8 René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 1–25. 9 Girard, I See Satan Fall, 159, 170–1. 10 René Girard, with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, trans. Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 180–280; Girard, I See Satan Fall, 121–53; Battling to the End, 109–35. 11 Cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Chicago: Franciscan Herald, 1985), 3. 12 Cf. ibid. 13 Girard, I See Satan Fall, 124. 14 Ibid., 124, 127; see 1 Jn 2:9-10. 15 René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 184–97; I See Satan Fall, 32–46, 124. 16 Girard, Things Hidden, 233; I See Satan Fall, 130–1. 17 Girard, Things Hidden, 219. 18 Ibid., 218–20; I See Satan Fall, 135. 19 Girard, Things Hidden, 169–70; I See Satan Fall, 96–8. 20 Girard, Things Hidden, 277. 21 Ibid., 218. 22 Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 61. 23 Cf. Elisabetta Brighi and Antonio Cerella, “Special Issue on Mimetic Theory and International Studies,” Journal of International Political Theory 11, no. 1 (February 2015); The Sacred and the Political: Explorations on Mimesis, Violence and Religion 3

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(New York: Bloomsbury, 2016); Michael Kirwan, Girard and Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2009). 24 William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 32–41. 25 Paul Gifford, “Homo religiosus in Mimetic Perspective: An Evolutionary Dialogue,” in How We Became Human: Mimetic Theory and the Science of Evolutionary Origins, ed. Pierpaolo Antonello and Paul Gifford (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015), 307–8. 26 See Ch. 1 in this volume as well as Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, and his Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism (London: T&T Clark, 2002). 27 In the case of secular nation-states, the divinity can be replaced with a totalitarian state, ideology, and leadership that function in the same manner as the divinity for religious extremists. Cf. Hodge, “Terrorism’s Answer,” 253–4. 28 Gil Bailie, “Raising the Ante: Recovering an Alpha and Omega Christology,” Communio: International Catholic Review 35, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 98. 29 René Girard, with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (New York: Continuum, 2007), 106. 30 Girard, Things Hidden, 296–7. 31 Ibid. 32 René Girard, with Rebecca Adams, “Violence, Difference, Sacrifice: A Conversation with René Girard,” Religion and Literature 25, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 25. 33 Raymund Schwager, “Mimesis and Freedom,” Contagion 21 (2014): 29–46. 34 Possibly the major cause for Islamic radicalization (which Droogan and Barton discuss in Chs 12 and 13, respectively, in this volume) is the search for identity, which looks closely related to the search for being that Girard identifies. 35 Cf. James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes (New York: Crossroad, 1998), 45–6; Gil Bailie, God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love (Kettering, OH: Angelico, 2016), 40–50, 85–110. 36 Cf. Neil Ormerod, “Is All Desire Mimetic? Lonergan and Girard on the Nature of Desire and Authenticity,” in Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge, eds, Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines, Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, vol. 1 (New York: Continuum, 2012), 251–62; “Desire and the Origins of Culture: Lonergan and Girard in Conversation,” Heythrop Journal 54, no. 5 (2011): 784–95. 37 Cf. Joel Hodge, Resisting Violence and Victimisation (Abingdon: Ashgate, 2012), 94–6. 38 Girard, I See Satan Fall, 130–6.



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39 Jihadists ascribe the major cause of the crisis to the widespread infidelity to sharia, as Cole outlines in Ch. 15 in this volume. 40 The God who is revealed at the heart of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions is distorted to serve the resacralization of violence. 41 For more on this point, see Hodge, “Terrorism’s Answer.” For more on how jihadist violence is a modern “political religion” structured around rivalry with the West (as “enemy brothers”), see Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 152–4; René Girard, with Henri Tincq, “‘What Is Occurring Today Is Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale’: René Girard on September 11,” Le Monde, November 6, 2011. Translation by the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, www.morphizm.com/politix/girard911.html. 42 Bailie, “Raising the Ante,” 101. 43 Cf. Wolfgang Palaver, “Abolition or Transformation? The Political Implications of René Girard’s Theory of Sacrifice,” in Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming and Joel Hodge, eds., René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature, Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, vol. 2 (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014). 44 René Girard, ‘Are the Gospels Mythical?,’ First Things 62 (April 1996): 31. 45 Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 59. 46 Ibid., 59–60.

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4

Love Your Enemies: God’s New World Order Anthony J. Kelly

Surely it has to be among the most arresting statements of the New Testament: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk. 6:27). I thought it may provoke some reflection on the part of Girard scholars to ponder these words of the Lord once more as they access deep files of likely references, not only in the writings of Girard himself, but also in those of astute commentators such as Raymund Schwager, James Alison, Scott Cowdell, and Joel Hodge. The essential witness of Girard continues to be a source of light in his insistence that we are less independent in our attitudes than we tend to think. The mimetic force of culture conforms us to its prejudices and scale of values. Then, there is the primordial mimesis resident in nature itself as explored in today’s sophisticated discussion of “mirror neurons.” For the Christian thinker, the Word has entered into the mimetic dynamism of nature and history, truly to dwell among us, so as to become the source of a mimesis redeemed into a communion of those conformed to the merciful will of the Father: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you …” (Lk. 6:27).

Today’s “enemies”? The range of possible reference is huge—all the way from mirror neurons to the meaning of sacrifice, from the death and resurrection of Jesus to the gift of his Holy Spirit, from the sacramental meaning of baptism and Eucharist to the actual performance of Christian life. In this brief reflection, I am hoping to concentrate on this theme of loving enemies in order to provoke wonder at the Christian view of God.1 The evangelical imperative is piercing: love

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your enemies, not “enemies or adversaries in general,” but your enemies, those farthest from you, those most turned against you, most unhappy with who you are as a follower of Christ, and what you stand for. It is all so personal. Yet at the same time the gospel stretches what you might mean by love into some other, always uncomfortable, reach—into another place where you are a stranger, no longer at home, and vulnerable to what enemies can do. We must ask what loving our enemies can mean, given today’s culture wars and its intense irritability. Along with that, there come limitless possibilities of giving offense and of experiencing rejection at every turn.2 The media of today, while stoking conflict as a matter of course, offer unrelenting instruction on the political correctness required of anyone wishing to live undisturbed in a kind of furtive peace. As a result, the cultural atmosphere tends to lose the oxygen of honest communication. It is better to pretend conformity than to risk the hard clarity of authentic witness and genuine dialogue. Even the principle of loving enemies can suggest complicity in what we most detest and least desire. Speaking about loving enemies might show evidence of a neurotic reaction to real or imagined slights. It could well be a symptom of a kind of depression that imagines the world as turned against us. In that case, are such “enemies” the projection of a diseased subjectivity? That could be, but even if it were, the gospel imperative remains, holding the way open to a greater love and spiritual health: clearly, these are points for further discussion. In a more objective vein, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948, after the horrors of the Second World War, was a noble humanitarian statement stressing the dignity of all human beings. But we have lived to see it manipulated by the politically astute to mean “my rights against everyone” in a mentality of self-centered entitlement. “Victim status,” as Girardians acutely understand, becomes the highest card in the pack. In that fraught and complex context, there is the possibility of being infected by such a mentality. By a perverse mimesis, we are made to see “the other,” in whatever form, as an enemy—as a rival to our entitlements and an intruder into the self-satisfying shape of our world. Who enemies are, and what loving them can mean, are both equally distorted.3 In contrast, genuine love in this respect must mean surrender to the demands of an ultimate love in the conviction that, in the end, God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:26). But there is a niggling possibility that our “enemies” are those against whom we define our identity; those, in short, who we most need to remain enemies for the sake of our own deepest security. To the degree that this is so, loving our enemies thus entails embracing a new, open identity, less



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structured by those we are against, and more open to the indefinable open circle of love and trinitarian life. Loving the enemy means moving toward “what has not yet appeared” (1 Jn 3:2), in terms of an ultimate God-given identity. Still, there is a problem. Loving one’s enemies may seem religiously, psychologically, and politically absurd: religiously, because enemies are those who most ridicule and reject what we believe in; psychologically, since the meaning of love can become utterly confusing when not only friends but also enemies must be treated with love; politically, when loving enemies might lead to accepting subservience, or selling out on our own integrity. Admittedly, the value of treating enemies well has long been recognized as a tactical subterfuge, as recognized by Hesiod, Pindar, and Lysias, Thucydides, and among the Stoics and Pythagoreans.4 The Lord’s command evidently reverses the old principle of cursing, as in “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you” (Gen. 27:29), along with the principle of retaliation (Exod. 21:24, Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21), with its divine sanction (cf. Gen. 12:3; 27:29; Deut. 27:12-26). Though biblical curses are more than counterbalanced by blessings, loving one’s enemies abolishes the balance altogether.5

The command of Jesus We now single out a number of aspects of the particular agapaic6 and eschatological love that Jesus commands. First of all there is the distinctive personal and authoritative backing that he gives to his commandment, “but I say to you …” (e.g., Mt. 7:12). The prophetic “thus says the Lord,” so typical of the biblical tradition, now becomes for Jesus “amen, I say to you.” In this, Jesus is putting himself on the line, so to speak—and the very meaning of the reign of God he is proclaiming. At the risk of running ahead, it is important to keep always in mind that the gospels were written in the light of the death and resurrection of the Lord, so that his words were recollected in that light, extending even to Luke’s vivid contemplation of Jesus dying on the cross, and praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). If your enemies are actually killing you, then loving them, and even praying for them while that is taking place, necessarily takes on an eschatological quality: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). It suggests surrender to the power of love emanating from God and incarnate in Christ to undo that most radical evil.

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Does Religion Cause Violence? You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:43-46)

While Christ embodies the command to love without reserve, what is the meaning of the “enemy,” the object of this love? The enemy seems to be rather more than an opponent, adversary, rival, or critic—anyone who, in these respective ways, might reject our views, plans, or performance. But none of these connotes the notion of enemy in a biblical sense (even if we are sometimes disposed to think so). Indeed, as love grows, so the number of enemies in the deepest sense increases. They come even from our own household and the ranks of those who are closest to us. The biblical context seems to identify enemies as those who oppose us on the level of faith—and, more deeply, those who reject him who commands that we love them, and who strive to replace the reign of God the Father with a world of their own making. As for love, this same biblical context implies benevolence and beneficence in conformity to God’s love, and in the horizon of God’s salvific action on behalf of everything and everyone. This both entails an act of eschatological hope in the transformative power of love, and presumes a present vulnerability in the Christian to those caught in the web of self-love, hatred of the other, and aggression toward those who in thought or action imagine the world “otherwise.” The risk and vulnerability are realistically presumed: If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes your coat, do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Lk. 6:27-31; cf. Mt. 7:12)

Above all, there is the existential wager in regard to what God is like.7 As children of the Father, to love the enemy is to be engendered as children of the Most High, in terms of a universal, unconditional mercy: But love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Lk. 6:35-36; cf. Mt. 5:44-48)



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In sum, Christian conversion expressed in loving one’s enemies implies a new sense of self, “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Love your enemies and you will be children of the Father (Lk. 27:31; Mt. 5:43). This new self contrasts with the former self shaped by an endless catalogue of grievances, or by projects of self-promotion and triumph over enemies, real or imagined. The new self, in contrast, participates in the love and mercy that God is. It is conformed to the self-revelation of God in the crucified Christ. It brings to expression a new kind of “mirroring” in doing unto others what you would desire for yourself (Lk. 6:31). In the unclouded transparency of love, the converted self shares in the life and love of God. Thereby it attains an ultimate level of conversion to God, conformity to Christ, and integrity in the Spirit (cf. Col. 3:9-11).8

Before “the foundation of the world” The original character of creation offers a further perspective. In the beginning, there is not only an original gift of existence, but also, if this gift is to be owned and exercised, an unconditional “for-giving” is implied. All are confronted with the agony of life in this world with its deaths, extinctions, violence, and evolutionary dead ends: “the whole of creation has been groaning in labour pains until now” (Rom. 8:23). Within the agony and struggle inscribed in nature itself and exhibited in human history, we turn to the image of “the Lamb that was slaughtered before the foundation of the world” (see Rev. 13:8; 5:6, 7-8, 11-12; 7:13-17; 12:11). This image suggests that there is an aboriginally self-sacrificing divine love constitutive of creation and providence. Without such a perspective, human and evolutionary history could lead to a blank wall of hopelessness. The self-giving love of God that is constitutive of creation is expressed in several places in the New Testament. Paul affirms that Christ Jesus emptied himself of “the form of God,” to take on the form of a slave (Phil. 2:5-7).9 In post-Pauline developments, the author of the letter to the Colossians describes the Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation … He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:15, 17). Similarly, the letter to the Ephesians proclaims: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). Then, at the foundation of Johannine christology is the intimate union of the Logos with God that preexisted “the beginning” (Jn 1:1-2). In his final prayer, the Johannine Jesus prays to his Father that he might return to the glory that

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was his in God’s presence “before the world existed” (Jn 17:5).10 Completing and intensifying this perspective of God’s original, preexistent and sacrificial love is the vision of the slaughtered and risen lamb shining into all the darkness and violence of history, “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 5:6; 13:8). This light can penetrate even into the evolutionary agōnia of the cosmos.11 If violence and death are a necessary part of the evolutionary and historical process, a cosmic application of forgiveness is implied. Forgiveness of those inflicting these lethal negativities (the enemy) is necessary if the promise of the future is to be fulfilled in conformity with the unconditional “for-giving” and self-giving that is constitutive of creation.12 The author of Revelation locates Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of the world as primordial, as “before the foundation of the world,”13 in order to suggest that the failures and ambiguities of the world that have occurred from the beginnings of time are already washed clean by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:13-17). The key element in the relationship of God to the world—that is, from “before the foundation of the world”—has been the presence of the crucified and risen One: “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17b-18). Without this backdrop of a divine self-sacrificial love and our participation in it through mercy and forgiveness, history can seem like a dismal obituary. But any such conclusion based only on violence, hatred, and death as the drivers of our human history would be premature without the special energies of Christian love and hope. These virtues breathe with God’s limitless self-sacrificial love, as it creates the universe, forms humanity, forgives sins, brings healing, and promises the transformed integrity of finding God “all in all.”14 Finally, we suggest that forgiveness of enemies has a cosmically inclusive sense. In the light of God’s self-giving sacrifice in Christ we can “forgive” the universe as it blindly unfolds through death, tragedy, and failures, and so find ourselves peacefully and hopefully part of it. Indeed, there is a “for-giveness” that extends even to God, not as the enemy, but as the world-transcending creator to whose will we must surrender, and whose reign over all we must desire and confess.



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Notes 1 2 3

4

5 6 7

8 9 10 11

12

13

René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. and foreword by James G. Williams (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2001), 121–36. See Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 117–43. For an illuminating discussion of a particular historical and cultural context, see Joel Hodge, “A Spirituality of Suffering and Resistance: The Catholic Church in Timor-Leste during Indonesian Occupation”, South East Asian Research 21, no. 1 (March 2013): 151–70; and “Conscience, the Self and the Victim: East Timor and René Girard’s Mimetic Theory in Dialogue,” Australian eJournal of Theology 18, no. 2 (August 2011). Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I–IX, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1981), 636–43; Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina 3 (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1991), 105–16. See Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity, 90–3. For a now classic reference, see C. Spicq, Agape in the New Testament, 2 vols (St Louis: Herder, 1963). Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption, trans. James G. Williams and Paul Haddon (New York: Crossroad, 1999), 27–52. James Alison, Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of Break-in (New York: Continuum, 2006), 50–83. Concerning “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), see Brendan Byrne, “Christ’s Pre-Existence in Pauline Soteriology,” Theological Studies 58 (1997): 308–30. The incarnate Logos, known as “Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:14-17), is the key to the mystery of the Johannine Jesus. Revelation’s presentation of the sheer grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection “from before all time” parallels the Pauline understanding of Jesus as the image of an invisible God (Phil. and Col.), and the Johannine understanding of the eternal union between God and the Logos could be a significant contribution to Christian ecological thought. Most Christian theologians (including Denis Edwards and James Alison) correctly have recourse to the unlimited love of God manifested in the unconditional, free gift of Jesus Christ, allowing the cosmos to run its course freely. See Catherine Vincie, Worship and the New Cosmology (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2014), 43–80. The preexistent slain and risen Lamb can surely be part of this approach. The book of Revelation deals with the perennial revelation of God’s saving activity in the death and resurrection of Jesus “from the foundation of the world.” See

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Eugenio Corsini, The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ, trans. Francis J. Moloney, Good News Studies 5 (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1983) and Apocalisse di Gesù secondo Giovanni (Turin: Società Editrice Internazionale, 2002). For a summary of his argument, see Francis J. Moloney, Reading the New Testament in the Church: A Primer for Pastors, Religious Educators and Believers (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015), 180–9. The most exhaustive contemporary commentary on Revelation in English is David E. Aune, Revelation, Word Biblical Commentary 52a–52c (Dallas: Word, 1997–8). 14 See James Alison, Jesus the Forgiving Victim (Glenview: Doers, 2013), 233–99. See also Alison’s earlier, seminal work, Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1996), esp. 49–56. This suggests a recovery of the “protological” imagination also.

Part Two

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5

“The War to End All Wars”: Mimetic Theory and “Mounting to the Extremes” in a Time of Disaster Sandor Goodhart

Let me introduce this chapter with two quotes. The first is from Emmanuel Levinas: Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality. Does not lucidity, the mind’s openness upon the true, consist in catching sight of the permanent possibility of war? The state of war suspends morality; it divests the eternal institutions and obligations of their eternity and rescinds ad interim the unconditional imperatives. In advance its shadow falls over the actions of men. War is not only one of the ordeals—the greatest—of which morality lives; it renders morality derisory. The art of foreseeing war and of winning it by every means—politics—is henceforth enjoined as the very exercise of reason. Politics is opposed to morality, as philosophy to naiveté. We do not need obscure fragments of Heraclitus to prove that being reveals itself as war to philosophical thought, that war does not only affect it as the most patent fact, but as the very patency, or the truth, of the real.1

And here is my second quote, from Michel Foucault: [W]e can invert Clausewitz’s proposition and say that politics is the continuation of war by other means … Law is not pacification, for beneath the law, war continues to rage in all the mechanisms of power, even in the most regular. War is the motor behind institutions and order. In the smallest of its cogs, peace is waging a secret war. To put it another way, we have to interpret the war that is going on beneath peace; peace itself is a coded war. We are therefore at war with one another; a battlefront runs through the whole of society, continuously

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Prologue: The war to end all wars Emmanuel Levinas: “Does not lucidity … consist in catching sight of the permanent possibility of war? … We do not need obscure fragments of Heraclitus to prove that being reveals itself as war to philosophical thought.” And Michel Foucault: “politics is the continuation of war by other means … . [T]he conflictual relationship that exists between the two groups that constitute the social body and shapes the State is in fact one of war, of permanent warfare.” It would be hard for these two writers to be clearer about the relationship of war to politics. Politics is not the controlling influence over war but its instrument. Thus the famous Clausewitzian principle—that warfare is the pursuit of politics by other means—has it, in effect, in the view of these writers, backwards. It is warfare that in fact is primary, and politics, which attempts to exert rational control over warfare, that in fact serves its ends. If I did not tell you in advance that these quotations were from Levinas and Foucault, you might have assumed and with good reason they were from the final book of René Girard. “Clausewitz is thus trying in his revised text [in Section 11 of Chapter 1 of On War],” Girard writes, “to imagine war as contained by politics but it is clear that war regains the upper hand.”3 And after citing Clausewitz’s famous text, Girard concludes: “What does this mean if not that politics follows in war’s footsteps.” Despite Raymond Aron’s rationalism, passions do indeed rule the world, and the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars released them. A principle of war, which had until then been latent and contained, was released, or perhaps we should say “almost released,” for real wars were not yet the exact replicas of the concept. The Congress of Vienna led to relative stability in Europe until the



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war of 1870 and the explosive events in 1914. I say “relative stability” because the colonial massacres, organization of the proletariat as a fighting class, and social Darwinism’s influence on thinking set the stage for a global catastrophe in the twentieth century. War leads to war, even when, from Jena to Moscow, Napoleon was always desperately seeking peace, mobilizing more of his country each time, each time raising more troops. What if that was the “World Spirit” that Hegel saw pass under his window in Jena? What if it was less the writing of the universal into history than the twilight of Europe, not a theodicy of the Spirit, but a formidable undifferentiation in progress? That is why Clausewitz both intrigues and frightens me.4

The “principle of war” that was released (or “almost released”) in the nineteenth century and then more fully released in the twentieth in Girard’s view was what he calls “a formidable undifferentiation,” the breakdown of all cultural differences, the assertion of difference in the extreme because it no longer works, what Girard has called elsewhere (and what he calls later in Battling to the End) a veritable “sacrificial crisis.”5 Clausewitz specifies this breakdown as the emergence, amidst a conflict presumably governed by political ends, of a principle of “reciprocity” or “reciprocal action.” Each in this context will of necessity imitate the other or “follow suit” and that imitative behavior will be carried to extremes limited only by the available resources. The maximum use of force is in no way incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect. If one side uses force without compunction, undeterred by the bloodshed it involves, while the other side refrains, the first will gain the upper hand. That side will force the other to follow suit; each will drive its opponent toward extremes, and the only limiting factors are the counterpoises inherent in war.6

And this driving of one’s opponent to “extremes” seems to Clausewitz worth repeating as the summary of this opening section. The thesis, then, must be repeated: war is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force. Each side, therefore, compels its opponent to follow suit; a reciprocal action is started which must lead, in theory, to extremes. This is the first case of interaction and the first “extreme” we meet with.7

In Girard’s view, this “tendency to extremes” or “escalation to extremes” or “mounting to extremes” overtakes whatever rational principles began the exchange. The French Revolution gives way to the Napoleonic Wars, which,

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in turn, give way to the First World War, which forms the basis for the Second World War, which founds the violence we have seen throughout the last century and which continues into our own. What started with Hegel and his thinking about the history of the West ends in unmitigated violence. Thinking about Hegel and his conception of the possibility of the grand universal reconciliation of humanity, Girard writes: “Is reconciliation thinkable after Auschwitz and Hiroshima?” And then concludes: “Surely not in Hegelian terms. Whence my recourse to Clausewitz and the apocalyptic.”8 We are far from Hegel now. There was no “desire for recognition” between Tutsies and Hutus, but a twin-like rivalry that went to extremes and degenerated into genocide. Take the Middle East, where the massacres of Sunnis and Shiites will only increase in the months and years to come. In this case also it cannot be said that one is seeking “recognition” from the other; rather, each one wants to exterminate the other, which is very different. There is no difference in nature between machetes and missiles, only in degree.9

And then with specific reference to the Second World War, Girard writes: The fight to the death is thus much more than a simple desire for recognition. It is not a master–slave dialectic, but a merciless battle between twins. Ernst Nolte [who, in Girard’s mind, draws attention to the mimetic relation between Hitler and Stalin in the genesis of the Second World War and its aftermath] does not draw the right conclusions from his perceptions because he has not fully developed the mimetic implications of his hypothesis. Instead of trying to absolve Germany of the worst, he should have shown that the reciprocal, furious imitation between the USSR and the Third Reich caused the “absolute war” in which tens of millions of innocent people died and in which the institution of war also died in Europe.10

We are thus living, for Girard, in an apocalyptic moment, in a moment foreseen by the Biblical prophets, both the Hebraic prophets of the ancient sixth century and the more recent Christian writers who witnessed the death and, from their perspective, the resurrection of a young rabbi from Nazareth. From Hegel to the Holocaust, in Girard’s view, Europe has been unraveling and our legacy in this apocalyptic era is rapidly approaching all or nothing. Either we own the violence we inevitably launch upon the other (in our counteroffensive to their violence against us) and refuse it, or we perish in its aftermath. In a moment when there is no longer any difference between war and peace, there are no



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other choices. If in his earlier work, Girard concerned himself with the literary, anthropological, and religious frameworks in which these ideas are part of our heritage, in Battling to the End, he now addresses more forthrightly our history and our contemporary predicament. That predicament for Girard, as is the conclusion reached by Levinas and Foucault in the passages above, is endless war, permanent warfare. The phrase “the war to end all wars” is often associated historically of course with the speech delivered by Woodrow Wilson to the United States Senate on January 22, 1917, to characterize the First World War, or what was alternatively called “the Great War” or “the Western front.”11 A similar characterization was employed by the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to refer to an upcoming conflict—the Iraq War waged by the American President George W. Bush in the early twentyfirst century—that seemed to him to have apocalyptic dimensions: “the mother of all battles.” It meant the biggest war they had seen to that point, one involving more or less all countries in the European world. But Girard also uses the phrase somewhat differently. In Battling to the End, he uses it for example to mean an end to war itself, the war that puts an end to wars.12 Drawing upon Clausewitz, as we have seen above, Girard argues that we are living in an age when the eruption of reciprocal violence and the escalation to extremes can occur at any moment. The war to end all wars signals the end of the possibility of distinguishing war from peace. In its wake, the involuntary eruption of reciprocal violence at any moment and in any place becomes the new staple, the new normal. “It is in the complete unpredictability of violence that we can see what I call the end of war,” Girard writes.13 And later: “We have thus entered an era of unpredictable hostility, the twilight of war that makes violence our ultimate and last Logos.”14 And finally: “We have to understand that the unpredictability of violence is what is new; political rationality, the latest form of ancient rituals, has failed. We have entered a world of pure reciprocity.”15 “Wars … are entering their twilight.”16 Permanent war. The impossibility of distinguishing war from peace. For Levinas and Foucault as well as for Girard. All invoking Clausewitz. All reversing Clausewitz. Not war as politics by a more extreme means, but politics as warfare by an alternative strategy. But what exactly does that mean in the contemporary context? What are the implications of this idea of permanent warfare for understanding René Girard’s work? To approach that question, I will consider the matter in four parts: (1) I will trace the body of Girard’s work, at least briefly, and in summary form; (2) I

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will assess the place of Battling to the End within it that corpus; (3) I will make some preliminary suggestions regarding Girard’s view of the contemporary situation to the extent we can discern it from this final book, and to situate those reflections I will consider two films: Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach (1959), and Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981). Finally in (4), I will draw the conclusions to which we are led.

Mimetic desire, scapegoating, and scripture René Girard’s work offers us neither more nor less than a theory of order and disorder in human communities.17 Emerging as it did from the intellectual climate of structuralism and poststructuralism in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, Girard’s thinking undertook to deal with the one problem evaded by the proponents both of textuality and of power—the problem of the sacred, a problem, I suggest, that comprehends each of these other two discussions and goes beyond them. In Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (1961), translated somewhat later as Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1965), Girard proposed that desire is rooted neither in objects nor in subjects but in the deliberate appropriation by subjects of the objects of others. The simplicity and elegance of this theory should not blind us to the enormity of its explanatory power. In a series of readings of five major European novelists (Cervantes, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, and Proust), Girard was able to show that the discovery of the imitative or mimetic nature of desire (in contrast to the romantic belief that desire is original or originary) structures the major fiction of these writers and makes available to us, if we would but read that fiction in the context of their total output, an autocriticism of each writer’s own emergence from the underground prison of romantic belief. In La violence et le sacré (1972), translated as Violence and the Sacred (1977), Girard generalized his theory of mediated desire to the level of cultural order at large. What is the function of religion at the level of real human relations? he asked. We have long had available to us imaginary theories of sacrifice—such as the kind Frazer and others proposed in the nineteenth century. More recently, with the advent of structural linguistics and structural anthropology, we have tried to explain religion from within a network of social differences or symbolic exchanges—à la Marcel Mauss and Claude Lévi-Strauss. What Girard suggests



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in their place is a theory of human community that would account for behavior at the level of the real. Religion, Girard suggests, has the function of keeping violence out, of transcendentalizing it, of making it sacred. Thus, the first equation he offers toward this end of understanding the foundations of human community is the identity between violence and the sacred. The sacred, he says, is violence efficaciously removed from human communities, and violence is the sacred deviated from its divine position and creating havoc in the city. But what is violence from a human perspective? Human beings argue, Girard asserts, not because they are different but because they are the same, because in their mutual differential accusations they have become enemy twins, human doubles, mirror images of each other in their reciprocal enmity and violence. Thus, violence is none other than difference itself, asserted in the extreme, no longer efficaciously guaranteeing its own propagation. It is difference gone wrong, as it were, the poison for which difference is the medicine. Such is the nature of the sacrificial crisis. How do these identities offer us a theory of the origin of culture? In the midst of a sacrificial crisis that verges upon a war of all against all, an extra­ ordinary thing can occur: the war of all against all can suddenly turn into the war of all against one. Since within the sacrificial crisis all approach a state of being identical to all, anyone approaches being identical to everyone and can, therefore, substitute for all those that each dreams of sacrificing. Thus, the most arbitrary differences—hair or skin color—can come to count absolutely. In the wake of the successful expulsion of an enemy twin or double, peace is restored. Since the trouble was never anything other than human violence to begin with, the successful completion of the sacrificial project of each in the collective expulsion of an arbitrary scapegoat can restore difference to the human community. A complex network of ritual interactions can now be elaborated to prevent the recurrence of such a crisis, a prevention that can paradoxically take the form of its encouragement (in mock or commemorative form—and only up to a point) in order to reacquire its beneficial effects. In Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde (1978), translated as Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1987), and Le bouc émissaire (1982), translated as The Scapegoat (1986), Girard carried this development to its natural conclusion. How has our knowledge of these sacrificial dynamics been made possible? Why is this very theory not just another sacrificial theory, protective of our own cultural ethnocentrism? The demystification of the sacrificial genesis of cultural order first makes its appearance in the Hebrew Bible

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and reaches its zenith, Girard argues, in the texts of the Christian Gospel, in particular the texts of the passion. Stories such as those of Cain and Abel or of Jacob and Esau begin already to make available to us within the text this identity of the sacred with human violence. But the full revelation for Girard comes only in the victimage of Jesus. Jesus, Girard argues, is the first innocent victim, one whose innocence renders visible for the first time the arbitrariness of the victims of primitive sacrificial behavior and shows us where our violence is going. For example, in the curses against the Pharisees, Jesus says to the Pharisees, in effect, “You say that, had you been there, you would not have stoned the prophets. Don’t you see that in distinguishing yourself from ‘those who stoned the prophets,’ you do the same thing? You put yourself at a sacred remove from them, which is neither more nor less than what they already were doing in ‘stoning’ their adversaries. Moreover, for telling you this truth of your own violence, you will differentiate yourself from or ‘stone’ me. What’s more, those who come after you will repeat your very gestures. Believing they are different from you, they will stone you in my name, calling you ‘Jews’ and themselves ‘Christians.’” Paraphrased from Matthew 23:13-36. The history of Christianity for Girard is permeated with such sacrificial misunderstandings, misunderstandings ironically of the demystification of sacrificial understanding itself. What then is the place of Achever Clausewitz (2007), or Battling to the End (2009), as it was subsequently translated, in this corpus?

Girard’s corpus and the place of Battling to the End Battling to the End is nominally a book length conversation about the unfinished treatise of the nineteenth-century Prussian military officer, Carl von Clausewitz, that has come down to us with the title of On War. This is a treatise in which the author, in somewhat of a rational Aristotelian fashion, attempts to develop the principles of warfare as he understood them within the Napoleonic era, in which he wrote and fought. What fascinates Girard about this book, and indeed what attracted him to it in the first place, is the writer’s treatment in particular of reciprocity or “reciprocal action”, which, the author claims, appears to have a life of its own once it starts, and, as such, to exceed the more commonly known Clausewitzian idea that war is “the continuation of politics by other means.” Indeed, the treatment of reciprocity Girard finds in the book leads him to reverse that more familiar principle and to argue that in the context of the



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book we have, politics is in fact an extension of warfare pursued in a slightly less intense context, a position that brings Girard in proximity to that of Michel Foucault, who famously makes something of the same claim in his lectures in the College de France and elsewhere, albeit to very different theoretical ends. But the real thrust of Girard’s view is larger. For Girard wants to claim that Clausewitz’s discovery of this principle of runaway violent reciprocity at the beginning of the nineteenth century is, in effect, a biblical reading, a recognition and confirmation of the ancient prophetic reading of the Christian scriptural book of the apocalypse, namely, the book of Revelation. In other words, in Girard’s view, the ancient Christian writers already recognized the dramas in which they and their Jewish and Christian contemporaries were engaged and were naming in advance the end of those dramas in order to decide whether to proceed unimpeded to those ends. Clausewitz was simply registering, in Girard’s view, whether unconsciously or not on Clausewitz’s part, the unexpected fulfillment of such prophetic accounts. In the following quotation, for example, Girard defines the appreciation of such coming disaster as “prescience”: Christianity is the only religion that has foreseen its own failure. This prescience is known as the apocalypse. Indeed, it is in the apocalyptic texts that the word of God is most forceful, repudiating mistakes that are entirely the fault of humans, who are less and less inclined to acknowledge the mechanisms of their violence. The longer we persist in our error, the stronger God’s voice will emerge from the devastation. This is why no one wants to read the apocalyptic texts that abound in the Synoptic Gospels and Pauline Epistles. This is also why no one wants to recognize that these texts rise up before us because we have disregarded Revelation. Once in history the truth about the identity of all humans was spoken, and no one wanted to hear it; instead we hang ever more frantically onto our false differences. Two world wars, the invention of the atomic bomb, several genocides, and an imminent ecological disaster have not sufficed to convince humanity, and Christians above all, that the apocalyptic texts might not be predictions but certainly do concern the disaster that is underway. What needs to be done to get them a hearing?18

“[T]he apocalyptic texts might not be predictions but certainly do concern the disaster that is underway.” The whole of what we want to say is contained in those words. In the face of “disaster,” we cling to “false differences.” We misread the ancient texts as predictions and fail to see them as “prescient”—a profound reading of the very crises we are in the process of enacting, crises about the ownership of our own violence and its mechanisms, and mechanisms that

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derive, Girard explains elsewhere, from the very sacrificial structures that at other times have formed the basis for the genesis of the sacred. In that context, then, Battling to the End makes sense. Clausewitz sees runaway reciprocity behind his rationalized understanding of politics and warfare. And as such, his unfinished but significant body of writing reinaugurates discussion of the fulfillment of apocalyptic predictions of ancient Christianity. But there are parts of the book that have not been read: parts having to do with terrorism, jihadism, with what is called in Europe “Islamism,” by which Girard understands more specifically the hijacking of Islam by fundamentalists bent on using violence for their own ends. Nothing of what we have said so far, for example, prepares us for what follows: If we follow our line of reasoning right to the end, if we take our analysis of a new global escalation to extremes to its logical conclusion, we have to consider the complete novelty of the situation since September 11, 2001. Terrorism has raised the level of violence up a notch again. This phenomenon is mimetic and it opposes two crusades, two forms of fundamentalism. George W. Bush’s “just war” has revived that of Muhammad, which is more powerful because it is essentially religious. However, Islamism is only one symptom of a trend to violence that is much more global. It comes less from the South than from the West itself because it takes the form of a response of the poor to those who are well off. It is one of the last metastases of the cancer that has torn the Western world apart. Terrorism is the vanguard of a general revenge against the West’s wealth. It is a very violent and unpredictable revival of the Conquest, which is all the more terrifying because it has encountered America along the way. The sources of Islamism’s strength include the fact that it is a response to the oppression of the Third World as a whole. The reciprocal theologization of war (“Great Satan” versus “the forces of Evil”) is a new phrase in the escalation to extremes.19

Girard has, for the most part, not spoken this way publicly. And in the next couple of pages he clarifies what he means by “the complete novelty of the situation” since 9/11: Resistance is all the more complex because the terrorists are close to us, beside us. The actions are completely unpredictable. The very idea of “sleeper cells” corroborates everything we have said about internal mediation, the identity between people that can suddenly take a turn for the worst … We are witnessing a new stage in the escalation to extremes. Terrorists have conveyed the message



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that they are ready to wait, that their notion of time is not ours. This is a clear sign of the return to the archaic, a return to the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, which is significant in itself. But who is paying attention to this significance? Who is taking its measure? … We have to expect a lot of unexpected things in the future. We are going to witness things that will certainly be worse. Yet people will remain deaf.20

It is at once a “return to the archaic” and “unpredictable”; unpredictable by virtue of being a return to the archaic. This idea—that something new has happened—is not of course entirely novel for Girard. In a famous interview with Le Monde, just after 9/11, Girard had already been asked about mimetic rivalry. Henri Tincq: Can your theory of “mimetic rivalry” be applied to the current international crisis? René Girard: The error is always to reason within categories of “difference” when the root of all conflicts is rather “competition,” mimetic rivalry between persons, countries, cultures. Competition is the desire to imitate the other in order to obtain the same thing he or she has, by violence if need be. No doubt terrorism is bound to a world “different” from ours, but what gives rise to terrorism does not lie in that “difference” that removes it further from us and makes it inconceivable to us. To the contrary, it lies in an exacerbated desire for convergence and resemblance. Human relations are essentially relations of imitation, of rivalry.   What is experienced now is a form of mimetic rivalry on a planetary scale. When I read the first documents of Bin Laden and verified his allusions to the American bombing of Japan, I felt at first that I was in a dimension that transcends Islam, a dimension of the entire planet. Under the label of Islam we find a will to rally and mobilize an entire third world of those frustrated and of victims in their relations of mimetic rivalry with the West. But the towers destroyed had as many foreigners as Americans. By their effectiveness, by the sophistication of the means employed, by the knowledge that they had of the United States, by their training, were not the authors of the attack at least somewhat American? Here we are in the middle of mimetic contagion.21

The interviewer then proceeded to make reference to a book that Girard had published earlier in the year—namely, Celui par qui le scandale arrive (2001), subsequently translated as The One by Whom Scandal Comes (2014)—a book presumably written prior to the events of 9/11.22 “Far from turning away from the West,” you write in your latest book, the interviewer continues,

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“[these individuals who attacked the World Trade Center buildings] cannot prevent themselves from imitating [the West], from adopting its values without admitting it to themselves. They are no less consumed than we are by the ideology of individual and collective success.”23 So, it is clear, in other words, that Girard had already been thinking in these terms before 9/11. And then, in his interview with Robert Doran, on the occasion of the publication of Battling to the End, Girard draws the natural conclusion. Robert Doran: Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 you participated in an interview with the French news daily Le Monde, in which you stated that “what is occurring today is a mimetic rivalry on a planetary scale.” This observation now appears truer than ever. All evidence points to a continuation and intensification of mimetic conflict: wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; transit bombings in Madrid and London; even the car burnings in the Paris suburbs are not unrelated. How do you see the events of 9/11 in retrospect? René Girard: I think that your statement is right. And I would like to begin by making a few comments on that very point. It seemed impossible at the time, but I think that many people have forgotten 9/11—not completely forgotten, but they have reduced it to some kind of unspoken norm. When I did that interview with Le Monde, everyone agreed that it was a most unusual, new, and incomparable event. And now I think that many people wouldn’t agree with that statement. Unfortunately, in the United States, because of the war in Iraq, the attitude towards 9/11 has been affected by ideology. It has become “conservative” and “alarmist” to emphasize 9/11. Those who want to put an immediate end to the war in Iraq tend to minimize it. Now, I don’t want to say that they are wrong in wanting to end the war in Iraq, but they should be very careful and consider the situation in its entirety before they deemphasize 9/11. Today this tendency is very general, because the events that you are talking about—which have taken place after 9/11 and which are in some way vaguely reminiscent of this event—have been incomparably less powerful, striking, and so forth. And therefore there is a whole problem of interpretation: what is 9/11? RD: You yourself see 9/11 as a kind of rupture, a seminal event? RG: Yes, I see it as a seminal event, and it is fundamentally wrong to minimize it today. The normal desire to be optimistic, to not see the uniqueness of our time from the point of view of violence, is the desire to grab any straw to make our time appear as the mere continuation of the violence of the twentieth century. I personally think that it represents a new dimension, a



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new world dimension. What communism was trying to do, to have a truly global war, has happened, and it is real now. To minimize 9/11 is to try to avoid thinking the way I do about the importance of this new dimension.24

A “rupture,” a “seminal event,” the “uniqueness of our time,” a “new world dimension”—a break has occurred, in Girard’s view. Something has happened. something new in the history of the “permanent warfare” in which we are currently embroiled, a discontinuity of some kind. And in the wake of that event, Girard now speaks of a “new dimension,” new paradigm, a post-9/11 perspective. What can be said about that new paradigm? What are its dimensions? What precisely does Girard mean by invoking that idea?

Cold War politics in On the Beach and Gallipoli To better explore Girard’s understanding of the modern era—the era since Clausewitz and the Napoleonic Wars in which this rupture takes place—let us follow Girard’s answer to a question posed by Robert Doran regarding the Cold War in the same interview: RD: You just made reference to the Cold War. How would you compare the two threats to the West [the Cold War and 9/11]? RG: The two are similar in that they represent a revolutionary threat, a global threat. But the current threat goes beyond even politics, since there is a religious aspect. Therefore the idea that there could be a more total conflict than the one conceived by the totalitarian peoples, like Nazi Germany, that it would become in some way the property of Islam, is just such an amazing thing, so contrary to what everybody believed about politics. This demands an immense amount of thought, for there is no corresponding reflection about the coexistence of other religions with Islam and in particular Christianity. The religious problem is the most radical one in that it goes beyond the ideological divides—which of course most intellectuals today are not willing to let go of.   And if this is the case, then our reflections will remain superficial with respect to 9/11. We must be willing to think in a wider context, and in my view this wider context is the apocalyptic dimension of Christianity. The apocalyptic dimension of Christianity is a threat because the very survival of the planet is at stake.25

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Both the Cold War and 9/11 are threats of a global proportion, in Girard’s view, threats that are extensions of the “total war” Clausewitz had imagined, and that Girard feels ancient Christian apocalyptic texts foresaw. What are the differences between the two, between the Cold War and post-9/11? To approach that question, I will to turn to two films that reflect in different ways “Cold War politics”: On the Beach and Gallipoli.26 The 1959 movie On the Beach situates itself within an explicitly apocalyptic setting. World War III has occurred among the superpowers—principally, Russia and the United States—and the two have effectively destroyed each other. In Neville Shute’s 1957 book of the same name, there are still some people left, while in the film there are none.27 Australians have not been drawn into the conflict directly, but they are affected by it as a cloud of radiation is drifting toward the continent and that cloud is expected to kill all remaining human life on the planet. Most of the action of the film takes place in and around a naval base in Melbourne where an American submarine—on active duty during the global conflict and yet somewhat out of its reach—has come to dock, and on the submarine itself as it sets off to search for signs of life elsewhere. In the following scene from the film, we are at a party at the home of Peter and Mary Holmes. Peter is a sailor on the docked vessel who is entertaining this particular evening the stranded naval submarine commander, Dwight Towers, whose American wife and children are assumed to have perished in the conflict, while Moira Davidson, a flamboyant wizened former seductress, is attempting to console him. Julian Osborne, who is a scientist and one of the individuals apparently instrumental in the development of the bomb, comments upon the global situation to one Morgan, who is his contemporary and his interlocutor at the party. Osborne remarks that the war was a “mistake,” “a beaut,” he says, although not precisely an “accident.” Others want to know who or what to “blame.” Morgan: That’s sheer balderdash! I never heard so much nonsense in my life. You mean to tell me, this whole damn war was an accident? Julian Osborne: No, it wasn’t an accident. I didn’t say that. It was carefully planned, down to the tiniest mechanical and emotional detail. But it was a mistake. It was a beaut. In the end, somehow granted the time for examination, we shall find that our so-called civilization was gloriously destroyed by a handful of vacuum tubes and transistors, … probably faulty. Morgan: Ah, there you are, Julian, there you are. Now we know where the blame lies, don’t we?



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Julian: Oh, no, you don’t. No, no, no. Maybe, maybe we were the, the blind mechanics of disaster, but you don’t pin the guilt on the scientists that easily. You might as well pin it on … motherhood. Morgan: Well, it should be pinned on somebody. And you scientists are the likely ones as far as I can see. You built the bomb. You experimented with it, tested it, and exploded it. Julian: Now, just a moment, Morgan. Morgan: Thanks to you chaps a moment is about all we have. Julian: Every man who ever worked on this thing told you what would happen. The scientists signed petition after petition. Peter: Julian, please … Julian: … but nobody listened. There was a choice. It was build the bombs and use them, or risk the United States, the Soviet Union, and the rest of us would find … some way … to go on living. Morgan: [scoffs] Hah! That’s wishful thinking, if ever I heard it. Julian: I’m not against wishful thinking, not now. Morgan: Look, they pushed us too far. They didn’t think we’d fight, no matter what they did. Julian: And they were wrong. We fought. We expunged them! We didn’t do such a bad job on ourselves. With the interesting result that the background level of radiation in this very room is nine times what it was a year ago. Peter: Julian … Julian: Don’t you know that? [music stops] Nine times! We’re all doomed, you know, the whole silly, drunken, pathetic lot of us. Doomed by the air we’re about to breathe. We haven’t got a chance! Mary Holmes: Stop it! [slamming down the tray] I won’t have it, Julian! I won’t. There is hope. There has to be hope. There’s always hope. We just can’t go on like this. We can’t. We—we—[sobs, exits] [door closes] Julian: I shouldn’t drink, you know. I inevitably say something brilliant. Sorry. [Peter leaves. The guests resume chattering softly] [Julian puts down the glass]

All of the familiar Girardian themes are there: mimetic desire among the super powers and their politicians, and among “the mechanics of disaster” on both sides, those planning the war “down to the tiniest mechanical and emotional detail”; and scapegoating among the intellectualizing bystanders, those at the party who believe that “the guilt” “should be pinned on somebody”; and finally abject terror on the part of all those present, expressed implicitly by some, explicitly by others, with regard to what has occurred and what is still to occur.

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Now compare and contrast this scene with another. Here is another example of Cold War politics, from Peter Weir’s 1981 film, Gallipoli. The film, as its title implies, concerns events undertaken during the First World War, when the allied forces under the British military command in Europe attempted to take the peninsula of the Turkish mainland, known by the name “Gallipoli,” through the landing of the combined forces of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The British air support that was promised to assist the attacking troops never arrived and the forces of the ANZAC that landed in what became known as “Anzac Cove” provided cannon fodder, summarily gunned down en masse. The fated battle sequence occupies only the last fifteen minutes or so of the film, the majority of the film taken up with following the lives of Frank and Archy, two friends, both runners, who join the Australian Army after the outbreak of war. Early in the film, in the first scene, in fact, we watch Archy training for a run with his personal coach. Coach: Deeper … Come on, deeper, deeper … Come on, deeper … Come on, deeper, deeper … From here, boy, here! … That’s it … Now, loosen up … Come on, loosen up … Come on, boy, loosen ’em up … That’s it. Now, on the spot. One, two! One, two! One, two! … What are your legs? Archy: Springs. Steel springs. Coach: What are they gonna do? Archy: Hurl me down the track. Coach: How fast can you run? Archy: As fast as a leopard. Coach: How fast ARE you gonna run? Archy: As fast as a leopard. Coach: Then let’s see you do it … [shouting]Are you ready, leopard? … On your mark! … Get set! … [sound of whistle to start running] … [quietly, at the finish line] Come on, boy … Come on, boy … How’d it feel? Archy: All right. Coach: Nine and five‐eighths. Archy: Whoa!

Every gesture of the protagonist is scrupulously guided by his coach to achieve the desired end—that of winning the race. The scene is preparatory for most of the movie and serves to set the stage for the themes of running, and sports in general, as a way of life. It is only in fact much later in the film, in its concluding shots, that the real significance of this opening sequence becomes apparent. In the film’s final



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moments, when Archy is preparing to enter the field of battle, where he knows (and, of course, we know) that he is likely to die, the same chant or mantra comes to play an entirely different function. A solder next to him has begun reciting the twenty-third psalm, while Archy repeats his mantra to himself, and the solder’s utterance falters on the Biblically inflected word “runneth.” [Stopwatch ticks] Soldier: … though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for God art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. My cup runneth … Archy: What are your legs? Springs. Steel springs. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna hurl me down the track. How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard. How fast ARE you gonna run? As fast as a leopard! Then let’s see you do it! Voices screaming: Gangway! Gangway! Gangway! Urgent message! [Whistle] [Archy rushes out; he is shot, stopped dead in his tracks; and the film stops]

Thus, Archy’s mantra parallels the soldier’s. He has become, in effect, his own coach, reciting his running scripture as his fellow soldier recites religious scripture. And, in this sequence, the same themes we saw above now return: mimetic desire among the soldiers, with scapegoating among all others (including the movie’s viewers). Both films reflect Cold War politics. Both concern mistake, accident, or mishap. Both involve Australians who have been made the victims of forces considerably larger than themselves, nation-states to which they are in one fashion or another beholden, and by which, in one fashion or another, they have been abandoned. The first film imagines an apocalyptic future as a disaster in order to get us to slow down the arms race, the build-up of nuclear weapons before it is too late—as it already is for the Australians. And the second film imagines “doing one’s duty” in good British fashion as just as debilitating as staying out of it. But both films may also be reread in the wake of 9/11. And, in that context, at least as far as Girard reads the distinction, both acquire new understanding. For each is in fact premised upon the onset of death or, more specifically, dying. In the first, On the Beach, death will arrive by radiation. The Australians need only wait and death will arrive on the continent in the very air they breathe. In the second, Gallipoli, death is occasioned by the lack of support on the battlefield. The soldiers enter the battle assured of a loss by the overwhelming odds against them, a loss that we as viewers know historically to have been the case. And

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one may begin to raise questions about whether in this instance participating is any better than remaining abandoned and whether the “civic religion of sport,” as it is sometimes called, is finally any different from the traditional religion of Anglican Christianity. As such, I would like to suggest, each film offers us, when read in retrospect, a preview of what I would describe as the new post-9/11 paradigm, an ethics of the postmortal or posthumous, in an era that I would characterize with the somewhat odd-sounding formula, “I died; therefore, I am.” How so?

Girard and the new paradigm: The example of Holocaust studies Girard himself never writes at any significant length about the new paradigm any more than he has in these few scattered remarks to which I have made reference. But in certain other academic disciplines, it is becoming clear that at the center of this new paradigm is the idea of dying, and moreover, of dying understood as a premise rather than as a future. Let me conclude therefore by referring to one of these fields in which some discoveries are being made that in my view at least are compatible with the new paradigm Girard announces. I will start with a personal reference. Once I began to understand the virtually limitless extent of the Holocaust and its enormity within my own life, I made myself a promise that I formulated in the following manner. I told myself that I had to “do something” about the Holocaust. That formulation seemed to me the precise one I needed. But how do you “do something” about an event at once so large and already over, that was over in fact before I was born? The formulation is admittedly strange, and the task, doubly impossible: impossible by virtue of its enormity, and because it is past, and was so already when I was born. The answer I suggest is what I call the post-Holocaust or “posthumous” cogito: “I died; therefore, I am”; “Je suis mort; donc, je suis.” What could that mean in this context? We are all familiar with the Cartesian cogito. Descartes assured himself that he existed because he was thoughtful. “I think; therefore, I am” (“je pense; donc, je suis”) was his cogito. I can assure myself that I exist, he argued, because I can think. And that strategy worked for him at the beginning of the seventeenth



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century. It made good sense after St Anselm and the proofs for the existence of God (and the proofs for the existence of man in terms of the existence of God) were in decline. God exists; therefore, I exist, Anselm had said, in effect. God has all the perfections. Existence is a perfection. Therefore, QED, by definition, as it were, God has existence. And if God exists, I exist because I am by definition a creature of God’s. God exists; therefore, I exist. Descartes on the other hand rejected that formulation at least in this iteration. Descartes retorted, “I think; therefore, I am.” Then, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the English and European romantics qualified that “I think” with another identification—namely, “I feel; therefore, I am.” “I feel—I feel it all,” Wordsworth could write in the “Intimations of Immortality” ode.28 Thus, we may understand by that assertion why Rousseau, Goethe, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and countless others could find in the sense of human feeling the premise for relationship with others and consequently existence. And why, moreover, since the romantics, feeling is in effect more powerful than truth. We allow someone to say, “What you say is not true; it is false.” But we do not allow them to say, “You don’t feel that.” That latter statement is ruled out of order. After the Shoah, however, after a disaster of such proportions, no such humanist or divine assurance would appear suitable. Neither God’s existence, nor my capacity to think (let alone my capacity to feel), assure me that I exist. Girard’s appropriation of Clausewitz’s “escalation to the extremes” would seem applicable here in an unexpected fashion. Only if we escalate things to a new extreme, to an entirely new level of intensity, would a formulation adequate to the disaster at hand seem conceivable. Charlotte Delbo’s remark to an interviewer regarding her wartime experiences—“I died in Auschwitz, and no one knows it”—constitutes its cornerstone.29 “As far as I’m concerned / I’m still there / Dying there / A little more each day / dying over again / the death of those who died.”30 Girard offers no extended articulation of the post-9/11 paradigm although he notes the extent of the problem. Holocaust studies makes available a solution, I have tried to suggest, if we learn how to read it. There is no place here to articulate the argument at length. The solution involves multiple steps. The first is the recognition that there have been four distinct stages in historio­graphy regarding the Holocaust in America: 1945–61; 1961–85; 1985–2001; and 2001 to the present. Concomitantly, and coordinated with these periods, there have been four distinct themes that have dominated discussion: silence; the specification

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of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders; the varieties of memory; and the persistence of ghosts or shadows. A second step is the understanding that each successive stage rereads all preceding stages: silence is a response to war and allows us to read how shocking and traumatizing the war was; naming the perpetrators, victims, and bystanders allows us to read the silence and the war; the discourses of memory allow us to read the war, the silence, and the naming of the perpetrators, victims, and bystanders; and the appearance of ghosts and haunted legacies allows us to read all four. The upshot of these historiographical studies is that in the wake of 9/11, a host of postwar writers, especially those working in France—Elie Wiesel, François Mauriac, Maurice Blanchot, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean Cayrol, Samuel Beckett, and Charlotte Delbo, for example—have suddenly become legible in an entirely new fashion. We can for example now identify new themes: in Wiesel, the cadaverous as a perspective from which we now read; or the presence of night as a theme operative in Blanchot’s work and Levinas’s as well as Wiesel’s.31 Similarly, in Cayrol, the “Lazarean” describes the dimensions of a new postwar poetics we also find in Mauriac. In Beckett’s work, time has stopped, death is no longer a future, and endless repetition is the consequence. And in Blanchot, the end of death as the guarantor of meaning, or, in his study of literature, the theme of dying assumes a new prominence. By 1965, Charlotte Delbo can make the remarks cited above. And later, upon learning of the death of Primo Levi in 1987, Elie Wiesel can speak of “proof that one can die at Auschwitz after Auschwitz.”32 From these writers, we may derive what we have called the posthumous cogito: “I died; therefore, I am,” an idea that aligns itself with (although also significantly differs from) the formulations of St. Anselm, Descartes, and William Wordsworth. What is the relation of the posthumous or Lazarean or cadaverous to Girard’s work? How does this discussion of the posthumous cogito offer us a useful account of the new paradigm? The key, I submit, is that death is a premise and no longer a guarantor of meaning in the future (as many had argued). “Death alone allows me to grasp what I want to attain,” Blanchot writes in 1949. “It exists in words as the only way they can have meaning. Without death, everything would sink into absurdity and nothingness.” Read in 2017, Blanchot’s remarks may occasion a wholesale rethinking of existentialism, and in particular, the work of Camus, for whom the absurd and “the benign indifference of the universe” are often thought to reside in death conceived as a future.33 It is significant, I would argue, that in Camus’



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revisioning of a Greek myth in his most famous philosophic essay (in which he concludes “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”), Sisyphus continues pushing a rock up a hill in a circumstance in which death has already occurred.34 Here is another way to think about it. In the face of utter devastation, when things go seriously awry, there have been traditionally at least two possibilities: turning to God for a happy ending; or turning to the self and the resources of ego for a happy ending, and both are premised upon death as a viable future occurrence. But there are dangers to each gesture. We can turn to God and say, “Okay, I paid my money at the door; I purchased salvation; I committed myself to God; now do it for me; now it’s Your responsibility, no longer mine.” Or we can turn to the resources of the human, and say, “I can do it for myself; I don’t need God or any other agency, supreme or otherwise to help me.” The first shows up, for example, among other places, as a version of “theodicy” and can lead, in the view of some writers, to the Holocaust. The second is egoism and is given articulation perhaps most prominently in the modern world by Martin Heidegger, for whom death remains indefatigably a future, “the possibility of impossibility.” Thomas Ryba identifies a parallel (to these two responses) in St. Thomas Aquinas’s rejection on the one hand of the quietist acceptance of Christian faith and on the other of a humanistic egoistic repudiation of it.35 But both routes presuppose death is a future. Since the Greeks we have defined ourselves with death as a barrier. “The gods are deathless,” goes the ancient Greek adage, which carries as its subtext: not human beings, who live continually in the shadow of death. Human beings are defined as being this side of death and before a being that is defined as nothing. Suppose however we thought otherwise. What if we say death is a premise? Then the foundation at once for tyrannical egoism and imperialist theodicy vanishes. And two new possibilities suddenly obtain, one positive and one negative: (a) an unlimited or “infinite” responsibility for the other individual that replaces responding only after satisfying all my ego demands and what is left over constitutes the basis for my altruism; and (b) an assumption that my individual life is of no value and that all that is of value is the service I can produce or promote on behalf of the other, a service that need not be lifeenhancing for that other. In a sense, if Levinas’s thought articulates the first response, Shakespeare’s plays dramatize the second. Shakespeare’s Othello, for example, may be regarded as an instance of the completely other-directed man in this regard. Even after killing Desdemona (as he thinks) and discovering Iago to be responsible (and

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that Rodrigo has died as a result, and perhaps Brabantio, as well), he speaks of the “service” he has done the state and to which he is about to add by a suicidal death. Shakespeare it would appear is already thinking about the dangers of a wholesale appropriation of someone else’s culture.36 And this condition—in which I assume my individual personality to be of no value except in the service I can render to the state—is one that may very well lead to the “sleeper cell” mentality and suicide bombing mentality of which Girard speaks (and which differs in Girard’s view from the hara-kiri of Japanese soldiers during the Second World War insofar as those individuals still thought they were committing their lives to that sacred activity, while the individuals in 9/11 were from entirely middle-class backgrounds and could perform these acts without any religious connection being assumed). It can lead, in short, to good or bad; hopefulness or nihilism. Both are now possibilities. All the stakes are now suddenly again on the table once we subtract death as a future possibility. And thus we may offer an answer to Christian commentators who say in effect “I understand what you say; but when Christ says ‘die to the self,’ or ‘die to the world,’ he means it as the foundation for the divine gift of eternal life that follows. It is not clear that ‘I died; therefore, I am,’ as you formulate it, is necessarily a divine gift.” I agree, we can say. It can go either way. If we say “I died; therefore, I am,” I assure myself of my existence by positing my death as a premise rather than as a future possibility. And I can use that fact, namely, that I have already died, to justify in my mind the most heinous deeds possible; to murder innocent people, for example. Or I can say that because I have already died, and therefore in effect occupy the place formerly occupied in my mind by God, I can (and in fact must) shoulder God’s responsibilities for others, which is to say, infinite responsibility for the other human being before me—as a thinker like Levinas formulates for us. Or to put it another way: Is the manner in which we have formulated this new cogito hopeful? Is it a gift? One could argue that the suicide bombers and “sleeper cells,” whose psychology, Girard says, we have yet to understand, employ the same assurance: “I died; therefore, I am.” Dostoyevsky’s characters in The Brothers Karamazov come to mind.37 Is it therefore alternatively nihilistic, a species of moral anarchism? In fact, it is neither and may be taken in either direction. All the stakes are still on the table. We can take the current predicament as the premise for a collapse of all values and the unleashing of the deepest sacrificial forces motivating archaic culture, of which the Shoah is perhaps only the opening episode. Or we



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can take it as the opportunity for the seizing of human responsibility for human violence at a level never before available, in the way a reader like Emmanuel Levinas would understand it. This predicament is in any event the one that Girard identifies in Christian language as the intuition of the ancient scriptural apocalyptic texts. The mentality which René Girard describes as a “sleeper cell,” or that of a suicide bomber whose wholesale slaughter of the innocent can wreak havoc upon a community, and the mentality Emmanuel Levinas describes as infinite responsibility for the other individual and that may constitute (for Levinas) the foundation of human groups may be constructed identically upon a Lazarean or posthumous foundation. Not unlike the coupure épistémologique that Michel Foucault once identified at the beginning of the humanism of the European nineteenth century, in the past seventy years or so since the end of the Second World War we may have witnessed something like a new break, a new rupture, or a “seminal event” or discontinuity that a thinker like Foucault would find entirely familiar.

Epilogue: “Etre juif ” “Je suis juif.” “Je suis Charlie.” I am Jewish. I am Charlie. With the chanting of these words, more than three million people gathered at the Place de la République over two days in January 2015 to express solidarity with four individuals who were murdered in the previous two days at a Kosher Butchery just before Shabbat, with the twelve journalists and/or cartoonists murdered in the offices of the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, and to say in effect “enough is enough.” Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas stood side by side with François Hollande, along with Angela Merkel, David Simpson, and other leaders from Russia, Turkey, and Malaysia in an unprecedented show of unity. Paris suddenly became “the center of Europe,” as one headline had it. Suddenly, the French “got it,” 9/11 may have killed more people statistically, but epistemologically the events in Paris may prove to have been even more significant. And the gentle sloganeering along with the upraised pencils and pens was far from unremarkable. Islamic individuals held up their banners and writing implements every bit as much as others did. “Not in my name” was one of the signs in evidence. Bernard-Henri Lévy spoke on French TV of the “Fasc-islamism” or “Islamo-fascism” of the moment.

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Anyone who had read Achever Clausewitz in 2007 of course would already have seen Girard reflect on it in the final pages of that book: on the rejection of jihadism, of terrorism, of radical Islam or “Islamism” in its hijacking of classical Islamic religious ideals in the service of a runaway anti-Semitic outburst of reciprocal violence that Girard saw as the continuation of the runaway reciprocity and “permanent war” that Clausewitz articulated a century ago. In the preceding text, I have argued that we are already somewhat beyond the cusp of a new post-9/11 paradigm. Girard’s comments in Battling to the End on the idea of the “war to end all wars” make sense in an entirely new way after 9/11. The “complete unpredictability of violence that we can see” and that Girard calls “the end of war” has assumed new meaning.38 “We have thus entered an unpredictable hostility,” he writes. “The unpredictability of violence is what is new; political rationality, the latest forms of ancient rituals, has failed.” “Wars have entered their twilight.”39 And if Girard opened the door to this new understanding of “mounting to the extremes,” the new version of it after 9/11 (namely, the globalization of either “random acts of violence” or “random acts of kindness”), then we who are his students, colleagues, and friends can walk through that door and attempt to elaborate the premises of that new chapter of runaway sacrificial violence, of the scapegoat mechanism, and of the pure reciprocity that appears to have taken over, a chapter that may in fact describe the mainstay of our existence—if current events are any indication—for some time to come.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 21. Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France, 1975–1976, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 15–16. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009), 8. Ibid., 9–10 (my italics). Ibid., 43. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 5. Ibid., 77.



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8 Girard, Battling to the End, 43. 9 Ibid., 39. 10 Ibid., 41. 11 The idea is close to the title of a book by H. G. Wells, The War that Will End War (1914). See the discussion of misremembering by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Eloquence in an Electronic Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 99. See also the work of Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975). 12 Girard, Battling to the End, 1. 13 Ibid., 40. 14 Ibid., 48. 15 Ibid., 68. 16 Ibid. 17 This paragraph and subsequent ones are adapted from my volume, The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014), 4–6. 18 Girard, Battling to the End, x. 19 Ibid., 211. 20 Ibid., 212–13. 21 Le Monde, November 6, 2001. 22 René Girard and Marie-Stella Barberi, Celui par qui le scandale arrive (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 2001) and René Girard and Marie-Stella Barberi, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, trans. Malcolm B. DeBevoise (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014). 23 Girard and Barberi, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 8. 24 Robert Doran and René Girard, “Apocalyptic Thinking after 9/11: An Interview with René Girard,” SubStance 37, no. 1 (issue 115) (2008): 20–32. 25 Ibid. 26 On the Beach, directed by Stanley Kramer (United Artists, 1959) and Gallipoli, directed by Peter Weir (Paramount Pictures, 1981). 27 Neville Shute, On the Beach (London: Heinemann, 1957). 28 William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th ed., ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (New York: Norton, 2005), 797–801, at 797. 29 Langer in Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), xviii. 30 Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 224.

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31 I discuss these perspectives at length in Mobian Nights: Reading Literature and Darkness (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming). 32 Elie Wiesel, “Why Memory?” Washington Post, October 8, 2006, http://www. washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/05/AR2006100501336_2. html: “Just before his tragic suicide in 1987, [Primo Levi] called me. His desperation haunts me still. I well remember the thought that occurred to me at the time: Here is proof that one can die at Auschwitz after Auschwitz.” 33 The quote is from the conclusion of The Stranger. See Albert Camus, The Stranger, trans. Stuart Gibert (New York: Vintage, 1946), 154; see also Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York: Vintage, 1955). 34 Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 123. 35 Remarks made in conversation with the author in March 2015. 36 For an extended discussion of this play, see my chapter in The Prophetic Law, 149–66. 37 Consider the remark by one of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov: “Without God … everything is permitted.” See Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage, 1990), 589. 38 Girard, Battling to the End, 40. 39 Ibid., 68.

6

The Sacred is Back—But as Simulacrum Jean-Pierre Dupuy

To be or not to be Islamophobic France was savagely struck by two terrorist attacks in 2015: the first on January 7 at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and the second on November 13 in a number of venues in the 11th arrondissement of the capital. Both were planned and carried out by Islamist groups. Today all the known perpetrators, except one, are dead, whether by their own hand or as a result of being shot by the police. Ever since those events, the public debate in France has been polarized around two extreme positions that stand on each side of the fuzzy notion of Islamophobia. On the left of the left, all kinds of causes, mainly sociological and political, but also psychological and even psychiatric, have been sought that might explain those extraordinary acts. Explaining is not vindicating but the line between the two is at times very thin, as the prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, was himself so keen to stress. One recalls that it took only a week after the attacks of September 11, 2001, for the deep-seated anti-Americanism of a certain sector of the French intelligentsia to rise up and refuse to condemn the perpetrators, partly because they had sacrificed their lives and seemingly taken on a worthy foe. “They had it coming,” it was sometimes said of the Americans. It was incredible to see that, from this moment, the word “victim” was employed by some, not to designate those trapped in the Towers, but the terrorists themselves, who were declared to be doubly victimized: by the injustice of the world and by the fact that they had to martyr themselves. Those who oppose this interpretation have been labeled “Islamophobes.” On the other side, coming mainly from the Catholic right, we hear the contention that there is something intrinsically violent in the belief system of

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Islam as well as in its practices. From its sacrificial theology to its refusal to separate politics from religion to its ambition to establish a universal caliphate, Islam would be fundamentally alien to our democracies—or, to use a concept drawn from American political philosophy, specifically John Rawls’s influential books A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, it escapes the “overlapping consensus” that is the necessary foundation for a just and fair society. The crimes that are committed in the name of Islam are acts of the will that must be traced back to their individual authors, and these individuals should be punished as such. It is a sacred postulate of the French Constitution that there are no communities within the French Republic, only individual citizens. For the same reason that all collection of ethnic or religious data is banned, the fact that a given criminal happens to be a Muslim is deemed completely irrelevant to the judgment of his or her crime. It seems impossible to reconcile these two positions, positions that have polarized French society in the wake of the terrorist acts in Paris of 2015. Can Girard’s anthropology of violence and the sacred offer some help? A number of observers of good faith have noticed that at the heart of the most horrendous carnage, like that on November 13, 2015 (which killed 130 people, injured over 300, and caused the French president François Hollande to declare his nation at war with Islamic State extremists), there is a dimension that exceeds sheer violence and conjures up what some do not hesitate to label “the sacred.”1 For a Girardian this evokes right away what the author of Violence and the Sacred wrote in the first page of that book:2 “If sacrifice resembles criminal violence, we may say that there is, inversely, hardly any form of violence that cannot be described in terms of sacrifice—as Greek tragedy clearly reveals: … sacrifice and murder would not lend themselves to this game of reciprocal substitution if they were not in some way related.” This essential insight—which, I hasten to add, is just the point of departure of Girard’s fundamental discovery—has the advantage of bringing together the two sides of the French debate. We are dealing with abominable crimes to be sure but, added to them, there is something like the self-sacrifice of the criminals that evokes a sacrifice in the anthropological sense of the word—as if the victims’ victims were sacrificial victims. This categorical confusion is an effect of the workings of the Christian revelation. We all know G. K. Chesterton’s witticism, which Girard loved to cite: “The modern world is full of Christian ideas … gone berserk.” A full-blown Girardian, Paul Nuechterlein, opines “the world we now live in, where the victim’s voice has become so prominent that it is now used to justify persecution



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and vengeance … There are many examples of how the Christian revelation has reshaped, transformed our use of language. Most prominent is that ‘sacrifice’ now means ‘self-sacrifice.’”3 However, Girard’s initial formulation gives the false impression that criminal violence and sacrifice stand on the same level and that they are interchangeable. This obviously is not the case. If sacrifice is a murder with a sacrificial touch, it is not the case that all murders by their sheer evocation of sacrifice can be labeled sacrificial. In this regard Durkheim notes: “[T]he sacred character [cloaked by] a thing is not implied by its intrinsic features, it is added to them. The world of the religious is not a particular aspect of empirical nature: it is superimposed on it.”4 There is more in sacrifice than sheer murder. What is it that is added to it? That’s what we are going to examine now.

The thin veil between murder and sacrifice You may remember the horrible killing of two Israeli soldiers in a police station in Ramallah overrun by an out-of-control crowd, which marked a tragic turning point in the Middle East conflict in the autumn of 2000. The terrible image made its way around the world: hands covered with blood, arms raised in reverence toward some vengeful god; the victim’s body hurled from a secondstory window, beaten and dismembered—all of this evokes with incredible force the bloodiest rites of archaic religion. The frenzied crowd in Ramallah obviously did not suspect that they were reproducing the acts of the diasparagmos ritual that is part of the cult of Dionysius; just as the man who dipped his hands in the blood of his victim was unaware that he was reproducing the gesture of an Aztec priest from atop his pyramid. The religious echoes were indeed present in this scene, but it would be absurd to suggest that it reflected the religious beliefs of the agents, Islam and Judaism. The echo is deceptive, and one must reverse the apparent order of its origin and destination. What comes first, the true universal of foundational violence, is the spontaneous dynamic of crowds of persecution. It is on this basis, then, that religion proceeds to its work of interpretation, symbolization, and ritualization. In the Ramallah case, crime’s mimicking of the sacred was involuntary. A more telling episode preceded it—an event that took place in Kosovo in the spring of 1999. A group of Serbian police officers rushed into a Kosovar house. The family there—a man, his wife, and their seventeen-year-old son—were

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celebrating the Eid al-Adha festival. (In the Muslim world, this festival commemorates the nonsacrifice of his son by Abraham. It must be noted that for most modern Muslims, this son is not Isaac, as the Jews and the Christians believe; it is Ishmael, the bastard that Abraham had from his servant, Agar, whom God wanted Abraham to kill. A sheep or ram is slain on that occasion in memory of the animal that the angel substituted for Ishmael.) The Serbian policemen asked the family whether they performed the sacrificial act. No, they were informed, we are too poor. The police officers grabbed the son and cut his throat before his parents’ eyes, saying, “He is fat enough for sacrifice.” Question: Had this atrocious gesture anything to do with religion or not? And, if the answer is yes, which one? Islam, guilty of still practicing sacrifice? Or the religious intolerance of the Serbs, who were certainly Christian? Two opposite attitudes are common here. One consists in saying that religion is violence, or at least it inevitably leads to acts of violence, because religion implies intolerance, bigotry, irrationality, and the like. The other attitude consists in taking the side of religion by saying, whenever a crime is committed in the name of religion, religion per se has nothing to do with it. According to this view, Christianity is not guilty of the crimes committed by the Inquisition. Based on Girard’s sacrificial theory, the answer should or might be: neither/ nor, or both. The sacred contains violence in the two senses of the word: it has it within itself, and, simultaneously, it keeps it in check. The sacred thwarts violence by violent means, the most fundamental one being sacrificial rituals. The Serbs’ slaying of the young Kosovar was all the more atrocious since it cynically aped religion. To be sure, it was by no means a religious act, but rather sheer murder. However, it knew a lot about the religious, it knew enough at any rate to mold itself in its forms, as a sham. It knew that the sacrificial mechanism resides in the substitution of victims. Ishmael’s—or, for that matter, Isaac’s— nonsacrifice obviously represents an exceptional moment in the history of sacrificial substitutions. It is the moment when animal sacrifice is substituted for human sacrifice. In donning the bloody robe of the sacrificer, the Serbian police officers staged a twofold regression. First, the regression from animal sacrifice to human sacrifice; second, the regression from sacrifice to crime. They acted like the demystifiers of religion, by bringing out the puzzling and troubling proximity between violence and the sacred. Girard denounces here a twofold mistake. The first consists in not seeing that religious sacrifice is basically a murder, or is derived from a murder. Religious thought has always striven to conceal this kinship between sacrifice and murder.



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The second mistake boils down to posing the mere identity between sacrifice and murder, in the brutal manner of the Serbian police officers. This demystification is too harsh and too hasty because it ignores the difference between sacrifice and crime. It is in this difference that the source of civilization resides. The religious history of humankind is the endogenous evolution of sacrificial systems. Civilization leaps forward at each significant substitution of victims, when animals are substituted for humans, then plants, then puppets or shibboleths, then abstract entities. The history of civilization is one with the history of symbolization. Any secular account of religious life has necessarily the form of a tangled hierarchy. It must posit that men make the gods that make them. As is wellknown, Girard posits the existence of a universal mechanism by which violence, due to its imitative (contagious) properties, is capable of transcending itself and creates stable institutions that we call “the sacred.” The sacred is the violence of men, expelled, exteriorized, hypostatized. At the paroxysm of a violent crisis, when a murderous frenzy has shattered the system of differences that makes up the social order and sparked a war of all against all, violent contagion produces a catastrophic convergence of every enmity upon an arbitrary member of the collectivity. Putting that member to death is what abruptly restores peace. The result is religion in its three component parts: rituals, prohibitions, and myths. These “things hidden since the foundation of the world” are not unknown to us. They have become an open secret, so to speak. All one need do is glance through a newspaper. The term “scapegoat” is served up at every opportunity. Just think about the word. This expression declares the innocence of the victim. It reveals the mechanism of the self-exteriorization of violence. For Girard, that knowledge working through us has a Christian origin: the passion of the Christ. This knowledge has clogged up the works of the machine for making the sacred, damaging it irreparably. As it sacralizes less and less well, it produces more and more violence, but a violence that has lost the power to impose order on itself. Such is the modern world, described as a “low-gear mimetic crisis,” “without catastrophic escalation or resolution of any kind.” The catastrophe is constantly deferred until the final Apocalypse. In light of this account, the Serbian abject mise-en-scène appears for what it is: a sham, a counterfeit. From now on unable to transcend itself, violence needs to don borrowed clothes, those of an established religion, in the present case Islam, to offer the appearance of the sacred. One thinks of the Christian-style weddings that account for more than 60 percent of all marriages celebrated in

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Japan. In the weddings held in hotels, there are many people impersonating priests and pastors who are employed by special agencies and they conduct marriages without the couples knowing that they are not ordained. At times, truly ordained pastors accept to play their role to make ends meet. They are like Jean-Paul Sartre’s waiter who is play acting as a waiter, as an object in the world: an automaton whose essence is to be a waiter. In a world in the process of secularization or, better, desacralization, that’s the best violence can hope to achieve: to mimic the sacred. The sacred itself is a mimicry and a sham: it reproduces in a corrupted way the founding event. Sacred terror is therefore a copy of a copy—in other terms, a simulacrum.

Causes and reason “They hated me without reason,” says the Gospel of John that René Girard preferred to quote in this translation. The usual version reads “without a cause.” But the Greek original (dôron) refers to the gratuitousness of God’s gift to the world. Isn’t it astounding that the violence of which Christ is victim should be referred to by the very word that serves to designate the absence of reason that presides over God’s love for us? The terrorists’ violence certainly has a million causes that have been analyzed by as many scholarly articles. But as far as reason is concerned, this violence doesn’t go beyond murderous imbecility. In his last book, the most pessimistic of all, Girard prophesied that this violence, which he called “essential,” was about to carry off everything in its path. “Without reason” means “wantonly,” “gratuitously.” An even better phrase would be “against Reason.” The reason in question is one with the knowledge of the mechanism of collective victimage, a knowledge that deprives the mechanism of its capacity for self-transcendence. Everything occurs as though we were witnessing currently a revenge of this mechanism against the revelation that uncovered it. Let’s do some geometry here. Imagine two cones sharing the same apex and the same horizontal axis (see Figure 1). The two bases are parallel and represent the undifferentiated crowd. The common apex is the singularity of the system. The left-hand cone represents collective victimage or lynching: all hatreds converge toward the apex, that is, the victim. What makes the crowd an undifferentiated mass is the contagiousness of violence. The right-hand cone is like the adulterated mirror image of the founding event—a little like the girl in Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror, whose reflection shows a prostitute.5 The victim



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Figure 1  Depiction of the revenge of the scapegoating logic. See text for explanation.

is now the subject, that is, according to etymology, the one who lies beneath— sub-jacere—but also, at the same time, the vainly proud modern subject, would-be master of the world as of himself. Like the victim he too will die, but this in order to better accomplish his crime, which consists, like the terrorists at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, in November 2015, in shooting more or less at random at an undifferentiated crowd—the principle of undifferentiation being this time the anonymity of the victims. The ambivalence of the apex can be taken to represent the two sides of selfsacrifice: the passion of the Christ on the cross and its monstrous reflection in the self-inflicted deaths of the terrorists.

Girard’s underestimation of the power of the katechon (the case of nuclear deterrence) For Girard, the sacred is a katechon, in the sense the Bible gives this Greek word: that which holds back, that which defers, postpones, or even stops the Apocalypse, in the double meaning of revelation and destruction. “Satan expels

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Satan,” says the Bible (Mk 3:22-30), a phrase often referred to by Girard, which he takes as synonymous with the capacity of violence to self-externalize and contain itself.6 Satan is therefore the katechon par excellence. It seems clear to Girard, however, that, again as the Bible says, Satan is losing his power as katechon, undermined by the Christian revelation. All human institutions, from power to money, from law to national defense, all those “rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world” denounced by Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians (6:12), are bound to crumble because they all derive from the primitive sacred and its mendaciousness is unveiled by the passion of the Christ. They too are, or were, varieties of katechon, inasmuch as they embodied a form of misrecognition (méconnaissance). The Christian revelation appears then to be a snare, the knowledge it carries, a kind of trap, since it deprives humanity of the only means it had to keep its violence in check, namely the violence of the sacred. Thus Jesus’ enigmatic words suddenly take on unsuspected meaning: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34). As Girard puts it: Every advance in knowledge of the victimage mechanism, everything that flushes violence out of its lair, doubtless represents, at least potentially, a formidable advance for men in an intellectual and ethical respect but, in the short run, it is all going to translate as well into an appalling resurgence of this same violence in history, in its most odious and most atrocious forms, because the sacrificial mechanisms become less and less effective and less and less capable of renewing themselves … Humanity in its entirety already finds itself confronted with an ineluctable dilemma: men must reconcile themselves for evermore without sacrificial intermediaries, or they must resign themselves to the coming extinction of humanity.7

I have always found these statements too peremptory. At face value they lead to a kind of Gelassenheit, a Heideggerian word that can be rendered by “relinquishment,” “abandonment,” at the very least a profoundly antipolitical. There is nothing else to do than wait until the increasing violence of the world takes us to the final bifurcation, and then make the right choice, which is of course the conversion of each individual, independently of all the others, to the kingdom of God, that is, the renunciation of violence. I do believe that a number of human institutions can serve as katechon, that they can survive the revelation that they find their origin in the selftranscendence of violence, and that we must do all that is in our power to strengthen them.



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I’ll consider the case of nuclear deterrence. If there exists a domain in which Satan is supposedly capable of expelling Satan, that is it. Having the bomb, the strategists tell us, has only one purpose: preventing the others from using it. During the quasi half-century of the Cold War, the two major nuclear powers, the US and the USSR, constantly threatened to annihilate each other. That hasn’t happened. It would be paradoxical to believe that the latter fact was caused by the former. However, this paradox is precisely the essence of nuclear deterrence. In the section of Des choses cachées entitled “Science and Apocalypse,” Girard makes important observations on what has been called in an improbable oxymoron “nuclear peace.” This, according to him, shows clearly that we are already living under the spell of the revelation. The Bomb has become like the “Queen of the world”; we live under Her protection, but we also know that Her destructive power is purely human. Girard writes: “In a world more and more desacralized, only the permanent threat of total and immediate destruction stops human beings from destroying one another. As always, violence is that which prevents the unleashing of violence.”8 What is remarkable at this stage of his analysis is that Girard feels the need to tell us that nuclear peace is not the sign that the kingdom of God is already with us.9 He goes so far as to say that “under certain aspects, the power of destruction of the bomb functions in a way similar to the logic of the sacred.”10 If the nuclear peace is a new form of the sacred informed by the knowledge that the power of destruction that threatens us with complete annihilation and, at the same time, protects us against that tragic end, comes from us and not from God, the question is: What kind of the sacred compatible with the end of misrecognition are we dealing with here? Girard saw the complexity of the issue but seemed to be satisfied with the remark that “We are dealing here with a situation that is intermediary and complex.”11 Unfortunately, he did not try to go further in the clarification of the “intermediary” status of our situation. That is what I will endeavor to do now.12 In January 2000, President Clinton paid a visit to President Putin. Clinton’s paradoxical task was to convince his partner that the antimissile shield that the United States was planning on setting up would not prevent Russia from being able to destroy American society if it had to. The shield, Clinton explained to Putin in order to placate his concerns, would be thick enough to stop ballistic missiles launched by rogue states, but thin enough to be easily penetrated by the Russian missiles. This shows in a glaring light that nuclear deterrence, in the form that has fittingly been called MAD (for “Mutually Assured Destruction”),

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entails the abandonment of the military defense of one’s nation: the policy of deterrence does not contemplate doing anything in defense of the homeland. In fact, it positively requires that each side leave its population open to attack and make no serious effort to protect it. The safety can be only as great as the terror is. If the terror were to be diminished—by, for example, building bomb shelters that would protect some significant part of the population—then safety would be diminished, too, because the protected side might be tempted to launch a holocaust, in the belief that it could “win” the hostilities. In MAD, “destruction” must, perversely, be “assured”, as though our aim were to destroy, and not to save, humankind. All these features of MAD run so consistently counter to the far simpler, more familiar, and emotionally more comprehensible logic of traditional military thinking—not to mention instinct and plain common sense—that the deterrence doctrine, when it was being applied, was constantly under challenge from traditional doctrine. The hard-won gains of deterrence were repeatedly threatened by a recrudescence of the old desire for victory, for national defense in the old sense, and for military superiority. For a long time, strategic thinking had it that nuclear deterrence rested on an intention: the threat to blow up the whole world into an apocalyptic ending were the adversary to take a step forward. There were many problems with the internal consistency of that theory, not to mention its blatant immorality: isn’t the readiness to kill sixty million innocent people frighteningly close to killing them for real? One of the major problems had to do with the very credibility of the threat. As Jonathan Schell puts it: Since in nuclear-deterrence theory the whole purpose of having a retaliatory capacity is to deter a first strike, one must ask what reason would remain to launch the retaliation once the first strike had actually arrived. It seems that the logic of the deterrence strategy is dissolved by the very event—the first strike—that it is meant to prevent. Once the action begins, the whole doctrine is self-canceling. It would seem that the doctrine is based on a monumental logical mistake: one cannot credibly deter a first strike with a second strike whose raison d’être dissolves the moment the first strike arrives.

The solution came with a name: existential deterrence. The intention or threat to retaliate and launch a counterattack that will lead to the Apocalypse—is that the problem? Let us get rid of the intention. As two major American philosophers put it: “The existence of a nuclear retaliatory capability suffices for deterrence,



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regardless of a nation’s will, intentions, or pronouncements about nuclear weapons use”;13 and “You don’t tangle with tigers—it’s that simple.”14 This second statement is far more profound than it may sound. It means that the game is no longer played between two (or more) adversaries. It takes on an altogether different form. Neither is in a position to deter the other in a credible way. However, both want and need to be deterred. The way out of this impasse is brilliant. It is a matter of creating jointly a fictitious entity that will deter both at the same time. The game is now played between one actor, humankind, whose survival is at stake, and its double, namely its own violence exteriorized in the form of a nonhuman entity. The fictitious and fictional “tiger” we’d better not tangle with is nothing other than the violence that is in us but that we project outside of us: it is as if we were threatened by an exceedingly dangerous entity, external to us, whose intentions toward us are not evil, but whose power of destruction is infinitely superior to all the earthquakes or tsunamis that Nature has in store for us. We recognize here, at the symbolic level, the mechanism of self-externalization of violence. In his Memoirs, Robert McNamara asserts that thirty-odd times during the Cold War we were “that close” to a nuclear total self-annihilation of humankind. Does that mean that deterrence was ineffective? Quite to the contrary; it was that constant playing with fire that kept us permanently on our guard. Those “near misses” were the condition of possibility of the efficiency of nuclear deterrence. For deterrence to be effective at all, we must be at the right distance from the black hole of the self-destruction of humankind: not too close, lest we should be burnt to death; not too far away, lest we should forget the existence of the threat. That structure is exactly that of the sacred as brought out by Girard. I am not speaking of an analogy here. It is the very same thing. We must not be too close to the sacred, because it would release the violence that it keeps in check, like a Pandora’s box; we must not be too far from the sacred, because it protects us from our own violence. The sacred contains violence, in the twofold meaning of the word. There is a fundamental difference, though, between the sacred embodied in nuclear deterrence and the old sacred. We moderns know that the wild cat is a ruse, an artifice, an artful stratagem. We pretend to believe that it is real in the same way that we pretend to believe that the made-up story we are being told or shown is true. This “suspension of disbelief ” is essential for fiction to bring about real effects in us and the world.15 Nuclear deterrence in its existential interpretation appears to be a selfreflexive, self-organized, self-externalized social system—neither blind,

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spontaneous collective phenomenon nor formal, carefully crafted set of procedures as in a ritual. It is indeed, as Girard wrote, an “intermediary case.” At the very least, it shows that the mechanisms of the sacred are perfectly compatible with a good measure of connaissance—that is, of self-knowledge. It would seem then that nuclear deterrence is an informed return to the sacred, but in a rational way this time. Those who, like me, consider that it is an ethical abomination, however inevitable given the current state of the world, won’t hesitate to equate it with the behavior of the Serbian police officers narrated above. At any rate this is a configuration that Girard’s theory excludes explicitly. It is from this originary exclusion that he can derive the eschatological conclusions that I cited, and fall prey in particular to the accusation that his system leads inevitably to political relativism and even political nihilism. In order to defend itself against this grave accusation, if my conclusions are correct we see that it needs to jettison one of its key postulates, namely the incompatibility between the sacred and self-knowledge. Is that price too high? We need to ponder that question in the years to come.

Notes 1

Following the lead of Jean Baudrillard’s notorious article after 9/11: “L’esprit du terrorisme,” Le Monde, November 3, 2001. 2 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press), 1977. 3 Personal communication with the author. 4 Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, ed. Mark S. Cladis and trans. Carol Cosman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 174. 5 See Pablo Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror (1932) at https://www.moma.org/ collection/works/78311. 6 Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair (Paris: Grasset, 1999), 64–5. English translation: I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James Williams (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001). 7 Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde (Paris: Grasset, 1979). English translation: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, trans. Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 150, 160. The American edition is a disaster. 8 Girard, Things Hidden, 279. 9 Ibid., 281.



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10 Ibid., 278–9. 11 Ibid., 281. 12 I will draw from Ch. 6, “The Nuclear Menace: A New Sacrament for Humanity,” of my book, The Mark of the Sacred, trans. Malcolm DeBevoise (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013). 13 Gregory Kavka, Moral Paradoxes of Nuclear Deterrence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 48. 14 David K. Lewis, “Finite Counterforce,” in Nuclear Deterrence and Moral Restraint, ed. Henry Shue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989), 68 (my italics). 15 Politics in its noblest moments is able to resort to fiction or make-believe in order to change the world. In my own work, I have proposed to extend the lesson that I draw from the study of nuclear deterrence to the whole gamut of threats that put the survival of the species today in jeopardy. Under the title “Enlightened Doomsaying,” I have set out to rehabilitate the figure and the role of the “prophet of doom” in the city. It is only if we take those threats to be fatalities and not risks that we’ll have a chance to be spared by them. It is only if we pretend to believe that our destiny is the self-annihilation of humankind that we’ll have a chance to avert it. See Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Pour un catastrophisme éclairé (Paris: Seuil, 2002).

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Forms of the Sacred and the Texture of Hope Sarah Bachelard

What must we do to be saved?1 This is the question urgently posed by René Girard’s account of the near inevitability of global catastrophe in the wake of the collapse of sacred mechanisms for limiting human violence.2 In his paper, ‘The Sacred Is Back—But as Simulacrum’,3 Jean-Pierre Dupuy addresses Girard’s reading of our contemporary situation in two dimensions. On the one hand, he offers a deepened sense of what it means to speak of the collapse of sacred mechanisms in the light of what looks like their renewed power in certain quarters. On the other hand, he proposes that there remain “forms” of the sacred whose significance has been overlooked by Girard and in whose maintenance lies the hope of what remains possible by way of life on earth. In this reflection, I acknowledge the importance of these remaining “forms” of the sacred, while wondering about the texture of the hope that they license. Could it be that our deeper task is to hope (almost against hope) for more than this?

The sacred as simulacrum According to Girard, the sacred is essentially “the violence of men, expelled, exteriorized, hypostatized.”4 It originates when, in protohuman societies, the violent frenzy of the mob culminates with the selection of an arbitrary victim against whom all are united. The victim is murdered (sacrificed) and the frenzy abates; peace is restored at least for a time. “It is on this basis,” writes Dupuy, “that religion proceeds to its work of interpretation, symbolization, and ritualization.”5 On Girard’s account, the passion of Christ unveils the logic of this sacrificial mechanism, revealing its essentially human origin. It thus becomes

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less and less effective in restoring peace, or in stabilizing human society in relation to a “sacred” myth. The result is a process of “desacralization,” which tends to produce more and more violence, violence that “has lost the power to impose order on itself.”6 This is the modern world. The recent escalation in avowedly “religious” violence may seem a reversal of the process of desacralization, but Dupuy argues that this is a kind of illusion. In fact, the escalation of what he calls “sacred terror” is itself part of the continuing consequence of desacralization. Dupuy discusses two recent and terrible examples. The first of these is the Islamist terror attacks in France in 2015, which evoke the sacred because of the perpetrators’ religious identification and their own “self-sacrifice”—“as if,” Dupuy says, “the victims’ victims were sacrificial victims.”7 Second, he discusses the 1999 case of Serbian police officers in Kosovo who murdered a Muslim youth in front of his parents in a parodic and brutal subversion of the “nonsacrifice” of Ishmael.8 In relation to both these examples, Dupuy points out that not all murders are sacrificial even if they evoke the sacred.9 And although (in one sense) all sacrifice is murder, there is still a difference between sacrifice and crime; what makes sacrifice not merely identical to crime is its capacity to transcend and contain its own violence. Dupuy argues, then, that although sacred terror evokes (we might say) sacral resonances, it fails either to transcend or contain its own violence. It is thus a sham form of the sacred, a simulacrum—that is, an image without the substance or qualities of the original. This violence no longer functions to bring even a provisional peace, and thus reveals the collapse of the power of the sacred even as it clads itself in religious garb. This analysis seems true of the murder of the Kosovar boy. I wondered at first if the case of Islamist terror is slightly different. On the one hand, yes, this violence seems to have become an end in itself, mere gratuitous destruction. Rather than the sacrifice of victims or even the self-sacrifice of the perpetrators functioning to transcend or contain violence, the whole point seems to be the escalation of violence. As Dupuy says, “this violence doesn’t go beyond murderous imbecility,”10 and it is as if the logic of the scapegoating mechanism is being reversed. Whereas in the archaic sacred, the contagious frenzy of the undifferentiated crowd converges toward the victim whose sacrifice brings peace, in this “simulacrum” of the sacred the self-immolating “victim” becomes a perpetrator of violence against an undifferentiated crowd whose murder means nothing.11 And yet, on the other hand, it seems there are elements of the archaic sacred still in play. The anonymous victims of Islamist terror are still “other” to the



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perpetrators in some way—they are Western, or Westernized, or Shi’ite. They are, in other words, transgressors whose existence can be deemed polluting. Furthermore, there is significant identity formation going on around this violence—the creation and establishment of an Islamic State whose (ultimately) peaceful existence is allegedly being secured via the destabilizing and destruction of the infidel West. Does this suggest that there is a sense in which this terror is the “real” archaic sacred and not merely its simulacrum? Dupuy maintains, however, that this really is just the form of the old sacred. It is perhaps capable of hoodwinking the rank and file members of al-Qua‘ida and Islamic State, but it is essentially emptied of substance and cynically manipulated by the leaders of these movements. As he says: “unable to transcend itself violence needs to don borrowed clothes, those of an established religion, in the present case Islam, to offer the appearance of the sacred.”12 Indeed, the recognition that it is merely a simulacrum of the sacred helps explain how this violence seems against all strategic necessity, and in principle endless.

The sacred as katechon On this account, then, the continued process of desacralization in the modern world is revealed even at the point where so-called “sacred” imperatives seem most powerfully operative. And this intensifies the urgency of our situation. For the process of desacralization neither deals with nor does away with the necessity to discover ways of containing our own violence. For this reason, Dupuy posits the possibility of an “informed return” to the mechanism of sacred transcendence, the sacred as katechon. Dupuy is uneasy with Girard’s response to the likely apocalyptic consequences of the collapse of the old archaic sacred. Where Girard posits a choice between the mass transformation of individual consciousness or the extinction of humanity, Dupuy considers this too “peremptory”13. He argues that “a number of human institutions can serve as katechon”14—that is, they can both exteriorize and contain our violence. These institutions, he believes, “can survive the revelation that they find their origin in the self-transcendence of violence, and … we must do all that is in our power to strengthen them.”15 Notice, then, that these institutions are “quasi” sacred because they perform the same function as the old sacred. The difference is we know we are making them up; we are no longer unconsciously, but knowingly, ruled by them.

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The example Dupuy discusses is nuclear deterrence. On his analysis, nuclear deterrence worked in the Cold War because the threat of annihilation hovered over both sides simultaneously. This “threat of annihilation,” though created by the nuclear powers themselves, functioned as a kind of “third” entity—an entity to which both powers were ultimately subject. Rather than war being averted because of the even matching of two rivals competing on the same level, what happened was that this jointly created entity deterred both at the same time. “The game is now played,” Dupuy writes, “between one actor, humankind, whose survival is at stake, and its double, namely its own violence exteriorized in the form of a nonhuman entity.”16 And this is just how the “sacred” functions. Human violence is projected or exteriorized, and then it works to contain further violence, as this now “external” power is believed to have the power of life and death. The case of successful nuclear deterrence shows, says Dupuy, that the katechon function of the sacred is compatible with a degree of self-knowledge about the mechanism itself: the strategy of nuclear deterrence is, then, an “informed return to the sacred, but in a rational way.”17 This offers a new, perhaps “intermediate” possibility for coping with our own violence. Although Dupuy considers it “an ethical abomination,” he also considers it “inevitable given the current state of the world.”18 It is a kind of wilful delusion, a “necessary fiction,” that saves us from the worst of ourselves. I see the power of this argument. Nevertheless, for me it raises two significant concerns. One is to do with the continuing efficacy of the katechon in a context where, for example, the “threat of annihilation” already seems to have lost its power to contain the violence of suicide bombers. The second and deeper worry is that, while saving us from the worst of ourselves, this expedient seems also to alienate us from the best of ourselves. The reliance on a katechon is essentially about outsourcing our responsibility, our “answerability” for how we are in the world and the consequences of that. Like the archaic sacred itself, the recourse to even an informed katechon seems somehow infantilizing, a refusal of the call to unillusioned maturity. I realize that I risk falling foul here of Dupuy’s criticism of Girard—if we are relying on a mass transformation of consciousness to save us, it seems unlikely to happen before we render ourselves extinct. So perhaps it is true we must rely on this kind of “informed return to the sacred” to some extent. Yet it seems to me that this reliance must be accompanied by our learning practices, which ultimately enable a different way of going beyond our own violence, and make possible an authentic peace.



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But what might these practices be? How might we be enabled to recognize and own the violence within ourselves and our communities instead of seeking first to “expel and exteriorize” it? And how might this violence be overcome peaceably, forgiven, and dissolved rather than merely strategically expended or controlled? As I have already noted, on Girard’s account, it is the passion of Christ that has made visible the logic and limits of the sacrificial mechanism as functioning only ever to contain violence rather than to create true and lasting peace. What I want to explore now is the claim that not only does this event reveal the violent origins of the archaic sacred, but that it simultaneously unveils the reality of what theologian James Alison calls “another Other,”19 a true sacred transcendence capable not simply of containing, but of transforming our violence by means of authentically reconciling love. I want to suggest that insofar as our subjectivity and forms of belonging are sourced in this reality, we become capable of a different order of peace, a peace that is “not as the world gives” (Jn 14:27). In what follows, I will elaborate the possibility of this transformation in terms of the Christian tradition but will comment later on the question of its dependence on explicitly confessional faith.

The peace of God Alison has pointed out that what is extraordinary about the story told in the gospels is not only its revelation of the real nature of the sacrificial mechanism, but its recognition that Jesus deliberately provokes it in order to liberate us from being run by it. Jesus is remembered as having shown “perfectly well by word and by action that he understands this mechanism, understands the religious and political structures which depend on it and shore it up.”20 He dangerously reincludes, for example, many who have been conveniently dispatched to the “outside”—the supposedly unclean, unrighteous, and alien. He makes no effort to stay on the right side of the religious and civil authorities, which has the effect of turning him into a target for the mechanism. While we do almost anything we can to avoid being singled out in this way, it is as if, says Alison, Jesus “lures it into behaving according to its usual pattern,” which, indeed, it does. Jesus is accused of blasphemy and handed over to be killed, one man sacrificed (as the high priest Caiaphas says) for the sake of the nation (Jn 11:50). The mechanism appears to triumph, the old order safely secured. But then

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comes the twist in the tale. Unlike all the other victims, Jesus does not remain silenced, banished. Whatever we make of the resurrection narratives, it is clear that for the earliest Christian communities, part of their experience is of Jesus as in some sense alive on the other side of death, freed from its thrall, and still offering his friendship and life. And this is the experience that begins to open, for Jesus’ followers, the possibility of a new form of universal human community and peace on earth. How? Drawing on Girard’s mimetic theory, Alison argues that the source of the human tendency to violence (which we must then “expel and exteriorize”) is the felt need to secure our own identity over against others and, indeed, over against nonbeing. This sense of need, he suggests, is intrinsic to the development of human consciousness. It works like this. We start out radically dependent on others, not simply for our bodily needs but also for becoming selves, for our very identities.21 Alison notes that the better we are parented, the more we receive a sense of our own “being” without having to grasp at it. Nevertheless, our need for being is never fully met: he writes, “there is what might (with great care) be called an ontological need, a radical need to be, a need which draws us to others and to imitate them in order to acquire a sense of being, something felt as a lack.”22 The problem is, however, that the mimetic process by which we develop our identity may lead also to our seeking to build or shore up our identity or our group’s identity over against others. “As if by magic we know, as small children, how to strengthen our group: by finding someone weak to cast out, someone against whom we can all be.”23 On this account, then, the sacrificial mechanism is a response to the felt sense of lack that is intrinsic to the very process of human identity formation, and the compulsion to grasp at, secure, and possess our “being” for ourselves. What the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus does is to reveal the non­necessity of such grasping at identity, such compulsive “self-possession.” On the one hand, Jesus models the possibility of living free from projects of competitive self-making and self-protection. He entrusts himself wholly to the one he calls “Father” as the source and sustainer of his life; he invites his disciples to “follow me” in that same trusting dependence even in the face of threat and death. He reveals that through receiving one’s being peaceably from this Other, there is freedom to be in relationship to any and all people, liberated from rivalry and unafraid of contagion by those deemed impure, foreign, and otherwise suspect.



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The disciples see Jesus live in this way and live it out to the end. Then it’s time to discover whether his way of being is shareable, and capable of sustaining them in life. At first, it doesn’t look promising. Rowan Williams has written that, as Jesus is crucified, the “incipient ‘new Israel’ of the Twelve is scattered.”24 They have been led by Jesus beyond the religious and social belonging they have known, but their “longings for power” and positions of influence in the supposed new age have been disappointed. Jesus appears to have been abandoned by God and the “embryonic new identities they had begun to learn in [his] company” are exposed as weak and confused “as they find they cannot survive his failure and dereliction.”25 They are rendered humiliated, despairing. Their encounter with the risen Jesus, then, was sheer gift. It was nothing they generated or deserved; in Williams’s words, it was “new life from a moral and material nothing.”26 Going by the New Testament witness, the disciples experienced this encounter as release from guilt and shame, and as renewed purpose and call. Gradually, they come to believe that Jesus’ provocation of the sacrificial mechanism is “for them,” a revelation of the unfathomable life from which he lives and a liberation from the fear of death and judgment.27 They begin to imagine the possibility of ordinary human identity and community indefeasibly sourced in the same giving and forgiving life, without victims, and over against nothing at all. And this is the ground of catholicity or universal human community. It is the possibility of the peace that the world cannot give. But how do we actually realize this possibility for human being? Can the promise of this kind of transformation really save us from the escalating war of “all against all,” and in the face of which Dupuy counsels the “informed return to the sacred” as katechon? What is clear is that nothing will be transformed at this deeper level without persons and communities actually letting go the default human tendency to rely on forms of identity and belonging that are implicated in violence. It is not enough to talk about the transformation of the sources of our identity; we must be willing to undergo the real death of the “old” self and its pretensions to selfpossession and control. And this is the difficult part. We cannot accomplish this by thinking about it, believing in it, or even by willing it. We must put ourselves in the way of its being accomplished in us, and as far as we can, practice the costly way of self-dispossession and receptivity to gift. Discipleship of Jesus is supposed to lead in this way, but all too often Christian confession has become simply another source of fixed identity, violently maintained over against others.

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For this reason, it seems to me that the essential issue is not what we “confess with our lips,” but how we are being changed. Insofar as they recognize the necessity for the transformation of the heart, the spiritual disciplines of many traditions, when faithfully and generously practiced, enable this process. Worship, service, fasting, and hospitality are all practices intended to displace the self-possessing, egoic self from the center of things, and to risk an opening to others and the real transcendent Other. Particularly significant, I believe, is the practice of silent meditation or contemplative prayer. Theologian Sarah Coakley has described this practice as “the defenceless prayer of silent waiting on God.”28 It is especially powerful because the discipline of laying aside all thoughts and ultimately self-consciousness itself enacts the total handing over (the “death”) of the old self, and a radical self-entrustment to the Other in faith and love. This, as John Main remarked, “takes nerve.”29 Even in our prayers and spiritual disciplines we can be tempted to assert ourselves, to protect our vulnerability by subtly positioning and justifying ourselves. The practice of silent meditation subverts our mechanisms of self-possession and self-protection at the deepest level. Whether it is true that there is an “other Other,” an energy of giving love in whom all people may find themselves at home and at peace, cannot be known in the abstract. It can only be tested and discovered to the extent that we let ourselves go, and receive its fullness on the other side of that self-giving. The saints and sages of the world testify to this possibility, and their lives manifest the difference it makes. The question is our willingness to commit to this way.

Forms of the sacred and the texture of hope We have been discussing forms of the sacred. On Dupuy’s analysis, there is the archaic, violent sacred, which contains violence by the sacrifice of the one for the many. There is the simulacrum of that sacred, which involves the murder of the many and fails to contain violence at all. Then there is the contemporary katechon, which includes, on Dupuy’s account, not only nuclear deterrence but also law, economy, and the state. These exteriorize and contain violence through our knowing “suspension of disbelief ” as we all pretend that such human creations exist beyond our control. Dare we believe there is a fourth form of the sacred by which our trajectory toward self-destruction might be not simply controlled but transformed? At



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one level, it seems fanciful and absurd to suggest that invocation of this other Other, and the process of our personal conversion, self-dispossession, and transformation, might weigh in the balance against complacent infantilism, the self-interest of the military-industrial complex, the consumerist juggernaut of late capitalism, and the incipient collapse of the ecosystem. Is not invoking the energy of some supposed “real” transcendence precisely the refusal of that unillusioned maturity of which I spoke earlier? Well, I do not believe for a minute that some power will come down from heaven and save us from ourselves. But I do think we can be changed at the deepest levels of our consciousness by practices that open us to the energy of what some of us name “God”—practices of meditation, self-dispossession, and other-centeredness. Of course, such practices are compatible (at least in the medium term) with the continuing functioning of necessary intermediary forms of quasi-sacred transcendence, the katechon. But those intermediary forms, I suspect, will not ultimately serve—they are already crumbling—and so our promulgation of and commitment to these spiritual practices is also a matter of urgent necessity. And maybe, in saying this, we do have grounds for hope—for together with the rise in our world of sacred terror and regressive narcissism, we are seeing a profound renewal of contemplative practice in every religious tradition as well as in the secular realm. Perhaps this suggests that humanity is not yet done with life, after all.

Notes 1 2

3

4 5

Cf. Acts 2:37; 16:30. See René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), and Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture and Crisis (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 161–7. This previously unpublished paper was delivered at the conference co-hosted by the Colloquium on Violence and Religion and the Australian Girard Seminar at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, on July 13–17, 2016, and is printed in the current volume as Ch. 6. See also Jean-Pierre Dupuy, The Mark of the Sacred, trans. Malcolm DeBevoise (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013). Dupuy, “The Sacred Is Back,” 97. Ibid., 95.

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6 Ibid., 97. 7 Ibid., 94. 8 Ibid., 96. 9 Ibid., 95. 10 Ibid., 98. 11 Ibid., 99. 12 Ibid., 97. 13 Ibid., 100. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid., 103. 17 Ibid., 104. 18 Ibid. 19 James Alison, Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2006), 20. 20 James Alison, “On Learning to Say ‘Jesus Is Lord’: A ‘Girardian’ Confession,” in Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay (New York: Crossroad, 2001), 147–69, at 152–3. 21 This is a truncated version of the discussion of the process of human identity formation that Alison draws from Girard’s mimetic theory and its deployment by J.-M. Oughourlian in developmental psychology. See James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes (New York: Crossroad, 1998), 27–33. 22 Ibid., 33. 23 Ibid. See also Alison, Undergoing God, 5. 24 Rowan Williams, “Resurrection and Peace: More on New Testament Ethics,” in On Christian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 265–75, at 270. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid., 271. 27 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life,” Jn 5:24. 28 Sarah Coakley, “Kenosis and Subversion: On the Repression of ‘Vulnerability’ in Christian Feminist Writing,” in Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (Malden: Blackwell, 2002), 3–39, at 34. 29 John Main, Word into Silence (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1980), 23.

8

The End of Politics?1 Chris Fleming

Moral epistemologies I want to begin by mapping out three of the most common ways in which violence done in the name of religion is explained. I’m going to label these: 1. the ideological explanation; 2. the political explanation; and 3. the individualist explanation. Each of these represents a quite different approach to the question “What is it we are witnessing here?” when we encounter something we think of as religious violence. In “The Sacred Is Back—But as Simulacrum,”2 Jean-Pierre Dupuy offers two of these for consideration (the first two), but I’d like to add the third, for reasons that I hope will become clear. These three orientations obviously reveal different disciplinary perspectives; that is, people who offer them characteristically have had different training and come from different disciplines: psychology, political science, economics, cultural studies, and so on. However, I want to make the case—which I think is implicit in Professor Dupuy’s chapter—that these explanatory orientations that offer themselves to us as explanatory, are not just that, but inherently normative; that is, they reveal the different ethical and political orientations of those who use them. They are not just neutral scientific models; rather, each carries a very different attitude toward the victim. Let’s go through each in turn: 1. The ideological (which also could be called “idealist”) view is typically expressed by the right; it posits that what we call Islam is something equivalent to the acting out of an ideology (laid out in the Qur’an, hadith,

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the sharia texts, and so on), which, when given assent to by a person, creates the necessary and perhaps sufficient conditions for all sorts of evil. In this world, malevolence lurks behind every beard and burka. Why call this view “ideological”? Because the explanation here implicitly relies on a kind of idealism or cognitivism—the view that Islam is violent because of its ideas, that it is, at base, a set of ideas, and those ideas are violent, and so—the logic goes—Islam is only truly itself when it is being violent. The Qur’an here is figured as some kind of DNA that codes the specific proteins that build terrorists. (Richard Dawkins has this view of all religion, because he believes that religion is simply—to paraphrase Lewis Carroll—a set of impossible things you have to believe before breakfast.) 2. Contrastingly, we also have the reflexive left, who see in almost any criticism of any incarnation of political Islam in the contemporary world “Islamophobia.” The actors or quasi-agents in the political explanation (although it could also be called “systemic” or “structural”) are large, impersonal entities: states, classes, genders, races, History Itself, and so on.3 This explanation, to work at all, needs often to deny what the perpetrators of the violence say that their violence means. To the terrorist who says “I killed for Allah,” the cultural studies academic will say “No you didn’t— you killed because we, in the West, are such imperialists, and you were operating through creative resistance to our hegemony.” (The necessity of this kind of recuperation of motive is interesting in itself, and obviously ironic as a form of “empowerment”—like interpreting a suicide note as a motivational speech—but I’m not going to pursue it.) 3. The third kind of explanation, the individualist, can be taken up by anyone, usually late in proceedings, and strictly on a need-to-use basis. Allow me to explain: The orientation of the individualist explanation is in either psychological pathology (“He did it because he has a mental illness”) or morality (“She did it because she’s resentful and selfish”). This position sometimes also has scientific overtones, like when an evolutionary psychologist “explains” some particular human behavior, like making car bombs, in terms of what might have been useful in the late Pleistocene with respect to human differential reproduction. Now these positions obviously do not cover every possible kind of explanation or account on offer in the public sphere, but I think these are the predominant ones on offer.



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Professor Dupuy says that at least two of these, the ideological and the political, “seem impossible to reconcile.” What I’m going to attempt here isn’t any kind of reconciliation, but rather an attempt to provide an account of how these views get generated and sustained—and exactly why it is that they are irreconcilable in their current form. Then I want to talk about René Girard’s Achever Clausewitz, the idea of politics and the apocalypse, and Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s advocacy of so-called “enlightened doomsaying.” So, first, what we seem to be looking at in these different accounts (ideological, political, and individualist) are different epistemologies—different ways of interpreting the social world. One relies on the importance of ideas, one on the primacy of impersonal institutional factors, and one on the psychological and moral differences between individuals. But here’s the interesting thing: when either side in a standoff tries to explain an event that doesn’t sit very well with its preferred interpretative model, in a simple act of hermeneutic triage, it happily drops it and adopts the opposition’s position. What do I mean? I mean that when a particular side’s model of interpretation does not already fit its designated victim of choice, which is invariably known in advance, its epistemology shifts to accommodate that preference.4 This I’m sure sounds all very abstract, so allow me to give a few illustrations. Typically, when a Muslim takes to the street and shoots Americans, those on the right blame Islam or “immigrants”; the individual here is merely a token of a particular type, to put it in philosophical terms. But when a white Christian shoots up a school, this idealist interpretation is suddenly dropped and one of two others is taken up—the psychological model (“Of course it’s not Christianity—the shooter was mentally ill”) or a structural-conspiracist model (“Sandy Hook was a false-flag planted by the sheeple of the System”). And this goes both ways: when, in 2014, Man Haron Monis held up and then took hostages at the Lindt café in Martin Place in Sydney, Australia, people on the right saw Islam playing itself out again. What did the left do? They did exactly what the right does when confronted with a white shooter. The left suddenly dropped their structural explanation, and ran a line on mental illness and criminality. Islam here was irrelevant.5 Monis here was figured as a criminal lunatic; all other categories were not only misplaced, but ethically corrupt. I’ll offer one final example, not related to religion, in order to suggest a somewhat broader pattern of the kind of phenomenon I’m talking about. After the financial crisis in 2008, those on the right, rediscovering their capacity for institutional analysis, adopted the structural approach; that is, the crisis simply

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reflected problems in the system of regulation and governance and “checks and balances” and had nothing to do with individuals. The CEOs were scapegoats and were acting legally and in the best interests of stakeholders. At the same time the left suddenly saw that the structural explanation—which often functions in an exculpatory way, construing people as “victims of a system”— was inadequate, and so suddenly they started talking about these bankers as individuals being “greedy” and “deceptive” “criminals”. (Leftists aren’t normally known for their invocation of the deadly sins, but here it streamed out of them like holy water from a baptismal font.) Now, what does this say? It suggests that at least sometimes we have our victims ready-made—we see them as a specific class—and then draw on our explanatory mechanisms after the fact. I’m not saying this is always the case. The minimal point here is that the victim takes precedence everywhere. Once we have ascertained who is the legitimate victim, the rest of our interpretation can proceed. Living in societies where the biblical tradition has not so much gone as gone nuts, to locate the victim or victims is the first act of interpretation—simultaneously epistemic and moral. This orientation is something we can twist and deform to our own ends, pander to our own prejudices and resentments; we are always tempted to decide before the details of any case come before us who will be the victim and who will be the perpetrator. In this way, we can prepare for history before it arrives, undisturbed by any contingency, having already done the modest labor of sorting goodies from baddies. To point out the exceedingly obvious, there are serious problems with this approach. Of course, we cannot announce publicly, “Regardless of the circumstances and in anticipation of the facts, Muslims are always the victim,” or “White people are always the victim.” So we therefore make such assertions look like the conclusion of an argument rather than its starting point. There are more than just epistemic dangers in this approach; in some ways they’re secondary. The very fact that the explanatory mechanisms employed are often preset and determined by the ideological reflexes that are used to interpret them means that a genuine encounter between different viewpoints is all too easy to avoid; this then is not simply an issue of how any particular circumstance is thought about—and how our telling of it is or is not accurate—but of how human interaction occurs.6 The symmetry here—when you see structure, I see agency; and when I see structure, you see agency—means that the participants in this interpretive dance imitate but never encounter each other.



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This dance is played out publicly, and in increasingly grotesque ways. My political or religious opponent here is not just an intellectual or cultural adversary but my enemy; this is not mere democratic agonism, a political contest, if you will, the one like Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe often talk about, but war.7 There is no space here for sincere, principled disagreement— little scope for assuming that someone with whom you disagree holds his or her position in good faith and with some deliberation, rather than holding to his or her view on the basis that he or she is either an intellectual primate or spends the time he or she is not arguing with you sitting at the right hand of Satan. Again, this is a broad cultural trend; even passing familiarity with cyberspace will reveal that a disagreement almost never takes the form of “I understand your view, but I disagree, and so I’d like you to consider something here …”—it is the domain of invective, insults, and threats. Rebuttals consist of creative invocations of excrement, sexual perversion, and claims that one’s opponent is living proof that claims of the extinction of Neanderthals were premature. The Internet is quickly becoming that unique logical space where the only valid argument is ad hominem. In cyberspace, nobody can hear you reason.

Standoff: The end of politics? So what exactly are we looking at? A number of thinkers have framed the contemporary world—especially those parts of it I’ve just glossed—in terms of the decline of the quality of politics and political debate; the argument here is that politicians of old were considered, noble, and eloquent, and the ones we have now are crass, narcissistic, and intellectually hobbled. This itself is the adoption of a particular interpretative stance with respect to political discourse—and the decline may or may not be the case. Regardless, I have a deeper concern: that we are not witnessing the degradation of politics, but the withdrawal or removal of politics; politics, that is, is something we are increasingly retreating from. (It’s not the first time.) Why might I say this? I think this is the case for two reasons: 1. politics as a practice at either national or international level is based on the ideas of compromise and negotiation, and these are in short supply; and 2. politics requires trust in the formal institutions and rules in which it is

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framed and played out, and these claim less allegiance than formerly even from those who act from within them. With respect to the first of these claims, what seems to be emerging in our time is a kind of attitude that suggests compromising—about anything whatsoever— is equivalent to selling out, a confession of inconsistency, the betrayal of one’s clan, a sign of moral cowardice, an omen of disharmony, a harbinger of catastrophe, and so on. So the contrary, rather, is upheld: that absolute consensus or total opposition are the only options. Examples of this aren’t hard to find: ISIS isn’t known for its nuanced foreign policy or the subtlety of its diplomatic relations. At a more mundane level, the US Senate announced in early 2016 that it wouldn’t even have hearings about a potential Supreme Court nominee, a decision that did battle with both tradition and, arguably, the US Constitution. In Australia, journalists make a sport of trying to catch politicians in the same party out by contrasting their views with those of other members of their own party or with party policy. The politicians typically scramble to defend their views, show that they’re not really different, that the question was unfair, that they’ve been taken out of context, and that they have no further comment at this time, and so on. I am living in a country, in other words, where one possible answer cannot even be considered: “Yes, I disagree with him about this particular issue, even though we’re in the same party. Why is that a problem? That’s precisely what politics looks like in a functioning democracy.” This is not just a matter of party politics. Academics seem to adore this as well. In the foreword to a recent book that consisted of a debate between Alain Finkielkraut, who seems to see in every hamburger, rock song, and swarthy immigrant the death of everything that is holy and sacred about France, and Alain Badiou, self-declared Maoist, whose conception of intellectual lucidity might be the motto “My Radical Position Is More Radical than Your Radical Position” (an utterance whose dialectical structure is such that you could adopt it in nursery school and carry it right through to getting tenure), the editor remarked about this debate: Neither of these men—for sound reason—is known for his love of consensus and the middle ground, let alone for his tendency to compromise. This is in fact one of the few things they have in common, which also makes them stand out today. [It doesn’t.] It’s the same kind of integrity regarding what each thinks is the truth that needs to be told without pulling any punches. And it’s also a proven courage, which has been tested since the mid-2000s in certain highly



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publicized intellectual controversies in which they have both at times been savaged. Stick firmly to your position, whatever the cost, Alain Badiou would say. Don’t be intimidated by the murmurings of political correctness, Alain Finkielkraut would reply. And then they’d quarrel over the nature of this very hostility that must be relentlessly confronted.8

As you might expect, the exchange that follows is no more a debate than a professional wrestling match is a street fight, or a pantomime a documentary. It is “political” only in name, and the only reason for mistaking that it is, is the frequency with which the interlocutors say the word “political,” perhaps hoping that nobody will notice the difference. But why should this be seen as the absence of politics rather than simply as an uncompromising version of the same? Some years ago, the British political philosopher Bernard Crick wrote a criminally neglected book—certainly neglected by Badiou and Finkielkraut— entitled In Defence of Politics. In it, he takes aim at those who subscribe to the ultimately apolitical “ethic of ultimate ends”:9 They scorn “purely political” considerations: the fact that there are, in any political community, a variety of different interests and moral ends which must be reconciled, if one is to act politically at all; if not, then ignored for a time, or destroyed forever. They do not believe in political action—which is, indeed, compromise … They believe, instead, in moral gestures and demonstrations. They appear before the people, but they are not of the people. The ethic of ultimate ends in politics is, at its best, the Phariseeism latent in pacifism; at its worst, it is the ruthlessness of Stalinism.10

I want to note here something that Crick doesn’t: that radical secularists and religious fundamentalists could be seen as occupying exactly the same political— or rather apolitical—position: both are hostage to the god of ultimate ends. They are unapologetic consequentialists: one form is called “utilitarianism” and is supported by thinkers like Peter Singer (who believes in the right of humans to have sex with animals, but not to eat them; I guess the female redback spider here would be a kind of ethical test case). And we have opponents, where “bringing about the kingdom of God” is equivalent to attempts to conjure the rapture, where the means to reach it are considered ultimately irrelevant; as the American military badge proclaims: “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” Perhaps it’s too easy to make the claim of mimetic doubles here, like I’m Don Quixote hallucinating Girard—but the case seems too tempting to resist.

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So if Crick is right in defending politics as the art of discussion of opposing views, of compromise and negotiation, then perhaps we are seeing not the degradation of political discourse, but the exit of politics altogether. And here Dupuy’s concerns about Girard are, I think cogent—that Girard’s path to Gelassenheit, the relinquishment or abandoning of politics, is ultimately unsatisfactory. Dupuy’s reading is astute and the concern, I believe, well-placed. Commenting on Clausewitz’s claim that political assessment can only come in the train of the kinds of war he discusses, and that politics is a mere servant of an irrational mass, Girard tells us “about the possible explosion of war, but also the possible delay of that explosion, and the fact that politics cannot do much about it.”11 This is a claim reiterated through the book. In Girard’s purview, politics becomes, in other words, as useful as trying to put out an inferno with a sneeze: noisy, unseemly, and utterly ineffective. Of course, it stands to reason that politics cannot do much about war if war is, by definition, the state in which politics has been abandoned (as Girard often seems to want to assert); but Girard appears, in another way, to want to do away with politics altogether, to diminish the role of the “merely political” in humanity’s confrontation with violence. Of course, if the final inferno hasn’t come, partly because we’re still here, and not charred remains, then we don’t know if Girard is correct or not. (In Jacques Derrida’s words, the apocalypse is “fabulously textual … something that one can only talk about.”12 That is, our total annihilation through war can only be represented because its actual appearance would leave no one and nothing to represent.) I agree with Professor Dupuy, against Girard, that a number of human institutions can serve as katechon. To run screaming toward caves now seems premature and requires some surety about what the future holds; but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the history of the future is a notoriously unreliable discipline. But of the future, and our current narration of it, I’d want to distance myself a little from both Girard and Dupuy. I like, poetically at least, the idea of “enlightened doomsaying,” where Dupuy suggests in the final endnote of his chapter that only if we take the threats to our survival as fatalities and not as “risks,” then we have some hope of being spared by them. It seems to me, however, that to opt for the idea of fatality over risk presents two problems, one motivational and the other noetic. Regarding the first, if we imagine our fates to be already sealed—and not simply in terms of a serious risk of having them sealed—then I’m unsure that this would give us sufficient motivation to act,



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rather than precisely the opposite; if I am told by a seer I trust, “You will drown; nonetheless, I encourage you to swim,” I’m put in an exceedingly odd position: if I believe the declarative, I’ll disregard the imperative. If I’m going to drown, I’m not going to be spending my last minutes on earth doing laps. The second thing is that, even with the most Kierkegaardian will in the world, adopting “enlightened doomsaying” is going to be impossible unless one actually already believes one really is doomed (in which case, any advice to adopt the belief becomes redundant); but if one believes there’s only a risk that we are doomed, then attempting to adopt a view you neither believe in nor have the volitional capacity to force yourself to believe in is reminiscent of the demand that a magician not only put on an excellent show for you, but also that the magician believe in all the illusions he or she does. It’s simply asking too much. If our faith in political process has been shaken, then it perhaps shouldn’t surprise us, being part of a broader pattern of delegitimation or desacralization of institutional forms and figures; if what we call “modernity” is in fact the name for a kind of progressive desacralization of the institutional legitimacy of the institutions of modernity—the church, the monarchy, and empire— then perhaps the most recent object of desacralization is the nation-state, the primary political actor in both national and geopolitical domains. In some senses, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) represents the desacralization of sovereign power and the political legitimacy of its mechanisms at the same time that it enacts, at least in theory, the sacralization of the human being.13 The Holocaust might be seen as the necessary condition for the auto-exteriorization of sovereign power and process, or as the understanding that this power was not conferred on the human being from above but from below—not from God or the gods, but by those very human beings who it saw fit to crush.14

Conclusion Although it has arguably never been put into consistent use, the UDHR, as a kind of ethical “position paper,” entailed the sacralization of the human subject, the assertion that people cannot be treated like dirt simply because My Country Says So. And yet there’s more than one way to sacralize the human. Earlier, I mentioned Crick’s view that at the heart of politics is discussion and compromise. One thing Crick doesn’t mention is that politics in his sense

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doesn’t just fit democracy: it fits human ontology; it fits our finitude, our limited perspective, our “fallenness,” our essential humanity. Gods don’t need politics; we do. Perhaps we are happy with people like President Donald Trump not being politicians because we are no longer looking for politicians. We are looking for gods. Heaven help us if we end up finding them. That really would be a violent religion.

Notes 1

2 3

4

5

6

7 8

This chapter began as a response to Professor Dupuy’s paper, delivered at the 2016 COV&R International Conference, and included in this volume. Given its origin as a conference paper, there are certain stylistic features which characterize it, including the occasional use of hyperbole and irony. Despite the dangers inherent in such rhetorical moves, I have chosen to leave these features in, and hope the reader will indulge me. See Ch. 6 in the current volume. They appeal to what Emile Durkheim once called “social facts.” See his Les régles de la méthode sociologique, 2nd ed. (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1919), 4–7. “When a person acts, we can interpret his or her actions in terms of custom and law external to him or her. We don’t invent our own currencies, languages, or rules of our professions; these all operate independently and take precedence over whatever use I make of them, and possess ‘a compelling and coercive power’ that ‘imposes itself ’ on the individual.” Charles Taylor—in a different context—has argued how a certain conception of the moral life comes to take precedence over epistemology, even if it is seen by the advocates of that view that the contrary is the case. See Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 363–7. In other instances, Islam itself is seen as a radical quasi-leftist position. The classic statement of this is perhaps Michel Foucault’s commentaries on the Iranian Revolution, esp. “À quoi rêvent les Iraniens?” Le Nouvel Observateur, October 16–22, 1978. What I’m talking about here is paralleled in (and exacerbated by) other spheres of social interaction, like the Internet, where one can subscribe to news reports where one always has the convenience of being able to set which views come to oneself: if you know the headline, you know the story. See, e.g., Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox (New York: Verso, 2000). Aude Lancelin, in Alain Finkielkraut and Alain Badiou, L’Explication (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Lignes, 2010), iv (my interpolation).

9

10 11 12

13

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Crick acknowledges his distinction—between “the ethic of ultimate ends” and “the ethic of responsibility”—comes from Weber, although he doesn’t mention where in Weber’s work he finds this distinction; we can only assume he’s referring to the essay “Politics as a Vocation.” See “Politics as a Vocation,” in Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004), 32–94. Weber here says: “We must be clear about the fact that all ethically oriented conduct may be guided by one of two fundamentally differing and irreconcilably opposed maxims: conduct can be oriented to an ‘ethic of ultimate ends’ or to an ‘ethic of responsibility.’ This is not to say that an ethic of ultimate ends is identical with irresponsibility, or that an ethic of responsibility is identical with unprincipled opportunism. Naturally nobody says that. However, there is an abysmal contrast between conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of ultimate ends—that, is in religious terms, ‘the Christian does rightly and leaves the results with the Lord’—and conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of responsibility, in which case one has to give an account of the foreseeable results of one’s action.” Ibid., 84. Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 129. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 185. Jacques Derrida. “No Apocalypse, Not Now (Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives),” trans. Catherine Porter and Philip Lewis, Diacritics 14, no. 2 (1984): 23. This desacralization, of course, began much earlier than the execution of Charles I or Louis XVI. As Girard mapped out in The Scapegoat, we shifted from witch hunts to searches for natural causes (and then social causes). One of the ethical imperatives of the political or structural explanation is that it reduces the risk of producing scapegoats; this is its exculpatory aspect. But we see at the moment a kind of recrudescence of witch hunts in a form of explanation that both the left and right regularly adopt: conspiracy theory. So behind every evil we see evildoers—the Illuminati, the Jews, the Royal Family, the Jews with the Royal Family, the Jews with the Royal Family with human-reptilian hybrids. Like the Serb officer Dupuy mentions, the supposed “demystification” afforded by conspiracy theory is no bulwark against the violence that might result from it. This idea of auto-exteriorization traces its philosophical lineage back to Rousseau and Kant, although it was only Kant who carried the idea to its fruition. For both thinkers, liberty entailed autonomy and so defined liberty as obedience to a law that one imposes on oneself. The awareness of one’s autonomy with respect

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Rites of Expulsion: Violence against Heretics in Early Modern Catholic France Carly Osborn

In this chapter, I examine the metaphor of the body utilized in both official and popular violence during the sixteenth-century French Reformation, in the periods before and between the religious wars, 1534–62, and the role of emotions in such violence.1 I am interested in the ways in which the corporeal metaphor was deployed both rhetorically and in malicious action by those for whom the metaphor served to illustrate a real crisis: the pollution of their church by unholy contaminants. My interest in these aspects of the conflict is founded in the theory of French-American philosopher and cultural theorist René Girard. A key focus of his work is the idea of the “scapegoat-mechanism”: the expulsive action of a community toward a victim—or group of victims—who is perceived as a dangerous or disgusting pollutant to the social body. For Girard, the metaphor of physical pollution is key to the action of the community in violent outbreaks, actions more or less ritualistic in nature, that are intended to purge and purify the body social. Such rituals, for Girard, are nothing less than the foundations of our social structures, and the means by which we attempt to maintain them. Such rituals follow typical patterns, not only in action but in language. Thus the metaphor of the body corporate (and its pollution or purity) has become over centuries a familiar and foundational way for us to imagine our communities. In times of conflict, such language is deployed as justification for violence: violence is imagined not as illegitimate destruction, but rather as something akin to the remedial action of the surgeon’s knife. Girard identifies “stereotypes of persecution,” attributes typically ascribed to the victims in such cathartic purging. Particularly, the scapegoat is accused of crimes that transgress significant boundaries and are therefore contagious

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or pollutive.2 These may be violent crimes against those who stand for order and structure: the king, or a father. They may be sexual crimes that contravene boundaries: rape, incest, or bestiality—sexual acts that cross cultural taboos and blur crucial distinctions between categories. Possibly they are religious crimes such as profanation of the eucharistic Host, sinning against the distinction between holy and profane. In every case, the scapegoat is responsible for the cross-pollution of categories that, according to the persecutors, ought to remain distinct. In addition, “sickness, madness, genetic deformities, accidental injuries” and physical “abnormalities” of all kinds3 are, ritually, symbolic of contamination. Girard notes that when a community habitually persecutes a particular social, ethnic, or religious subgroup, it “tends to attribute to them disabilities or deformities” that reinforce their status as contaminants, as we shall see in the forthcoming examples.4 In ritual and myth, the guilty victim is indistinguishable from his or her crimes. The offense is an “ontological attribute” of his or her monstrous nature, a “fantastic essence” that corrupts by its simple existence. The only solution is the expulsion of his or her physical presence from the community. I suggest that the rhetorical and physical violence in sixteenth-century France drew from such longstanding mythical and ritual scripts of imagining the community as a body, and from purging it of a physical, present pollutant. Imagining the enemy thus is useful in that it classifies him or her as a contaminant and justifies his or her expulsion. Girard discusses the dehumanization of victims by describing them as animals, or otherwise nonhuman, rendering the scapegoat “wholly sacrificable,” making “more foreign a victim who is too much a part of the community … in order to eliminate his lingering and superfluous humanity.”5 Natalie Davis, in her seminal essay, “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France,” points out that this dehumanizing process, turning the heretic into “vermin,” is part of the “rites of violence”—a repertoire of common actions used by persecuting mobs again and again during the religious wars.6 Girardian theory gives us a model for such “rites” in the scapegoat ritual. But neither Girard nor Davis addresses the place of emotions in these violent persecutions. Girard, in particular, offers an exhaustively detailed theory of violence, but he did not engage with the idea of emotion as a phenomenon, though he describes resentment in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1961). The idea of emotion as physical and communal, rather than as imaginary and internal, is implied in Girard’s work, but never spelled out. Those of us using Girardian theory lack a framework for talking about emotions as drivers of human action,



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the underlying steam power of the scapegoat mechanism. In the following pages, I hope to show how ritual and emotion intersect, as rituals provide scripts for the generation of emotion and for its expression in rhetoric and action. For the actors in the following examples, bodies have had deep emotional significance, and emotions have had a corporeal presence. The foundation of my reading here is the notion of “embodied emotions,” presented by Sara Ahmed in her book, The Cultural Politics of Emotion.7 Ahmed argues that bodies are given value through emotion—especially that “emotions work to secure collectives through the way in which they read the bodies of others.” Further, she argues that “emotions do things, and work to align individuals with collectives—or bodily space with social space … feelings make ‘the collective’ appear as if it were a body in the first place. It is through an analysis of the impressions left by bodily others that we can track the emergence of ‘feelings-in-common.’”8 Ahmed’s work suggests a methodology for examining the corporeal metaphor in sixteenth-century France for emotional practices of collective action against bodies real and imagined, the expulsion of which cleanses, or in Girardian terms, catharsizes the community. But while Ahmed focuses on the experiences of contact, of skin and impressions thereon, I want to focus on the specific metaphor of bodily pollution and necessary cleansing in these specific historical instances of “emotions work[ing] to secure collectives through the way in which they read the bodies of others.” During the sixteenth-century religious conflict, acts of violence were done to many kinds of body (male, female, civilian, soldier, real, imaginary), but for the limited purposes of this chapter I am going to focus on Catholic violence toward Protestant civilian bodies, and Protestant violence toward the Catholic “embodiment of Christ” in the eucharistic Host. My selection is informed by Davis’s observation that there were some significant differences between the actions of Catholic crowds and Protestant crowds in the sixteenth-century French religious conflicts (and she speaks here of popular violence, not about armies at war).9 In her words, “the iconoclastic Calvinist crowds still come out as the champions in the destruction of religious property,” while “in bloodshed, the Catholics are the champions.”10 I follow Davis in suggesting this was not merely because Catholics possessed more physical objects to destroy, but because the Protestants were particularly outraged at the presence of imaginary bodies such as icons, statues, and ultimately the Host. Conversely, the Catholics had a “stronger sense of the persons of heretics as sources of danger and defilement,”11 and thus directed their violence toward the actual bodies of their enemies.

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This is not to say that Catholics did not burn Calvinist literature, nor that Calvinists refrained from assaulting and murdering Catholic priests and laypersons. But it seems that for each group, particular victims’ bodies represented the essence of the pollution they were trying to purge, and both rhetoric and action were deployed to delegitimate and, where thought necessary, exterminate such bodies. This chapter seeks to survey the ways in which the corporeal metaphor of disease and corruption was utilized in those specific instances of attempted extermination.

Language of pollution Rhetoric about Protestant bodies polluting the church In January 1535, King Francis led a grand procession against heresy in Paris. After the procession, he announced that he wanted heretics purged from his kingdom “in such manner that if one of the arms of my body was infected with this corruption, I would cut it off.”12 Over fifty years later, Henry III asserted that Catholics were bound to protect the “ailing French body, by cutting off this rotten member whose stench has infected, infects, and will infect, if it is not completely separated from the others.”13 The Huguenot presence in French communities was persistently imagined and described as a visual, physical “spectre of contamination of the body social.”14 Catholic preachers like Pierre Dyvole described heresy as a “cancerous limb” that must be amputated to save the rest of the body; Simon Vigor, a radical curate from the Marais (and a famous preacher), quoted Deuteronomy 13:10: “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”15 Another tract compared the “false, filthy” heretics with the “pure Host,” their presence polluting the “holy Temple” of the church.16 Viscount (and marshal) Guillaume de Joyeuse called the Protestants “scum” on multiple occasions in one letter, describing his town as “badly infected.”17 This same metaphor of infection of the whole by a part was used by Catholic League polemicist, Louis D’Orléans, who described the church body as a flock of sheep (a metaphor familiar from Bible stories) in which heretics were the diseased members, as here described by Dalia Leonard: [D’Orléans] drew on the writings of Saints Ambrose and Jerome for proof of heresy’s dangerous effects. He explained how both saints had warned Christians



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to be wary of mangy sheep, for they contaminated the entire flock. The only way to protect the group was to sacrifice the unclean and diseased in order to maintain the health of the whole.18

Gentian Hervet—official theologian of Cardinal Charles de Lorraine, the most prominent prelate of the French church—also used the language of the body in describing “the disease of heresy” and “pestilential” doctrine, requiring “doctors” and “antidotes.”19 Even the name “Huguenot” was evocative of pestilential bodies: “Huguet” was a contemporary nickname for ghosts who rose from purgatory, bodies neither living nor dead, but sinister and dangerous.20 The Huguenots were frequently accused of carnal impurity, their night meetings characterized as orgies, where Protestant “whores and sluts” seduced good Catholics who later declared that they had attended church meetings only for “carnal pleasure.”21 The Huguenots were thus characterized as a kind of material impurity within France and her church, their physical persons the embodiment of pollution. This language of impurity invoked a performance of emotions: disgust, anger, moral revulsion—and a performance that invited listeners to imagine themselves a part of that collective body, and to empathetically participate in those same emotions, strengthening collective bonds. As Ahmed neatly puts it, independently of Girardian theory, although clearly resonant with it, “Together we hate and this hate is what makes us together.”22

Rhetoric about Catholic Eucharist and icons polluting the church The Protestants employed the rhetoric of the body to disparage the Catholic Church in return, strengthening their own collective identity as the purified religious body. The Protestants believed that Catholicism was polluted doctrinally, and that these heresies were incarnate in the physical articles of the Catholic faith. Those material things the Catholics considered sacred, the Protestants considered blasphemous: as one clergyman said, the heretics “profane churches, demolish altars and break images.”23 Material objects such as icons and altars were thought contemptible for their own sake as idols that transgressed the Protestant reading of the second commandment. But these objects, I suggest, also stood in as proxy for Catholicism itself, imagined as a poison of which true Christians needed to be purged. In one Protestant sermon, a preacher described his congregants as sheep, and Catholic doctrine as “poisonous plants” that, if eaten, must be vomited up again.24

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Another used the body metaphor to warn against theological “error” that would act as a pollutant, “infect[ing] the purity of religion” like a dirty insect in a drink of liquor, or a “small fever” that soon corrupts a “healthy body.”25 The only cure for such pollution was violent purging: “remember that the best doctors often prescribe the letting of blood, the purging of humours, and lancing, in order to prevent or cure a disease. It is ordained by the nature of things that scarcely any ill can be cured without involving another, and that hardly anything good can be achieved without excessive exertions.”26 Such rhetoric, of course, anticipates and endorses violent action. More than anything else, though, the Protestants were appalled by the doctrine of the Eucharist, and they deliberately defiled its physical presence wherever possible. The idea that Christ was present in the Host was anathema to the Calvinists, and some of their most imaginative and destructive violence (both verbal and physical) was reserved for this impostor body. The famous Protestant publication “The Antithesis of Christ and the Pope” contains a plate depicting Christ’s Last Supper on one side, and the pope at Mass on the other. The text proclaims that the Eucharist is “only a figure and a sign,” “let us not think that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ.” The Catholic Mass is described as “blasphemous … let us then reject this putrid Mass.”27 The word “putrid” invokes not the simple materiality of bread and wine, but rather rotting flesh, playing on the body metaphor while denying the doctrine of transubstantiation. One contemporary report describes Huguenots as continually “detracting” the “sacrament of the altar” with “insults.”28 A petition of magistrates from Dijon in 1561 that complains about Huguenot behavior lists their “derision of the holy sacrament of the mass,” that they “daily put out blasphemies and scandalous and unworthy opinions about the holy sacrament.”29 The Host was commonly referred to by Protestants as the “God of paste”; the above petition also complains that they are “daring impudently to call the holy sacrament Jean Le Blanc.”30 As Mack Holt has noted, this was not simply rude name-calling but a blasphemous theological criticism: “Le Blanc was a reference not only to the colour but the inefficacy of the Host.”31 In Barbara Diefendorf ’s words, “The Blessed Sacrament [came] to assume an important emblematic role in the struggle against heresy,”32 as each side respectively defended and attacked the Host as the real or sham body of Christ. The placards of 1534 directly attacked the Catholic Eucharist, passionately denouncing the notion that the body of Christ could be present in the Host, a



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material substance that might be eaten by vermin, in contrast with the “incorruptible” body of Christ. One English translation of the placard text includes this invective against the doctrine of transubstantiation, and dehumanizes the bodies of the Catholics themselves, describing those at Mass as “worse than beasts”: [Catholics], having no shame in their wish to shut up in tabernacles the body of Jesus Christ, to be forgotten, they do not blush to say … “If the body of the Lord, being consumed by mice and spiders, be reduced to nothing or very much gnawed; if the worm be found entire there, let it be burned, and put in the reliquary”. Oh earth! Why dost thou not open and engulph these horrible blasphemers? Oh villains, and most detestable! is this the body of the Lord Jesus, true Son of God, and does he allow it to be eaten by mice and spiders; he, who is the bread of angels and of all the children of God, is he given to us to be the food of beasts; he, who is incorruptible, at the right hand of God, is he to be cast by you to worms and rottenness? Light up your faggots, to burn and roast yourselves, and not us, because we will not believe in your idols, your new Gods, your new Christs; who allow themselves to be eaten by beasts, and by you, likewise, who are worse than beasts, in your mummeries, which you perform around your God of paste, in which you rejoice, as a cat does over a rat, whining and striking your breasts, after having divided it into three pieces, as if you were very repentant, calling it by God’s name.33

The Huguenot disgust at treating a material object (“it”) as the real body of Christ was central to their rejection of the old religion. The church establishment responded to these insults by increasingly elaborate displays of reverence for the Host, such as the 1535 procession that I referred to earlier. The procession carried not only the sacrament but other sacred bodily relics such as a drop of Christ’s blood and a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary. The body metaphor was itself the site of contestation here, as Protestants and Catholics clashed about whether the Host was a pastry symbol or the incarnate God. Describing their opponents as “worse than beasts” was an instance of a common insult traded between sides, extending the body metaphor to demote the enemy from human to animal. Huguenots were called “dogs” and “animals”; one mob in Normandy in 1562 chased Protestants and stoned them, crying le loup (the wolf) in the manner of hunters.34 In turn, the Protestants described the Catholics as “savage beasts” with “bloody paws” and “clenched teeth,”35 and when a Calvinist mob seized the vicar of the parish of Fouquebrune, they

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attached him alongside oxen to a plow and forced him to pull it, whipping him like a beast until he died.36 Such actions bring me from discussion of rhetoric to discussion of actions that utilize or deploy the corporeal metaphor.

Actions of purification As I have indicated, the notion of the church as a body, and of heresy or false doctrine as pollution, was an oft invoked framework for those on both sides of the religious divide. Their actions bore out this metaphor: as Davis notes, it is “not surprising” that many of the violent acts done by religious crowds had the character of “rites of purification.”37 In Girardian terms, purification rituals are instances of the pollution metaphor projected onto the real body of a victim who is then expelled, in order to catharsize those emotions from the community, however temporarily.38 The continual invective on both sides invoked the body metaphor to create an imagined reality in which the pollutant bodies were contaminating that (imagined) purest of bodies, Christ’s church. In such a case, emotions of disgust and fury ran high in the pious on both sides. “Private passions,” in Diefendorf ’s words, “became public duties.”39

Protestant actions: Iconoclasm and profaning the Host There were, of course, countless reports of Protestant iconoclasm. For the purposes of this paper, I will list a few examples in which the corporeal metaphor was obviously at play. The Calvinist disgust at the “holy” bodies of statues, especially statues of Christ and of the Virgin, was evident in the total obliteration of these objects by the Huguenot mobs. At Millau in late 1561, Protestants seized the Catholic church and destroyed “many wooden gods and Virgin Marys, as well as saints of wood and stone. Those of wood were burned, those of stone smashed.”40 Multiple statues of Mary were also destroyed at Issoire in 1562.41 As I have discussed, the most contentious “body” of all was the Catholic sacrament. When a priest brought the accoutrements for Mass into a Bordeaux jail, a Protestant prisoner cried out, “Do you want to blaspheme the Lord’s name everywhere? Isn’t it enough that the temples are defiled? Must you also profane prisons so nothing is unpolluted?”42



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There were several reported instances of heretics seizing the sacrament during Mass and defiling it. During Mass at the Church of St. Genevieve in 1563, a “wretched Huguenot” grabbed the “precious body of Christ” with his “polluted hands” and stamped it underfoot. He was immediately arrested, executed, and burned.43 This anecdote demonstrates the corporeal metaphor deployed twice: first by the heretic who sought to desacralize the wafer, then by the Catholic justices who destroyed his body. In the words of one Catholic report, “a poor baker of the parish” attempted to save the Host from heretic destruction. He stood between the sacrament and the mob, “saying to them, ‘My masters, do not touch this, for the honour of he that reposes within’. But a wicked man ran him through, [saying] ‘Is this your pastry God who now delivers you from the torments of death?’ And they crushed under foot the precious body of Our Lord and smashed the ciborium into a thousand pieces.”44 Humiliation of the clergy was also focused on the body. Davis recounts that in Montauban, “a priest was ridden backward on an ass, his chalice in one hand, his host in the other, and his missal at an end of a halberd. At the end of his ride, he must crush his host and burn his own vestments.” Here, the sacramental body was crushed, and the ecclesiastical body was delegitimated or obliterated by the burning of vestments. In Ahmed’s terms, it is the “impressions left by bodily others” that generate collective emotions—that constitute the idea of otherness in the first place. Collective fury was generated and regenerated by the physical presence of the Host, and the catharsis of that fury was physical action. The somatic aspect of both offense and punishment appeared again and again. The sacramental materials were given to dogs to eat; wooden crucifixes were roasted upon spits like animals; holy oil was used to grease boots; holy water was defiled with human excrement.45 The Protestants were outraged by the sacred bodies in the cathedrals, and they subjected those bodies to bodily humiliations.

Catholic actions: Killing Protestants Official executions Public executions had long been spectacular rituals in early modern Europe. A public execution is a classic Girardian purification ritual: the victim is sacrificed and order is restored to the community.46 In the case of sixteenth-century heretics, the ritual had three distinct phases: the amende honorable, which was

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public penance including physical punishments (and for the first half of the sixteenth century, if the condemned was a member of the clergy, ritual degradation); procession through the streets, displaying the condemned body to the crowd; and the execution itself. The execution of heretics followed the same familiar ritual script, but with what David Nicholls has called “special features.” The procession of the condemned, and the execution itself, was often styled in such a way as to emphasize the corporeal metaphor of pollution and purgation. The purpose of executing heretics was total obliteration: heresy had to be driven out of society like disease from the body and the social body completely cleansed of all impurities. Protestants were burned, an honour otherwise reserved for witches, homosexuals and those guilty of bestiality, underlining the connection with impurity and “unnatural acts”. The records of their trials were burned along with them and the ashes scattered to the winds, thereby preventing their burial … Unlike other criminals, whose bodies could be exposed and left to rot, the heretic had to be utterly destroyed.47

The amende honorable was the first step in destroying the body of the heretic. If that body had previously been adorned with the signs of religious rank, they were systematically stripped away. Nicholls relates the example of Jean Rabec, a Franciscan burned at Angers on April 10, 1556. He was degraded in front of the cathedral in a series of physical gestures: “the chalice was taken from his hands; his thumbs and index fingers were scraped to remove unction; each priestly vestment was removed in turn; a series of objects was taken from his hands, including sacred books, church ornaments and the keys of the church; and finally, his head was shaved to eradicate the tonsure.”48 After the removal of these physical symbols, the body itself was subject to mortifications both mocking and painful. Mutilation was often part of parliament’s sentence against the heretic, and the removal of limbs and even organs served as spectacular minidramas of the removal of the heretic from the body social, as well as being the first acts of destructive violence against a body that would be eventually obliterated. The cutting off of hands was not uncommon, removal of blasphemous tongues most common of all.49 After the mutilation, the procession to the execution place drew a clear, performative, ritual line between those belonging to the body social, and the heretic being excluded from it.50 Notable executions were preceded by elaborate processions including high-ranking clergy and parliamentarians, a



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“ritual cleansing of the city”51 in which the body of the heretic was the physical centerpiece and yet the ultimate outsider, the marginal body of Girard’s human sacrifices. The execution, too, was spectacular. It gave full play to the metaphor of pollution being manifest in the heretic’s physical presence. Not only were heretics burned instead of hanged, but Crespin’s martyrology records the practice of dousing victims in oil or grease, and then in powdered sulphur, in order to make the burning both more painful and more complete. This exercise of “degradation, expulsion and destruction” was designed to remove the heretic body from the world in “total extirpation.”52 The ashes were scattered to the winds, and in some cases the heretic’s possessions, including his or her house, were also burned to dust. The aim here was the complete removal of the heretic’s physical presence from the community. The body social was here imagined as a real, physical entity that had been infected by the individual body of the heretic, and the curative action was to literally burn, wash, and sweep his or her body entirely out of the material world. So important was the body of the condemned to the execution ritual that if the body could not be seized, an effigy would be elaborately punished instead. Often two effigies were utilized, one at the place of execution, and another at the original scene of the crime, a “repeated spectacle of martyrdom … [a] the symbolic purification” of each community touched by the victim’s pollutive influence.53 In 1548, Pierre Guyon was executed at the Halles in Paris and then in effigy in the marketplace of Auxerre.54 In May 1562 at Toulouse, Catholic officials clashed with Protestant “traitor” magistrates, and finally arrested one who was “degraded then beheaded”; seven fugitive “traitors” were hanged in effigy.55

Unofficial riots In the 1550s, the Parisian crowds began to intervene in official executions, as religious tensions increased (this increased hostility would eventually lead to the Massacre of Vassy and the first religious war). According to Crespin, in 1559, mobs in both Reims and Paris attempted to rush heretics straight to the burning stake without the mercy of being strangled first. Hostile crowds stormed the preexecution processions to try to get hold of the body of the heretic and destroy it with their own hands. In 1562, in Paris, Pierre Pascal reported that a constable and his men raided a Protestant preaching house and “had the pulpit, the benches, and everything of wood burned.” From there “he went to Popincourt”

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but “great crowds” joined the official action there, where they “demolished the [preaching] house, tore out all the wood and beams and took them to the Town Hall where they were burned, shouting ‘God has not forgotten the people of Paris.’ If anyone grumbled, he was beaten or killed on the spot.”56 Pascal reported that prisoners who had been acquitted by officialdom were seized by mobs of vigilantes. One unfortunate took to the river, and as the banks were crowded with “people ready to slaughter him,” he was eventually exhausted “with nowhere to go,” and drowned. Pascal claimed that “the same was being done every day; there was no justice to be had.”57 Nicholls relates that the corpses of executed Protestants were “grabbed from the place of execution, dragged in the mud, insulted, mutilated, and thrown into the Seine or burned” while living Protestants were seized by mobs, subjected to mock trials, and promptly murdered.58 Davis notes that the riotous masses took the ritual language of their actions from official punishments.59 Torture, desecration of corpses, dismemberment, and other corporal punishments, as well as mass executions, had been ordered by the parliaments of France in the 1540s. The crowds took this idea of mortifying the body as fit punishment for heresy, and carried it out with great passion. These punishments also borrowed from the metaphorical language of religion: destruction by water or fire was a kind of exorcism—as Davis poetically phrases it: “The fire which razes the house of a Protestant apothecary in Montpellier leaves behind it not the smell of death, of the heretic whom the crowd had hanged, but of spices, lingering in the air for days, like incense.”60 Like the official executions in which every trace of the heretic had to be obliterated, Catholic crowds went to great lengths to destroy the bodies of their opponents. As Davis states, burning or drowning was “not cleansing enough … the bodies had to be weakened and humiliated further”; thus they were thrown to packs of dogs, dismembered, disfigured, disembowelled. Again, a few striking examples will serve to illustrate the corporeal metaphor in action. The site of offense is a physical body—this time the bodies of the Huguenots rather than the imagined body of Christ. The massacre at Sens began with Catholics “indignant” at the “audacity” of Huguenot insults, determined “only to attack them and wipe them out”: “a large number were quickly killed and their place of assembly was demolished and totally ruined within half an hour, without a single beam left above ground.” The Gascon captain who had previously guarded the Huguenots was overwhelmed by the mob, “dragged through the streets … by a rope from one of his feet, to



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the cry ‘Here comes the pigman!’ … At each crossroad they burned his body with oven spits before finally throwing him into the river Yonne.”61 In Meaux, Protestants were slaughtered with butchers’ cleavers like animals, and a living victim was “trundled to his death in a wheelbarrow, while the crowd cried ‘vinegar, mustard.’”62 Even infants and the dead were sites for violent contestation: a baby baptized Reformed was stolen by Catholics for rebaptism, leading to neighborhood chaos and a three-hour battle. A Protestant funeral was interrupted by Catholics who seized the corpse and buried it in consecrated ground; the Protestants dug it up and tried to rebury it according to their own rites. A brawl ensued, bells were rung, and stonings occurred.63 In these instances, the notion of the church as the body of Christ, with component parts made up of real corporeal members, was a living, acted-upon metaphor.

Conclusion Davis suggests that the violent actions catalogued above can be “reduced to a repertory of actions, derived from the Bible, from the liturgy, from the action of political authority, or from the traditions of popular folk justice, intended to purify the religious community.”64 I have tried to show that this “repertory of actions” was more specifically an instance of deploying the rhetoric and ritual script of cleansing the body, and that collective emotions were the key driver of these actions. The corporeal metaphor was key to the efficacy of these punishments. The body social had been infected; the infection was scourged away by physical, material actions. Disgust and contempt here were useful as shared emotions leading to cathartic action. Emotions here were not merely “psychological dispositions,” but mediators of the relationship between individual and collective, between language and action, between the imagined and the real. The corporeal metaphor invoked and directed emotion as a bodily process: emotions were felt within the body, toward other bodies, and acted upon with physical violence that obliterated some bodies and exalted others. Thus the devout Catholic processionists shouted, “For the flesh of God, we must kill all the Huguenots!” Flesh and blood were central to both the rhetorical foundation and the grisly action of these conflicts, and collective emotion was both the furious beginning and the catharsized end of each performance.

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Notes 1

In this chapter, I have frequently used available translations of the primary sources in French. I have cited these individually but also wish to begin by acknowledging the work of each cited scholar in making these sources readily accessible for further analysis such as my own. 2 René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Yvonne Freccero (1982; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 14. 3 Ibid., 17. 4 Ibid., 18. 5 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (1972; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 272. 6 Natalie Davis, “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France,” Past and Present 59 (1973): 51–91. 7 Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (New York: Routledge, 2004). 8 Sara Ahmed, “Collective Feelings: Or, the Impressions Left by Others,” Theory, Culture and Society 21, no. 2 (2004): 25–42, at 27, https://doi.org/10.1177/ 0263276404042133. 9 Davis, “The Rites of Violence.” 10 Ibid., 77. 11 Ibid. 12 Quoted in Barbara B. Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 47. 13 Henry de Valois, Les Vrais pieges et moiens pour atraper ce faux hydretique et cauteleux grison (Paris, 1589), 8, quoted in Dalia M. Leonard, “‘Cut Off This Rotten Member’: The Rhetoric of Heresy, Sin, and Disease in the Ideology of the French Catholic League,” Catholic Historical Review 88, no. 2 (2002): 247. 14 Mack P. Holt, The French Wars of Religion, 1562–1629, 2nd ed., New Approaches to European History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 91. 15 Quoted in Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross, 150. 16 Quoted in David Potter, ed., The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, trans. David Potter, Documents in History (London: Macmillan, 1997), 38. 17 Claude de Vic, Joseph Vaissete, and Ernest Roschach, Histoire générale de Languedoc avec des notes et les pièces justificatives par dom Cl. Devic et dom J. Vaissete: Histoire générale, l872–89 (E. Privat, 1872), 572. 18 Leonard, “Cut Off This Rotten Member,” 253. 19 Quoted in Luc Racaut, “Education of the Laity and Advocacy of Violence in Print during the French Wars of Religion,” History 95, no. 318 (2010): 159–76, at 164, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-229X.2009.00480.x.



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20 For discussion, see Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 53. 21 Claude Haton, Mémoires de Claude Haton: Contenant le récit des événements accomplis de 1553 à 1582, principalement dans la Champagne et la Brie, ed. Félix Bourquelot (Imprimerie Impériale, 1857), 51–3. 22 Ahmed, “Collective Feelings,” 28. 23 Quoted in Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 71. 24 Kristine Wirts, “From the Pulpit to the People: Huguenot Rhetoric and Ideology during the Era of Religious Conflict” (Ann Arbor: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2003), 25, http://search.proquest.com/docview/305341553/. 25 Ibid. 26 Quoted in ibid., 80. 27 In Barbara B. Diefendorf, The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents, History and Culture (New York: Bedford, 2009), 43. 28 In Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 41. 29 Quoted in ibid., 45. 30 Quoted in ibid. For further discussion see Mack P. Holt, “Religious Violence in Sixteenth-Century France: Moving beyond Pollution and Purification,” Past and Present 214, suppl. 7 (2012): 52–74, at 60, https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtr018. 31 Holt, “Religious Violence in Sixteenth-Century France,” 69. 32 Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross, 45. 33 Quoted in John McGill, History of the Life, Works, and Doctrines of John Calvin (Charleston: SC: BiblioBazaar, 2009), 237, https://www.amazon.com/ History-Life-Works-Doctrines-Calvin/dp/1117293890. 34 Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 56. 35 Wirts, “From the Pulpit to the People,” 65. 36 Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 85. 37 Ibid., 62. 38 I should note here that Girard does not condone scapegoating, nor have much faith in its lasting efficacy. He only describes this pattern of communal behavior. See Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 134. 39 Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross. 40 Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 58. 41 Ibid. 42 Quoted in Davis, “The Rites of Violence.” 43 Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 64. 44 In ibid. 45 Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 60. 46 In the words of David Nicholls: “public executions of criminals were both spectacles and ceremonies. Highly formalized and ritualized … those guilty of serious crimes [were] the sacrificial victims of social and cosmic order.”

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“The Theatre of Martyrdom in the French Reformation,” Past and Present 121 (November 1988): 49–73, at 49. 47 Ibid., 50. 48 Ibid., 55. 49 According to Nicholls, Crespin dated the beginning of the cutting out of tongues to 1533, but he was wrong here: Guillaume Jobert had his tongue pierced before execution in 1526. 50 Another example of the procession as delineator of bodies “in” and “out” was the Corpus Christi Day procession, when rebellious Protestant women might sit ostentatiously in their windows spinning, rather than participate. See Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 87. 51 Nicholls, “The Theatre of Martyrdom,” 61. 52 Ibid., 64. 53 Ibid. 54 Ibid., 61. 55 De Vic, Vaissete, and Roschach, Histoire générale de Languedoc, 622. A Catholic source reports the upheaval at Toulouse as the brave action of good Catholics against “cruel” rebels; a Protestant source describes the same event as wholesale slaughter of civilian innocents; both sources agree that the Protestants in Toulouse were expelled entirely. 56 Quoted in Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 50. 57 Ibid., 62. 58 Nicholls, “The Theatre of Martyrdom,” 70. 59 Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 62. 60 Ibid., 82. 61 Potter, The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents, 53. 62 Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” 85. 63 All in ibid., 72. 64 Ibid., 77.

Part Three

Islamic Terrorism: A Case Study of Contemporary “Religious Violence”

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Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths Asma Afsaruddin

In the popular Western imaginary, Islam is inextricably associated with violence—in fact, in Western media usage in particular, it has almost become a shorthand for violence. Violent actions committed by militant fringe groups in the name of Islam are conflated with Islam itself and Muslims in toto are tarred with the broad brush of extremism. The violent actions perpetrated by these militant groups that often claim innocent civilian lives are invariably described as jihad and these groups are described as “jihadist,” legitimizing the self-description of these militants. And this is where we can start to trace the beginnings of the problem. Popular perceptions of jihad as “holy war” are often predicated on the following assumptions: 1. Jihad is relentless, bloody warfare to be waged by Muslims (en masse) against non-Muslims (en masse) until Islam occupies the whole world or till the end of time—whichever occurs first; 2. Muslims can issue the call to such a jihad anytime and anyhow and their only excuse is that stubborn unbelievers will not submit, willingly or unwillingly, at their hands; 3. When Muslims argue that a true military jihad is only defensive and conditional while the internal, nonviolent jihad is continuous and unconditional, they are deliberately dissembling about the real nature of jihad and are to be regarded as apologists for their faith.1 It is not only anti-Islamic websites that list such perceptions of jihad; popular media and mainstream publications frequently convey approximate versions of the above and contribute to the formation of such views. Militant Islamist websites and print literature reinforce such ideas. More sophisticated and/or more sympathetic sources will often refer to the greater and lesser jihads as

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indicating the distinction between the spiritual versus the physical jihad, and the greater importance of the former. However, the assertion that Muslims as a collectivity must continue to wage a military jihad against non-Muslims in order to expand Muslim realms while observing humanitarian codes of conduct against civilians is more or less accepted as a given, even by many specialists in Islam. The proof-texts invoked in support of such a position are medieval Islamic legal texts, which frequently did list such a requirement as part of the duties of the Muslim ruler. And this is where we must start to trace the rise of certain truisms about the nature and purview of the military jihad. Privileging the legal literature above other kinds of literature—particularly the exegetical literature on the Qur’an and ethical treatises—in discussions of jihad almost inevitably leads to the conclusion that it is a military obligation, usually collective, incumbent upon all able-bodied Muslim men in the service of state and religion. And because what we usually call Islamic law is assumed to be derived directly from the Qur’an and the hadith, such an obligation is assumed to be mandated by Islam itself. But if we put on our historical glasses and engage the Qur’an holistically and plumb the earliest exegetical texts, hadith collections, and edifying literary works that stressed ethical and moral concerns above all, a considerably different picture emerges. The earliest connotations of jihad had to do with patient forbearance (in Arabic, the term is sabr). Such patient forbearance was to be exercised in the face of harm and represented stoic, nonviolent resistance to wrongdoing. Sabr also referred to the internal, spiritual struggle of every human being to obey and love God and carry out his commandments. In later terminology, sabr became known as the jihad al-nafs, or the striving against the lower self. During the twelve-year Meccan period (roughly 610–22 ce2), this is how Muslims carried out jihad under gravely adverse circumstances: through the exercise of patient forbearance with, and forgiveness of, those who sought to harm them; through prayer and cultivation of spiritual strength; and through preaching of the truth of God’s message. These are the elements of jihad that are unconditional and continuous. After the famous emigration to Medina from his birthplace, Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad received divine permission to fight in self-defense, according to Qur’an 22:39-40. The Qur’anic term for fighting is qital, a term that was introduced as an additional and conditional aspect of jihad in the Medinan period. Muslims after all had been physically and verbally attacked for publicly practicing their religion and driven out of their homes unjustly; they



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were allowed to fight back but only to the extent that they had been harmed. These verses state: Permission is given to those against whom fighting has been initiated [yuqātalūna] because they have been wronged/oppressed, and God is able to help them. These are they who have been wrongfully expelled from their homes merely for saying “God is our Lord.” If God had not restrained some people by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which God’s name is mentioned frequently would have been destroyed. Indeed God comes to the aid of those who come to His aid; verily He is powerful and mighty.3

It should be noted that the Arabic uses the passive verb (yuqātalūna; literally, “those who are fought against”) instead of the active (yuqātilūna; literally, “those who fight”) in Qur’an 22:39. However, many English translations inaccurately render the verb as active; for example, those produced by George Sale, A. J. Arberry, and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall. The passive verb yuqātalūna in the verse therefore clearly refers to fighting back only after one has been attacked. Recourse to defensive fighting was established in these verses for Muslims not for the sake of propagating their religion but for the protection of their lives and property. This military defense may also be undertaken on behalf of non-Muslims who face similar persecution, since non-Muslim houses of worship (particularly those of monotheists) are clearly mentioned in Qur’an 22:39-40 as being worthy of protection.4 Another critical verse, Qur’an 2:190, unequivocally forbids Muslims from attacking the enemy first. This verse states: “Fight in the way of God those who fight you and do not commit aggression for God does not love aggressors.” Accordingly, many exegetes insisted that Muslims could only fight back after they had been attacked—no ifs or buts—and that the counterattack had to be proportional to the original attack. This is the documented position of the early exegetes Mujahid b. Jabr5 and Muqatil b. Sulayman,6 who wrote their Qur’an commentaries during the Umayyad period (656–750). These early positions continued to be maintained into the later period. Thus the famous late twelfth-century exegete al-Razi (d. 1210) comments that Qur’an 2:190 is to be read in light of the preceding verse, which emphasizes taqwa (roughly “God-consciousness”) as “a means of knowing God the Exalted” and as “a means of obeying God.” God has commanded in this verse, he continues, the severest aspect of taqwa and the most difficult for the human self to bear: fighting the enemies of God. But the questions remain: why? and how?7

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In response to why one should fight, al-Razi begins by commenting that the specific occasion of revelation was the year of al-Hudaybiyya (628), and recapitulates the main events associated with this year that provided the impetus for fighting. Al-Hudaybiyya was the name of a place near Mecca where Muhammad concluded a treaty with the pagan Meccans who called for a truce between the two sides for a period of ten years.8 With regard to how one should fight, al-Razi records three strands of interpretation in reference to Qur’an 2:190. First, citing the well-known Companion, Ibn ‘Abbas, al-Razi comments that one should fight only those who fight—whether that is construed as those who actually resort to armed combat or as those who display hostile intention by forcibly preventing Muslims from carrying out an essential religious obligation, such as the pilgrimage. Second, one should fight only those who have the ability and the skill to engage in fighting. A third position is that one should fight those capable of fighting, “except for those who incline to peace” (cf. Qur’an 8:61). Al-Razi expresses a preference for the first viewpoint, attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas, because that is the closest, he stresses, to the obvious meaning of the verse in his view. Al-Razi goes on to add categorically that the divine imperative in Qur’an 2:190 is directed at actual, not potential, combatants, meaning that the verse allows fighting against only those who have actually commenced fighting, and not those who are able and prepared to fight but have not yet resorted to violence.9 This represents a rather trenchant critique of the prevailing juridical position in al-Razi’s time, which had considerably diluted the categorical Qur’anic principle of nonaggression through legal and hermeneutical legerdemain, as will be referred to again shortly. The nonaggression position articulated in Qur’an 2:190 is stressed again in another verse, Qur’an 9:13, which states: “Will you not fight a people who violated their oaths and had intended to expel the Messenger and commenced [hostilities] against you the first time?” Here once again the Qur’an makes clear that the faithful can resort to armed combat against only those people who are guilty of wrongdoing—in this case, people who broke their treaties with Muslims and had initiated fighting against them. This requirement is explicitly stated in the verse in Arabic: wa-hum bada’ukum awwala marratin (they are the ones who began fighting you first). This is once again an unambiguous articulation within the Qur’an of the impermissibility of commencing attacks against any group of people under any circumstance. Fighting is allowed not on account of the religious beliefs of the adversary, but only on account of their prior acts of aggression, and therefore to specifically defend oneself and others against physical harm.



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Some scholars have also been of the opinion that the Qur’anic command to fight was applicable to only the first generation of Muslims—that is to say, the Companions—who were contemporaries of Muhammad, since the historical referent in the verses that deal with fighting are the hostile pagan Arabs of Mecca. One verse (Qur’an 2:216) that is often cited in many sources as establishing the obligatory nature of fighting states: “Fighting has been prescribed for you even though you find it displeasing. Perhaps you dislike something in which there is good for you and perhaps you find pleasing that which causes you harm. But God knows and you do not.” There is no doubt that according to this verse, when war is duly constituted for justified and legitimate reasons, fighting becomes a moral obligation that no adult male believer may shirk without extenuating reasons. Among these legitimate reasons are the violation of treaties by the enemy and initiation of hostilities by them, as we have noted. However, exegetes have differed as to who exactly were intended in the second person plural object pronoun kum in the verse, which states in Arabic: kutiba ‘alaykum al-qital (fighting has been prescribed for you). According to al-Tabari, the early pious Medinan scholar ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah (d. 733) was prominent among those who subscribed to the position that kum (plural you) in the verse as direct address refers only to the Muslims who were present with Muhammad. Fighting was therefore prescribed only during the time of the Prophet for his Companions. Al-Tabari quotes ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah, who, when asked whether Qur’an 2:216 made fighting obligatory for people in general, replied that it did not and that “it was prescribed only for those [who were present] at that time [hina’idhin]” (my emphasis).10 In the eleventh century, another well-known exegete, al-Wahidi (d. 1076), continued to endorse this early position that fighting as a religiously prescribed duty was temporally limited. He too quotes ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah, who had understood Qur’an 2:216 to refer specifically to the Companions of the Prophet because only fighting with the Prophet was an obligatory duty.11 In the late twelfth century, al-Razi, like al-Tabari and al-Wahidi, also recorded these early views and documented the divergent opinions that have historically existed among the scholars regarding the interpretation of this verse. In addition to ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah, al-Razi refers to another well-known Medinan scholar Ibn ‘Umar (d. 693), son of the second caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, who had similarly understood the duty of fighting to have been imposed on the Companions of the Prophet at that time only (fi dhalika al-waqt faqat); that is to say, solely during the lifetime of the Prophet against the pagan Arabs who had aggressed against the Muslims.12

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In contrast to ‘Ata’ and Ibn ‘Umar, al-Razi notes that the Syrian Umayyad scholar Makhul al-Shami (d. c. 737) is said to have sworn repeatedly at the Ka‘ba that fighting was obligatory in general.13 It becomes clearly apparent from al-Razi’s exegesis that Syrian scholars like Makhul in the context of continuing Umayyad military engagements with the Byzantines allowed for a general injunction to fight to be read into this verse, in contradistinction to Hijazi scholars—scholars in Medina and Mecca, for example, outside of the Umayyad orbit, such as ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah and Ibn ‘Umar—who derived no such broad mandate from Qur’an 2:216. Fighting was therefore a complex subject. Both religious and pragmatic imperatives were invoked by Muslim scholars in delineating the reach of the military jihad and to articulate an ethics of initiating armed combat on the basis of the critical verses discussed here. It is abundantly evident that the specific sociopolitical circumstances of our exegetes were frequently decisive in shaping their views, an awareness of which fact allows us to appreciate the highly contingent—and contested—nature of these discourses.

Refraining from fighting, and peacemaking In addition to laying down a specific protocol for conducting a justified war, the Qur’an also establishes an explicit ethic for refraining from fighting and for making peace. Qur’an 8:61 is the quintessential “peacemaking” verse that creates a clear moral imperative for Muslims to abandon fighting when the adversary lays down its arms. The verse states: “And if they should incline to peace, then incline to it [yourself] and place your trust in God; for He is all-hearing and all-knowing.” In his interpretation of this verse, al-Tabari says that God addressed the Prophet and counseled him to abandon warfare when the adversary inclines to peace either through entry into Islam, payment of the poll tax (jizya), or through the establishment of friendly relations. Such reciprocity is mandated for the sake of peace and peacemaking.14 As one might imagine, such Qur’anic verses that limited warfare to defensive fighting and commanded peacemaking when the enemy desisted from aggression were not favorable to the process of empire-building. By Umayyad times, the need was soon felt in official and certain legal circles to promote the military jihad as a religiously meritorious activity to allow for the expansion of the Islamic empire after the death of Muhammad, during the late seventh



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and the eighth centuries of the Common Era. Certain hawkish scholars starting already in the late seventh century during the Umayyad period framed real­politik concerns focused on security and territorial expansion in overtly religious idiom and sought to create theological imperatives for fighting on behalf of empire.15 Thus we observe that later exegetes and jurists began to make frequent exceptions to the injunction against committing aggression contained in Qur’an 2:190 and preferred to understand the verse as mandating primarily noncombatant immunity, without placing any restriction on the Muslim army’s ability to commence fighting. This progressive watering down in later exegetical and legal literature of the categorical Qur’anic prohibition against initiating hostilities reveals the triumph of political realism over scriptural fidelity. This trend became quite prominent by the late ninth century, during the Abbasid period, with its imperial ambitions, as may be detected in the famous exegetical work of the tenth-century scholar al-Tabari, who had close connections with the ruling Abbasid elite.16 The well-known Abbasid jurist al-Shafi‘i (d. 820) was also a member of this “school” of political realism. It is from this vantage point that al-Shafi‘i divided the world into the “Abode of Islam” (Dar al-Islam) and the “Abode of War” (Dar al-Harb), with an intervening “Abode of Truce” (Dar al-Sulh/al-‘Ahd) into which non-Muslim nations could enter by signing treaties of coexistence with the Muslim polity.17 None of the foundational texts of Islam—the Qur’an or hadith—refer to such a division of the world, but ever the pragmatist, this is how al-Shafi‘i made sense of the conflict-ridden world of his time. He was also of the opinion that the caliph should carry out offensive military campaigns against non-Muslim polities as part of his role as defender of Islamic realms. Such offensive military activity was included by him under the rubric of jihad and justified as a necessary moral preemptive course of action against a hostile enemy, such as the Byzantines, and for progressively expanding the territorial boundaries of Islamic realms.18 Ironically, thanks to his efforts, the military jihad thus became inextricably linked to the secular project of empire-building and expansion, although its secular nature was convincingly concealed within a carefully crafted religious idiom. Some scholars after the ninth century continued to dispute this co-optation of jihad in the service of realpolitik. These scholars’ main area of contention was with the later legal position that viewed lack of adherence to Islam, rather than aggression on the part of the adversary, as the casus belli for the military jihad, a position they regarded as unethical and contravening the Qur’anic position on defensive fighting. Among those who registered their

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opposition to this predominantly statist legal perspective was the late-twelfthcentury exegete al-Razi, who was suspicious of extracting politically expedient interpretations from scripture that were contrary to the overt and ordinary meaning of words. As we recall, al-Razi would remark memorably that Qur’an 2:190 is directed at actual, not potential, combatants, meaning that the verse allows fighting against only those who have actually commenced fighting. Al-Razi’s views reflect the genuinely archaic views of the earlier scholars Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 778), ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah (d. 733), ‘Amr b. Dinar (d. 743), and Ibn Shubruma (d. 761), who had unequivocally maintained the defensive nature of the military jihad.19

Revisiting the problem of textual abrogation The hawkish juridical perspective that gained ground from the time of al-Shafi‘i onward relies for its validity on the invocation of the hermeneutic principle of abrogation, which emerged over time—a principle that, according to a considerable number of scholars, allows for a number of early Qur’anic verses that are markedly irenic and conciliatory in tone to be superseded by later ones that deal with fighting those who had attacked and persecuted Muslims for their faith alone. It is this theory of abrogation that has allowed for an expansionist conception of the military jihad to emerge in deference to realpolitik. Thus Qur’an 9:5 is invoked by a number of exegetes as having abrogated Qur’an 2:190 with its no-aggression clause. It is also assumed by some to have abrogated our quintessential peacemaking verse, Qur’an 8:61. Qur’an 9:5 states: “When the sacred months have lapsed, then slay the polytheists [al-mushrikin] wherever you may encounter them. Seize them and encircle them and lie in wait for them. But if they repent and perform the prayer and give the obligatory alms, then let them go on their way, for God is forgiving and merciful.” Contemporary polemical literature that discusses Qur’an 9:5—whether produced by Islamist militants or some Western orientalist scholars—invariably asserts a mythical scholarly consensus on the abrogating status of the so-called sword verse, whereby numerous Qur’anic verses that call upon Muslims to establish kind and respectful relations with peaceful non-Muslims would be nullified. A survey of some of the most influential Qur’an commentaries of the premodern period easily disproves this assertion. Our influential tenth-century commentator al-Tabari himself had forcefully taken issue with certain hawkish exegetes who



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had stated that Qur’an 9:5 abrogates Qur’an 8:61. Qur’an 8:61, as we recall, calls upon Muslims to incline to peace when the adversary inclines to peace. Among the hawkish exegetes was the Successor (second generation Muslim), Qatada b. Di‘ama (d. 736), who is said to have commented that every pact mentioned in the Qur’an and every truce concluded by Muslims with polytheists through which they entered into peaceful relations with one another were to be understood as having been abrogated by the ninth chapter of the Qur’an, especially Qur’an 9:5. Qatada had concluded trenchantly that by the revelation of this chapter God had commanded Muslims to fight non-Muslims in every situation until they said, “There is no god but God.”20 Al-Tabari refutes such views by commenting that Qatada’s position on the abrogation of this verse cannot be supported on the basis of the Qur’an, the sunna, or reason. Qur’an 9:5 has to do with only Arab polytheist idolaters, whereas Qur’an 8:61 is generally understood to refer to the People of the Book, who cannot be fought when they make peace with Muslims. Neither verse invalidates the injunction contained in the other since they concern different sets of people and circumstances, and both therefore remain unabrogated (muhkam).21 Al-Tabari’s was not a minority position. After him, influential exegetes like al-Zamakhshari, al-Razi, and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) continued to assert that Qur’an 8:61 remained an unabrogated verse and its commandment to establish peace was normative and valid for all time.22

Modern critics of the pro-abrogation position The pro-abrogation contingent faced trenchant criticism from others in the premodern period and their position continues to be criticized by a variety of modern and contemporary Muslim scholars. Modern anti-abrogation scholars have emphasized instead that the Qur’an should be read holistically and that the critical verses contained within it that forbid the initiation of war by Muslims and that uphold the principle of noncoercion in religion (Qur’an 2:256) unambiguously and permanently militate against the conception of an offensive military jihad that may be waged against non-Muslims solely because they are non-Muslims. In the late nineteenth century, the brilliant Egyptian scholar and reformer Muhammad ‘Abduh rejected the interpretation that the so-called sword verse (Qur’an 9:5) had abrogated the more numerous verses in the Qur’an that call

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for forgiveness and peaceful relations with non-Muslims. Like al-Tabari before him, ‘Abduh argues that the specific historical situation with which the verse is concerned—with its internal reference to the passage of the four sacred months and to the pagan Meccans—restricts its applicability to the time of the Prophet. Other verses in the Qur’an advocating forgiveness and nonviolence cannot be considered to have been abrogated since their applicability is more general. The command contained in Qur’an 9:5 was in response to a specific situation at a specific time in order to achieve a specific objective and has no effect on the injunction contained in, for example, Qur’an 2:109, which states: “Pardon and forgive until God brings about His command.” The latter is after all a general commandment whose applicability is not circumscribed by specific historical circumstances and objectives.23 ‘Abduh is therefore highly critical of those who would see the injunction contained in Qur’an 9:5 with its clear reference to Arab polytheists as being applicable in any way to non-Arab polytheists or to the People of the Book. The latter are referred to very differently, as in Qur’an 5:82, which states: “You will find the closest in affection to those who believe are those who say we are Christians.” There are additionally hadiths that similarly counsel peaceful relations with various groups of people, such as the one that counsels leaving the Ethiopians (as well as Turks) alone as long as they leave the Muslims alone. ‘Abduh remarks with regret that if jurists had not read a number of these Qur’anic verses and hadiths “from behind the veil of their juridical schools,” then they would not have so egregiously missed the fundamental point made throughout the Qur’an and in sound hadiths that “the security to be obtained through fighting the Arab polytheists according to these verses is contingent upon their initiating attacks against Muslims and violating their treaties.”24 ‘Abduh goes on to point out that the very next verse—Qur’an 9:6—offers protection and safe conduct to those among the polytheists who wish to listen to the Qur’an.25 The implication is clear: polytheists and non-Muslims in general who do not wish Muslims harm and display no aggression toward them are to be left alone and allowed to continue in their ways of life. In his 1993 book, al-Jihad fi al-islam, the prominent Syrian religious scholar Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti (d. 2013) similarly inveighs against the deployment of Qur’an 9:5 as a proof-text by a number of medieval hawkish jurists to justify offensive military campaigns. He is also critical of their invocation of the hadith in which the Prophet is quoted as stating: “I have been commanded to fight people until they bear witness that ‘There is no god but God.’” According



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to this school of thought, the so-called sword verse mandated the legitimacy of fighting polytheists and forcibly bringing them into Islam. A majority of jurists and exegetes, however, were opposed to this position, says al-Buti, who maintained that Qur’anic verses that counsel Muslims to invite others to Islam without coercion remain unabrogated and that the above hadith (“I have been commanded to fight …”) does not contradict the content of these verses. The people referred to in this hadith are specifically pagan idol-worshipers in Arabia, which therefore has no bearing in the later period. Furthermore, continues al-Buti, the hadith’s chain of transmission is characterized as gharib (literally “rare,” “strange,” “obscure”). While this flaw did not prevent two wellknown hadith scholars al-Bukhari and Muslim b. Hajjaj from including this report in their highly regarded hadith collections, other scholars like Ahmad b. Hanbal did not record it in their compilations. The well-known hadith critic Ibn Hajar is known to have provided a list of scholars who discredited the reliability of this hadith. All groups of people, other than the hostile pagan Meccans, were exempt from fighting, according to Qur’anic verses that otherwise forbid coercion in religious matters, such as the well-known “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256), and Qur’an 60:8, which states: “God does not forbid you from being kind to those who do not oppose you in religion.” Al-Buti adds in a footnote that this was the principal view of the Shafi‘i and Hanafi schools and the majority of Hanbali jurists. Malik and his companions, al-Awza‘i, and a considerable number of other jurists, emphasized that the command to kill the Meccan polytheists in Qur’an 9:5 was predicated on their violent hostility (al-hiraba) and not on account of their unbelief (al-kufr).26 Al-Buti wholeheartedly agrees with this position. Like ‘Abduh, he draws attention to Qur’an 9:6, immediately following the so-called sword verse, which states: “If anyone from among the polytheists should ask for refuge from you, grant him such a refuge so that he may hear the word of God, then conduct him to safety; that is because they are a people who do not understand.” Al-Buti similarly comments that if Qur’an 9:5 is understood to command the fighting of polytheists until their death or their acceptance of Islam, then such a command is countermanded by the very next verse, which exhorts Muslims to offer refuge and safe conduct to them while they are in their state of polytheism. Al-Buti dismisses as irresponsibly arbitrary the view of those who suggest that Qur’an 9:5 abrogates Qur’an 9:6, which goes against the usual rule of abrogation that a later verse may supersede an earlier verse. He stresses that this understanding of Qur’an 9:5 contradicts other more numerous verses of the Qur’an that were later

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revelations and the praxis of the Companions. An example of such a verse is Qur’an 9:13, which states: “Will you not fight a people who violate their pledges and are intent on expelling the Messenger, while they initiated aggression against you? Do you fear them while God is more worthy of being feared, if you were truly believers?”27 Al-Buti points out that the verse clearly establishes the following reasons for engaging polytheists in battle: their reneging on oaths, their breaking of treaties, and their initiation of treachery and hostility. Such verses categorically establish once more that the proclamation of war against the polytheists in Qur’an 9:5 is predicated on their hostility, not on their lack of belief. Moreover, many reports describe the Prophet, as well as a number of his Companions, as counseling kindness toward polytheist relatives and non­relatives who have displayed no aggressive behavior. All these proof-texts together provide categorical affirmation that the only legitimate reason for fighting any group of people is their unrelenting hostility and initiation of aggression (al-hiraba), and not their religious beliefs or lack thereof.28 More recently, in 2005, the former Chief Mufti of Egypt, ‘Ali Jum‘a (Gom‘a), composed a short treatise on jihad29 in which he similarly challenges common misperceptions surrounding this concept and distills for the reader the contested interpretations of the purview of this term. Writing in the charged postSeptember 11 milieu, he confronts a question that in one form or another may be expected to be posed to Muslims: How would they reply to those who point out that most nations agree that conflicts between them are better adjudicated today through arbitration, rendering wars null and void, whereas “this Qur’an of yours exhorts you to jihād and to undertake it eagerly”? The answer, says Jum‘a, should focus on Qur’an 8:61, which indicates the eternal wisdom and abiding miracle of the Qur’an in that it foresees a future world where global nonviolence could become a possibility. The combative jihad was necessary for self-defense in a premodern, war-ridden world; against such a historical backdrop, the Qur’an (and the sunna) permitted fighting out of necessity while imposing humane and ethical restrictions on waging war. In the modern world governed (at least theoretically) by international treaties and contracts, he maintains, Qur’an 8:61, which is by no means abrogated, is the more appropriate proof-text to be invoked in mandating peaceful relations among nations.30 The belligerent perspective that relies on the invocation of the principle of abrogation (naskh) for its validity continues to be severely criticized by many modern and contemporary Muslim scholars, including jurists who have parted ways with a number of their premodern counterparts. Such jurists include Sobhi



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Mahmassani, Muhammad Hamidullah, Abu Zahra, and Wahba al-Zuhayli. These scholars have emphasized that the Qur’an should be read holistically and that the critical verses that forbid the initiation of war by Muslims and that uphold the principle of noncoercion in religion categorically militate against the conception of an offensive jihad to be waged against non-Muslims qua non-Muslims.31 This position represents a significant departure from the classical juridical view that the Muslim ruler was obligated to carry out a military foray once a year as expansionist jihad in order to expand the territorial realms of Islam. Modern mainstream scholars reject this position as untenable because, first, it violates the Qur’an’s prohibition against fighting except in self-defense, and, second, this classical juridical position reflects legal accommodation to a world predicated on non-Muslim hostility to Muslims and in which war has been the default situation between nations. In a vastly altered world in which mutually binding international treaties exist, positing peace rather than war as the default situation, many of the classical legal rules of war and peace invite revisiting in the context of new historical realities, and as many would argue, in a spirit of greater fidelity to Qur’anic principles of war and peacemaking.

Militancy and its contestations Militant groups today however continue to favor the pro-abrogation position, particularly vis-à-vis Qur’an 9:5, because it allows them to wield it ahistorically and arbitrarily to justify their campaigns of violent vengeance. For example, in a tract titled al-Farida al-gha’iba (“The Missing Duty”), attributed to ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj, a member of the extremist Egyptian group al-Jihad wa al-takfir (which assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981), jihad has become rendered into a violent, scorched-earth policy of vengeance, fired by a ruthless zeal for restoring a mythic, divinely sanctioned world order that will empower him and his cohort against the cosmic forces of evil.32 Faraj’s methodology for creating this imperative has become a familiar one: selective and decontextualized quoting of Qur’anic verses and hadith, supporting the abrogating function of Qur’an 9:5 vis-à-vis all other conciliatory verses, and finally, and most importantly, invoking the situation in extremis argument, which renders armed combat an individual and immediate obligation, and grants him and his

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fellow militants considerable license in the means they adopt in carrying out their violent mission.33 A particularly dangerous innovation found in al-Farida al-gha’iba is the absolution granted to those who would perpetrate terrorism in the name of religion as long as their intent is “pure” and “sincere”34—which becomes a euphemism for saying: as long as they adhere to the manifesto of the Jihad wa al-takfir group. This is a view of the military jihad that also informs the platform of al-Qa‘ida, ISIS, and their offshoots today. From their vantage point, “pure” and “sincere” intent offers blanket legitimation for attacks on civilians, destruction of nonmilitary property, and creation of mayhem and terror by whatever means available. A more thorough dismantling of or disregard for the classical Islamic tradition can scarcely be imagined. Such a viewpoint also justifies so-called “martyrdom operations,” which glorify suicide bombings. One contemporary militant, an ideologue for al-Qa‘ida known as ‘Abd al-Qadir b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, has described the love for martyrdom operations as “a part of the politics of deterrence” and contrasts “the enthusiasm of the believer for death and the [sic] martyrdom” with “the fear of the disbeliever of death and his enthusiasm for this life.”35 The goals of the military jihad, according to ‘Abd al-Qadir, are mainly the preservation of the strength of Muslims and the prevention of their exposure to destruction through military acts of preemption. This is what saves “martyrdom operations,” he states, from being considered acts of self-destruction, which are otherwise forbidden in Qur’an 2:195.36 Mainstream scholars of Islam like Nasir al-Din al-Albani of Syria, and Muhammad b. Salih al-‘Uthayman of Saudi Arabia, however, have condemned martyrdom operations as simply a form of suicide and therefore as unambiguously forbidden in Islamic law. The most detailed and blistering condemnation of such acts to date has been composed by the Pakistani cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. Qadri particularly takes aim at the argument of some contemporary militants that suicide bombings are justified as long as they are carried out “with good intention and pious motive.” He marshals an impressive array of arguments based on the Qur’an and hadith to undermine this and other militant positions. Qadri deploys these verses as a cogent rejoinder to those who would maintain that pleasant speech and protestations of innocence and noble motives confer legitimacy on heinous deeds. He points specifically to a group of Qur’anic verses (2:11-12) that, he says, belie the facile, immoral arguments of the militants. These verses state: “When it is said to them: ‘Do not spread disorder in the land,’ they say: ‘It is we who reform.’ Beware! (Truly) it is they



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who spread disorder, but they do not have any sense (of it) at all.” Qadri regards these verses as indicating the terrorists who dress up their violent deeds as jihad and as acts of reconstruction and reformation. He remarks trenchantly: “Terrorism, carnage and mass destruction can never be justified in the name of any intention of enforcing Islamic commands and its judicial system. Nor can these reprehensible activities be any exception to the rule, or be overlooked, or forgiven.”37 In Islamic law, lawful objectives can be attained only through lawful means. For example, Qadri continues, constructing a mosque is always a pious act, but one cannot finance it by robbing a bank. The good is never served by evil means. The famous hadith “Actions are judged according to their intentions” is not intended to “set a wrong thing right,” but rather is in reference to “those actions that are proven pious, permissible and lawful,” he reminds hearers.38 Actions that are unethical, unjust, and unlawful to begin with cannot be rendered their opposite through good intention alone. Qadri’s fatwa remains one of the most detailed and cogent refutations to date of justifications for suicide bombing.

Conclusion War and peace are deeply complex and polysemous concepts in Islam, as they are in most religious traditions. Our exploration of the historical trajectory of jihad in the context of war and peacemaking has significant implications for the contemporary period. First, our survey documents the multiple and contested meanings of jihad that are prevalent in the literature, particularly outside of the legal sphere, and challenges a monolithic, reductive understanding of the term. Second, it establishes the defensive and limited nature of fighting in the Qur’an as stressed particularly by exegetes, ethicists, and moral theologians. The combative jihad in the Qur’an is most categorically not holy war,39 which is aggressive war carried out for the sake of religion. Third, it contextualizes the legal positions that legitimized offensive military activity as contingent responses to specific political circumstances, which cannot be deemed to be normatively binding for Muslims for all times and for all places. Since this volume is in conversation with Rene Girard’s thought on violence, I wish to add a few words here about his conceptualizations of violence and their applicability to Islam. Girard’s theory of sacred violence, as I understand it, is predicated on the claim that biblical religion, especially Christianity, is a

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radical attack on the whole logic of religious violence. After all, according to the gospels, Jesus was killed by his enemies as a scapegoat and as a sacrificial victim. That—according to this particular Christian perspective—God himself became the victim of both scapegoat murder and sacrificial killing, says Girard, demonstrates that the central message of the gospels is to overturn once and for all the process of scapegoat murder and sacrificial violence.40 In Battling to the End, Girard however makes the claim that Islam has relapsed into an archaic religion that is violent at its core. He references the battles that the Prophet Muhammad fought and the conquests that broke out after his death in order to paint Islam as essentially warlike.41 For Girard, the fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity is Islam’s lack of a cross, because the cross signifies the end to violence.42 Like Christianity, he says: “Islam rehabilitates the innocent victims, but it does so in a warlike way. Conversely, the cross signifies the end of violence and archaic myths.”43 Therefore, the violence in Islam, according to Girard, will continue simply because the figurehead in Islam is a “warrior,” whereas in Christianity he is an “innocent victim.” This characterization is of course highly unfortunate and problematic mainly because it is not based on any profound and historical understanding of Islam as a religious tradition and draws instead from popular and ahistorical perceptions of Islam and Muslims that I have critiqued in this chapter. If Girard had studied the Qur’an on its own terms, he would have realized that violence is rendered legitimate in the Islamic milieu only in self-defense and always as a last and limited resort. The conquests in the Near East occurred after the Prophet’s death and were clearly a continuation of the old, warring ways of pre-Islamic Arabia and have nothing to do with legitimate violence as described in the Qur’an. The default situation in the Qur’an is that of peace, which Muslims are enjoined to uphold as an act of righteousness. God himself, according to the Qur’an, puts out the flames of war incited by warmongers; Qur’an 5:64 states: “As often as they light a fire for war, God extinguishes it; they strive to cause corruption in the land, but God does not love the corrupters.” I am furthermore troubled by the fact—at least based on my limited reading of his works—that Girard accords no particular importance to the concept of justice or the lack thereof and how that conditions human behavior and proclivity toward violence. If one is unconditionally a pacifist, how, I would like to ask, does one deal with situations of rank oppression, of human degradation, and victimization when all peaceful measures are exhausted in attempting to



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rectify them? If oppressors resort to unjust actions and perpetrate violence, then it would be immoral not to seek to restrain them through preferably peaceful means and, if those fail, then through limited and proportional violence. Only under such severely circumscribed conditions can Muslims fight, according to the Qur’an. There is a good reason why we label Islamist militants “extremists”: because they have departed from the mainstream when they are the aggressors and because they violate the elaborate code of just and humane conduct that governs the use of force in Islamic military ethics. Violence is never redemptive in the Qur’an nor is it sacred; military activity is never a scorched-earth policy as it is with the terrorists, even when grievances may be justified. A very important verse from the Qur’an (5:8) exhorts: “Let not the hatred of others towards you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” Consequently, there is no scapegoating in Islam. Each human being is accountable for his or her actions; one assumes no responsibility for others’ actions nor can one justify wrongdoing on one’s part as a response to the harm inflicted by others. It is noteworthy that there is no concept of original sin in Islam. In the Qur’an, Adam is forgiven for his transgression by God before descending to earth and therefore there is no transferal of Adam’s sin to his progeny. All human beings are born rather with a pure disposition, with a proclivity to do good; in Arabic, this is known as fitra. Girard, I am sure, if he had been aware of all this, would have modified his views and realized that, like Christianity, Islam puts an end to mimetic violence, not through the cross of course but through its emphasis on justice and on individual accountability for one’s actions, thereby erasing any notion of collective guilt, and severely straitjacketing violence so that it becomes well-nigh impossible except under very limited conditions. The fact that the behavior of some followers of both religious traditions casts doubt on these assertions does not change these facts. Just as Girard would have extremist violent Christians reflect more deeply on the meaning of the cross in order to mend their ways, I would like to see extremist violent Muslims return to the Qur’an and reflect deeply on the meanings of its verses holistically—that is to say, without resorting to the arbitrary principle of abrogation—in order to see the egregious error of their ways.

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Notes 1

This essay draws heavily on my chapter “War and Peacemaking in the Islamic Tradition,” in Asma Afsaruddin, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 115–40. 2 All dates in the text proper of this chapter refer to the Common Era. 3 All translations of the Qur’an are mine, although I have freely consulted existing translations. 4 See the discussion of these verses in Asma Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 35–43. 5 Mujahid b. Jabr, Tafsir mujahid, ed. al-Surati (Islamabad: Majma‘ al-buhuth al-islamiyya, n.d.), 23. 6 Muqatil, Tafsir Muqatil b. Sulayman (Cairo: Mu’assasat al-halabi wa shuraka’uh, 1969), 1:167–8. 7 Al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-kabir (Beirut: Dar ihya’ al-turath al-‘arabi, 1999), 2:287–8. 8 For a quick overview of this event, see W. Montgomery Watt, “Al-Hudaybiya,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (henceforth EI2), ed. H. A. R. Gibb (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960–2003), 3:539. 9 Al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-kabir, 2:288. 10 Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1997), 2:357. 11 Al-Wahidi, al-Wasit fi tafsir al-qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1994), 1:319. 12 Al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-kabir, 2:384. 13 Ibid. 14 Al-Tabari, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 6:278. 15 It is instructive to remember recent American history, especially the rhetoric generated concerning the Iraq war under George W. Bush’s administration, which indicates how powerful such pseudotheological narratives can be in the service of the state. 16 For more details on al-Tabari’s life, see C. E. Bosworth, “al-Tabari,” EI2, 10:11–15. 17 Al-Shafi‘i, Kitab al-umm, ed. Mahmud Matruji (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, 2002), passim. 18 Al-Shafi‘i, Al-Risala, ed. ‘Abd al-Laṭif al-Hamim and Mahir Yasin al-Fahl (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, 2005), 337–42. 19 See further, Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, Ch. 10, for a summary of these contested views through the centuries. 20 Al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari, 6:278.



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21 Ibid., 6:278–9. 22 See further discussion of this verse, and the various exegetical perspectives, in Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 90–3. 23 Rashid Rida, Tafsir al-qur’an al-hakim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘ilmiyya, 1999), 10:161–2. 24 Ibid., 10:162–3. 25 Ibid., 10:171–5. 26 Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti, al-Jihad fi ’l-islam (Damascus: Dar al-fikr, 1993), 52–4; Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 245–52. 27 See the discussion of the interpretations of Qur’an 9:13 in Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 58–63. 28 Ibid., 54–7. 29 ‘Ali Jum‘a, al-Jihad fi ’l-islam (Cairo: Nahdat misr li ’l-tiba‘a wa al-nashr, 2005). For an English-language discussion of its content, see Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 252–6. 30 Jum‘a, al-Jihad fi ’l-islam, 22–4. 31 For some of these views, see Sohail Hashmi, “Saving and Taking Life in War: Three Modern Muslim Views,” in Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia, ed. Jonathan E. Brockopp (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), 129–54. 32 Mark Juergensmeyer considers this belief in a cosmic war between good and evil as symptomatic of militant religio-nationalist groups today; see his Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 148. 33 Thus Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, a strategist for al-Qa‘ida, emphasizes the in extremis argument to justify terrorism; see Brynjar Lia, The Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 428. 34 Translated by Johannes J. G. Jansen as The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (London: Collier Macmillan, 1986), 222–5. 35 Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, Fundamental Concepts Regarding Al-Jihad, At-Tibyan Publications, Rajab, 1425, www.alqimmah.net (accessed May 31, 2010), 208. 36 Ibid., 216. 37 Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism, 2010, available online at http://www.minhaj.org. See also Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 265–7. 38 Qadri, Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism. 39 Roland Bainton’s definition of holy war in the context of the Crusades is generally

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Does Religion Cause Violence? accepted; he described the Crusades as “a holy war fought under the auspices of the church or some inspired religious leader, not on behalf of justice conceived in terms of life and property, but on behalf of an ideal, the Christian faith.” See his Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1986), 14. Rebecca Adams and René Girard, “Violence, Difference, Sacrifice: A Conversation with René Girard,” Religion and Literature 25, no. 2 (Summer, 1993): 4. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (East Lansing: Michigan University Press, 2009), 211–14. René Girard, Henri Tincq, and Thomas C. Hilde, “What Is Happening Today Is Mimetic Rivalry on a Global Scale,” South Central Review 19, nos. 2–3 (Summer– Autumn, 2002): 24. Ibid; see further, René Girard, The Girard Reader, ed. James G. Williams (New York: Crossroad, 1996).

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Violence, Religion, and the Sacred: In Dialogue with Asma Afsaruddin’s “Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths” Paul Dumouchel

Professor Afsaruddin’s essay “Islam and Violence: Debunking the Myths” is not in the present context simply an academic exercise: It is also an important ethical and political endeavor, for the question of whether or not Islam is a violent religion is not just a question of historical and exegetical interest. At this time, the answers that are provided to this question play a fundamental role in framing important aspects of both the internal and external policies of most, if not all, Western countries, and of many others that may or may not be considered as such, for example, Russia, Japan or China, as well as their attitudes toward important international events, such as the Syrian civil war or the 2016 reaction of the European Union (a term that should be considered an oxymoron) to the ongoing refugee crisis. These answers also play an important role in what common people, that is, all of us average citizens, ask and expect from our governments. It is, in other words, a highly charged ideological issue, in view of what people expect from their government’s response to what they view as the evident answer to this question: that Islam is violent and dangerous. What they expect or at least require from their government is a strange mythical good called: security. Given this, one of the great qualities of Professor Afsaruddin’s approach to this question is precisely that she does not provide an answer, for ideology is all about answers, about putting an end to discussions and to questioning. At the beginning of her chapter Professor Afsaruddin identifies three assumptions that are characteristic of popular perceptions of jihad as a holy war and as a religious obligation to engage in violence.

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1. Jihad is relentless, bloody warfare to be waged by Muslims (en masse) against non-Muslims (en masse) until Islam occupies the whole world or till the end of time—whichever occurs first; 2. Muslims can issue the call to such a jihad anytime and anyhow and their only excuse is that stubborn unbelievers will not submit, willingly or unwillingly, at their hands; 3. When Muslims argue that a true military jihad is only defensive and conditional, while the internal, nonviolent jihad is continuous and unconditional, they are deliberately dissembling about the real nature of jihad and are to be regarded as apologists for their faith. The first point I wish to make is that while (1) and (2) are, or at least can be viewed as, essentially misconceptions concerning Islam, (3) is different. It reflects mistrust and disbelief in the truth of what is being said by Muslims. We are in fact dealing here with two very different, though closely related issues. While (1) and (2), in principle, can be resolved, set straight so to speak, by inquiry into what we find in the Qur’an and the hadith concerning Jihad and what Islamic scholars are and have been saying and writing on the topic, (3) cannot! Not only the accusation of dissembling on the part of Muslims cannot be resolved solely by invoking texts, by calling upon historical evidence, but it seems that it is impossible to resolve (1) and (2) without first answering (3). For this accusation pretty much means: “We don’t care what you say; we know who you are!” So how do we address this difficulty? How can we make people care about what is being said? How can we respond? How do we speak to those who have already decided that that all “moderate” views about Islam and its relationship to violence are a pack of lies, because they already know the truth? There is a sense in which we cannot answer, because such an attitude forces us to silence and to the brutal choice between violence and nonviolence, or perhaps more precisely, between violence and the renunciation of violence. And yet violence cannot be the answer—though it may be inevitable—because it is seen by those who refuse to listen as a confirmation of what they are claiming: that these people, Muslims, are only violent and that there is no truth in what they are saying. However, there is another sense in which it is possible to respond in a constructive way and that, I believe, is precisely what Professor Afsaruddin does. That it is what I was trying to point to when I said that she does not provide an answer to the question: Is Islam a violent religion?



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The reason why it is worthwhile to respond to such stubbornness and refusal to listen is that the refusal to listen, mistrust and the lack of confidence are rarely, if ever, total or complete. This claim should be taken seriously. However, my point is not so much that there is always a crack that can be found in the armor of even the most stubborn and closed opponent—actually, I do not think that that is always the case. Rather my point is that there are many degrees or levels of closure, of inability or unwillingness to listen. At every point, every level, however, this unwillingness manifests itself in the same way. It is revealed by the manner in which violence is taken as a confirmation of their refusal to listen by those who are unwilling to hear. It presents itself as an attitude that may be described as “I already know what he is going to say” or “What else could she have said?” In this case, the predictable response that is being rejected even before it is formulated is: “No. You who accuse us are wrong. Islam rejects violence. Jihad should essentially be understood as spiritual striving for truth and a morally good life.” Instead, rather than saying that, Professor Afsaruddin argues that there is no simple answer to the question; that at different points in time, different schools and traditions and even the Qur’an, in different circumstances, bring different answers to this question. She reminds us that there is more than one interpretation of the relevant texts, that there are exegetical tools that some accept and others criticize—for example, abrogation—that have been used to push the answer in one or the other direction, toward more or less violence. She adds that there are, and there have been, extratextual and extratheological influences, historical and political influences, empire-building enterprises that have acted on the different answers to this question. Compare this, her response, to trying to answer both textually and historically the same question concerning Christianity: Is Christianity a violent religion? I think that the only possible answer, in good faith, would be the same: that there is no simple answer to this question. In spite of the gospel’s counsel to forgive our enemies and that Christians should not respond to violence with violence, Christianity throughout the ages has engaged in a host of violent enterprises: wars, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the burning of heretics, forced conversion, and it has also at many times been eager to sanction the violence of states. Furthermore, doctors of religion and saints even have succeeded extremely well in finding scriptural and theological justifications for these violent policies. In this case also there is no simple answer to the question. Like Islam, Christianity is and has been divided on the issue. Depending on the times, the authors, the

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circumstances, on occasions of empire-building and colonial expansion, or to the opposite, of oppression and persecution, the position of different Christian churches on this issue has changed. This is another way of saying the question is ill-conceived. Asking whether religion is violent—whether it be Christianity or Islam—is not the right question. That is why the right answer to this question is not answering the question, for the myth to be debunked is the belief that there is one simple answer to this question—there is not. We, who are Girardians, should know better. After all, one of the founding books of mimetic theory is called, not without reason, Violence and the Sacred. It argues—and this is one of the central tenets of the theory—that violence is the sacred, and the sacred is violence. In the origin, there is violence only, and the sacred corresponds to violence turned against itself, to violence that unwittingly brings about peace and reconciliation, against a single victim—the founding victim whose death at the hands of the unanimous crowd puts an end to the mimetic crisis and gives rises to the sacred. Out of this social phenomenon, out of this selfregulating mechanism of violence, emerges the sacred, a transcendent force that grounds the first prescriptions and prohibitions whose effect is to violently protect us against our own violence by instituting a distinction between good and bad violence, between violence that is permitted and violence that is prohibited, and between sacrifice and violence. Out of the sacred slowly proceeded, according to Girard, all of human culture: the domestication of animals, and the establishment of sacrifices, rituals, rules of marriage, myths, kings, religion, and politics. The relation between violence and the sacred is thus at the heart of mimetic theory. It is not however a simple relation and it is a changing relation. According to mimetic theory, the sacred, the first born of all human institutions, is both violence and a means of protecting ourselves against our own violence. Violent though it is, the sacred aims at peace and serves to make us less violent—or at least to keep our violence within bounds. Yet at this game it inevitably sometimes fails, because it requires violence to make us less violent. Therefore, throughout history, the sacred has always been ambivalent; it corresponds to what is most holy and foreign to violence and at the same time it can justify the most terrible violence. This duplicity should neither surprise nor scandalize us. It is the truth of this first institution that it is both itself and its contrary at the same time: violence and the sacred. Of the sacred, religions are a species, or at least an expression, and a partial condensation or crystallization. In religions, some aspects of the sacred, some



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dimensions of the original institution are developed and codified. More precisely religions remain focused on the transcendent features of the origin, on the fact that there is always something that exceeds whatever institution, practice, or ritual manifest socially. Religions however are not the only cultural creations that cater to that dimension of the sacred. Many scholars have argued that what makes religions a particular form of the sacred is that they are inseparable from the state, whether modern or ancient1—that they are, to put it otherwise, what happens to certain practices of specialists of the origin when politics emerges as a separate institution.2 This is not without consequence for the question that interests us, the relation between violence and religion. The state in this context is inevitably a latecomer, an upstart that wants to take away from religion, at first some part of the management of violence, until with the modern state it finally claims the monopoly on the use of legitimate violence, that is, the sole authority to distinguish between good and bad violence. From the beginning, religions and politics (or the state) have been in competition for the management of violence and their relationships have rarely been peaceful. This relation of religion and politics may be called the theologicopolitical question. We tend to think that this question is rather simple and can receive only one of two radically opposed answers. One answer is theocracy, where a religion endows politics with the majesty of its transcendence and where the ruler becomes a representative of the deity. That, we think, is the wrong answer, one that leads to violence. The other answer is secularization, the separation of religion and politics, a regime that aims at the privatization of religion and ultimately and ideally at the disappearance of religion as a social reality. That we view as the good answer, and it is, we think, our answer, that of Western liberal democracies. In consequence, we tend to see religion in politics as inevitably leading to violence and we attribute the violence that we see in many Muslim countries to the fact that this separation of religion and politics either has never taken place, or that it has recently been overturned by militant Islamic groups. Yet, if the theologicopolitical question is that of the relation of religion and the state, it is clear that this relation can take, and historically has taken, different forms, of which theocracy or the separation of religion and politics are but two examples among many. As Vincent Delecroix3 and Pierre Manent4 have both recently argued, in very different ways, it may very well be that we do not truly understand what the solution to the theologicopolitical problem by which we live really is. Just as theocracy does not correspond to the complete fusion of religion and politics, to the absorption of one by the other, but is marked by conflicts

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and tensions between priests and rulers, secularism, the separation of religion and politics, constitutes a form of relation between them. This separation is not a repudiation. As Tocqueville argued concerning democracy, and Hobbes before him concerning the modern state, these political regimes require the presence of the religion in relation to which they assert their independence. The separation of religion and politics is a form of relation between religion and politics rather than the negation of all relationship between them. Perhaps it is not the presence of religion in politics that threatens us but its absence that may prove disastrous. What is fundamentally similar in Professor Afsaruddin’s view of the relation between violence and Islam and Girard’s position is the refusal to be scandalized by the presence of violence in religion. For Girard there is a proximity between violence and religion, because religions partake in violence and yet they are geared towards the regulation and reduction of violence. Religions, however, as I argued earlier, are inseparable from states and if we want to understand the violence that we see in many Muslim countries and the violence of Islamist terrorists we should also look at the action and at the violence of states—not only of course at the violence of Middle Eastern states, whether Islamist like Iran or Saudi Arabia, or secular like Syria or Turkey, but also the violence of Western democracies that have been militarily active in the region now for more than ten years. To believe that our military engagement there has only been defensive and for the protection of citizens of the Western world is to live in a world of fantasy. The common belief in the violence of Islam is, I think, directly proportional to our failure to recognize our own role, through the governments we elect and support, in the violence we condemn.

Notes 1

2

3 4

See, e.g., Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular, Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003) or Daniel Dubuisson, The Western Construction of Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). To some extent this is a question of stipulation. Shamanism, to the opposite, would be an example of practices of specialists of the origin in situations where there is no state. See, e.g., Rane Willerslev, Soul Hunters (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). Vincent Delecroix, Apocalypse du politique (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 2016). Pierre Manent, Situation de la France (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 2015).

12

Religion, Radicalization, and Violent Extremism? Julian Droogan and Lise Waldek

The question of how far religion can be considered a central factor for the inspiration of terrorism has been a topic of heated debate by academics and policymakers since the al-Qa‘ida (AQ) attacks of September 11, 2001, and, indeed, since before them.1 The subsequent “franchising” of AQ operations across much of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; its emergence as an internationalized terrorist brand espousing the goals of radical Islamist revolution and militant jihad; and the later evolution of one of these subsidiaries, AQ in Iraq, to become an independent and apocalyptically inspired insurgency under the name Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or simply “Islamic State” (IS), has further focused attention to the question of the exact relationship between religion and violent extremism.2 More recently, attempts by both AQ and IS to remotely inspire and equip individuals with the extremist ideology and practical tactics of terrorism, and to empower these individuals to conduct acts of violence locally, have led to a series of lone-individual attacks across the world and shifted focus to questions of “radicalization” to violent extremism.3 Just what role religion plays in this supposed process of radicalization to violent extremism, and, indeed, whether “radicalization” is an appropriate concept for explaining the inspiration of the lone self-empowered actor, have become two of the most significant and debated questions in terrorism studies and counter­ terrorism policy formation. Following the degradation of AQ’s, or its affiliates’, abilities to finance and coordinate global terrorist attacks, particularly after the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London and Bali bombings, the pattern for terrorist events in the West shifted toward smaller, more ad hoc attacks perpetrated by a lone individual or pair. This shift, in conjunction with the apparent rise of cases where the Internet has

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played a role in the spread of radicalization and mobilization to violence, has led to an increased interest in the supposedly homegrown individual terrorist actor, or the misnamed “lone wolf.” Since 2015, attacks by lone-individual violent extremists have increasingly been linked to the religiously inspired ideology and aims of the so-called Islamic State. The 2014 Lindt Café siege in Sydney—perpetrated by a troubled and criminalized individual who changed his religious affiliation to Sunni Muslim on Facebook shortly prior to the attack—was an early example of this trend, while similar events perpetrated by lone “radicalized” actors in support of IS have subsequently occurred in France (the 2016 Nice attack), the United States of America (the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting), the United Kingdom (the 2017 attack on the Houses of Parliament), and elsewhere. Indeed, while it is unlikely that IS presents a significant threat of centrally organized terrorism in far flung and geographically distant countries such as the United States and Australia, the group’s narratives and propaganda—both of which contain strong “religious” elements—clearly do present a real and growing challenge. For instance, although there have been some international attacks by the group that were planned and orchestrated centrally through its command structure, such as the 2015/16 attacks in Paris and Brussels, IS seems equally or more content to align itself with the homegrown extremists who are drawn to and identify with its religious ideology and aims. It should be noted at the outset that “religion” is a difficult term to wield either effectively or usefully in the context of discussions around radicalization, violent extremism, and terrorism. Nevertheless, its use appears to be inevitable, if problematic. “Religion,” let alone discreet “religions,” are by no means universally applied or agreed upon concepts throughout human history and culture.4 Also, trying to identify any pure or essential “religious” category within the complex characteristics of individual and group identity—which generally include language, ethnicity, kinship, politics, perceptions of in-group and out-group, historical tradition, and narrative of eschatological and redemptive myth, to name just a few—is certainly a difficult and perhaps a foolhardy task. However, all these characteristics are routinely utilized by a group such as IS, who very self-consciously packages them within a simplistic and perverse interpretation of “Islam.”5 Equally, the criticism has justifiably been leveled against terrorism researchers that they have been too quick to label acts, groups, and motivations as “religious,”6 and too willing to use the term in an overly blunt and simplistic manner.7 This unconsidered and sloppy use of the term “religion”



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can cause adverse consequences when it crudely links the violence of extremists with a specific religion or with “religion” in general, and contributes to a wider perception of “clash” between religious groups or between religion and modern society. In the policy-orientated world of responding to terrorism and implementing counterterrorism, however, many self-declared religious communities, faith groups, and “religions”—not least many Christian- and Islamic-identifying terrorist groups themselves—play active and vocal roles. Hence “religion” is a category that must be carefully engaged, if perhaps never defined. This chapter will provide an overview of some key aspects of the theory of radicalization to violent extremism and the role that religion is thought to play, or not, in the process of driving people to become violent extremist actors. It will also look at some of the significant problems with theories of religious radicalization to violent extremism, particularly the research done by terrorism researchers in the “nonreligious” dynamics that often appear to be central to this process, factors such as youth, alienation, socialization, and smallgroup dynamics. It will be shown how in order to create effective community responses to the challenge of violent extremism, academics, government, and indeed wider society have in many cases shifted away from countering violent extremism (CVE) programs based on assumptions about a person’s religious ideology, toward community programs that look beyond issues of religious extremism and instead promote social resilience based upon active counternarratives and youth engagement.

Violent extremism and countering violent extremism Violent extremism manifests as a complex social and criminal problem that is not easily defined, or open to straightforward policy formulation, as it encompasses a very wide range of behaviors, contexts, and motivations, including those that can broadly be termed “religious.” This complexity makes it difficult for religious leaders, governments, and communities to respond effectively when it occurs and even harder for these groups to evaluate attempts to prevent or counter it.8 Although a contested and complex concept, violent extremism can best be thought of as a willingness to use or support the use of violence in furtherance of beliefs, particularly those of a political, social, ideological, or religious nature. Crucially, in the context of attempts by groups such as AQ and IS to

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promote their brand of militant violence internationally, violent extremism often includes a willingness to use or support acts of terrorism, including communal or sectarian violence. Terrorism researchers and experts still do not agree what exactly leads people to embrace violent extremism, making the attempt to ascertain its exact relationship to religion, or for that matter to devise empirically grounded countering violent extremism programs, problematic. The historical record is clear, however, in illustrating that violent extremism is not a specifically “religious” or Islamic problem. There are many forms of violent extremism that occur in the modern world and throughout history, including far right-wing extremism, far left-wing extremism, violent cults and gangs, anti-Semitism, and extreme animal rights and deep ecological activism.9 Violent extremism is a phenomenon that occurs within all the world’s major religions, as well as and perhaps especially in various cults, sects, and new religious movements, particularly those holding a millenarian and apocalyptic narrative.10 In addition to this already full ideological spectrum, there are many examples of lone and perhaps lunatic assassins and people who engage in extreme acts of violence such as mass shootings for idiosyncratic personal, narcissistic, and perhaps mental health–related reasons.11 One challenge of the contemporary terrorism environment that allows groups to use the affordances of global communications technologies and the Internet to spread their messages to ever wider circles of people is how to categorize these apparently unbalanced and seemingly vulnerable individuals who act out with violence, ostensibly in the name of self-declared religiously inspired groups, but who in fact appear primarily motivated by idiosyncratic, egocentric, and deeply personal issues. Certainly, many of these types of violent extremism increasingly support and feed off one another in complex ways, further blurring the boundaries of what should or should not be considered predominantly religious in inspiration. In particular, extremist narratives espoused by terrorist organizations such as AQ and IS can be seen to interact and affect societies in a number of interconnected fashions. This is despite the fact that it has repeatedly been shown that the narratives most communicated by these groups, for instance, in their online e-magazine publications such as AQ’s Inspire and IS’s Dabiq, actually reveal a complex blend of political, social, and religious messaging that is far broader than any pure or sustained expression of religious ideology.12 A good example of the interconnected ways in which extremist narratives influence one another to create complex expressions of violent extremism



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in Western societies is the targeted and multilevel messaging of IS. IS narratives proposing divine sanction, the return of the caliphate, and the supposed obligation of all Muslims to join their particularly militant and politicized interpretation of Islam have been used to motivate individuals who seek to go overseas to join terrorist and insurgent organizations active in Syria–Iraq.13 At the same time, the increasingly sectarian nature of these conflicts in the Middle East has caused communities to mobilize sectarian or communal identities throughout a region that is beset by failing governance. This sectarianism has also affected multicultural societies beyond the region, such as the United States and Australia. Feeling uneasy or threatened by this rise in sectarian identities and violence, vocal anti-Islamic and far-right extremist groups in Western nations may exploit these security tensions for their own ends, which may in turn incite forms of far-right violent extremism. Moreover, at the same time, the increasing visibility of violence, community tensions, and the original extremist narratives motivate some individuals to become “homegrown” or “lone-wolf ” violent extremist actors, whose acts further exacerbate societal tensions. When taken together, these interconnected processes of violence and extremism create a social and political context within which religion (or ideology) appears to permeate societal tensions around terrorism, which in turn can exacerbate the mobilization of wider religious, ideological, sectarian, and ethnic identities by individuals and communities under stress. This complex environment naturally leads to concerns around how to best CVE. CVE is a process that identifies and counters violent extremism and its precursors in the community, usually with the wider aim of creating and supporting community resilience and harmony. CVE includes both preventative and responsive strategies. As a preventative strategy, community-focused CVE functions as a generalized early protective, prevention, and intervention strategy that helps communities manage the challenges of increased violent extremism. As a responsive strategy, CVE also allows communities to respond positively to threats and acts of violent extremism, including increases in extremism, when they do occur.14 It should be noted however that CVE does not equate with counter­terrorism, or necessarily with more interventionist law enforcement or intelligence functions. Community-focused CVE, for example, works best when it is distinct from preventative counterterrorism measures such as intelligence gathering and criminal security investigations. Counterterrorism work operates independently of CVE measures and has a focus on the active prevention of actual

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terrorist attacks. In contrast, CVE is a social policy response that, in part, works to mitigate the risks and broader social impacts of violent extremism. So, for example, in the case of a group promoting far-right hate politics mixed with a narrative of conservative Christian extremism,15 CVE programs may operate to provide alternative educational, social, or vocational opportunities to members, promote counternarratives that reject violence, or link members with other communities that promote more moderate and nonviolent views. Preventative and responsive community-focused CVE commonly draws on community partnerships to proactively maintain, support, enhance, and build community resilience to violent extremism and to prevent its precursors from developing or worsening. Partnerships may be with a diverse set of actors including faith groups, ethnic advocacy councils, community groups, youth groups, government organizations, and private sector bodies. Programs will often seek to identify and engage those deemed at risk of using, supporting, or facilitating violent extremism. Many programs will also enhance and support the capacity for communities to respond to acts of violent extremism and terrorism in a way that is positive, harmonious, and noninflammatory. In terms of strategic messaging and providing community counternarratives that are not divisive, the most successful CVE programs generally acknowledge that violent extremism is not exclusive to any one religion, and can be linked to other political and ideological positions, especially from the far-right. This acknowledgment, particularly that CVE cannot be wholly focused on forms of Islamist violence, was a major factor in the 2011 review and revision of the Prevent component of the United Kingdom’s CONTEST strategy.16 For example, many of the CVE community resilience and early intervention programs in Western Europe are specifically aimed at either both Islamist and far-right extremists, or in the case of states such as Norway, specifically on the right wing and with an emphasis on remaining nontheological in their aims and outcomes.17 This realization that off-message CVE programs can indeed exacerbate and contribute to religious tensions and extremism, particularly when they single out and securitize one religious or ethnic community as being problematic, has increasingly led to programs that attempt to balance a focus on, say, Islamist forms of violence, with those that are far-right and Christian-based. For example, in the United States, the Safe Spaces Initiative, which provides a toolkit for community stakeholders to address cases of violent extremism, is based on information on both Islamist and far-right extremism.18



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Radicalization and deradicalization In the years after the events of 9/11, academic research from a range of fields came to the overwhelming consensus that in most cases, and according to most criteria, violent extremists and terrorists do not deviate markedly from the general population. They do not generally suffer from any major mental illness, deficiency of empathy, extreme poverty, significant lack of education, lack of employment, or prior criminality.19 As a result, the search for a specific terrorist profile or personality shifted to attempts to understand the process a person goes through in order to engage in violent extremist or terrorist acts.20 This search has largely centered on the process of radicalization. Radicalization can best be considered a process in which radical political, ideological, and religious beliefs deviate widely from those of the community and move toward a more extreme worldview. This is clearly a subjective and socially constructed process that means that what is considered “extreme” differs, depending on location, time, and who one talks to. There is no academic consensus on what radicalization is, how radical ideas relate to a commitment to violent acts, or why some individuals and groups appear susceptible to violence in support of radical agendas while others do not.21 Nor is there any consensus as to whether religious groups, particular religions, or particular types of religion are more or less susceptible to violent extremism. Importantly, it is generally acknowledged however that radicalization is a pathway that does not always, or even often, result in a commitment to violence. One example is the phenomenon of fundamentalist religion. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews, Salafist Muslims, conservative Evangelical Christians, or nationalist Hindus can and, indeed, do hold views that are extreme or radical, and may condone or support violence in particular contexts. Only a small minority of any of these groups, however, actually commit to undertaking acts of violence or associated criminal behavior. Because the exact relationship between radicalization and violent extremism is poorly understood, this makes CVE programs that encourage some form of ideological or religious diversion away from violence difficult to engineer and evaluate. It is certainly problematic for community-focused CVE programs to be predicated on a sole interest in radicalization, religious or otherwise.22 This is because not all radical views are dangerous, and generally only become so when their adherents seek to impose them on others through violence or other illegal means. Indeed, radical and subversive ideas and attitudes are common in

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segments of the population, especially youth culture, and these can be confused for being precursors to, or support for, violent extremism. This may be the case for perceptions of youth “support” for the IS, where particular instances or expressions of support or sympathy may be more indicative of transgressive or subversive youth behavior, rather than clear indicators of radicalization as such. Furthermore, a simplistic focus on radicalization wrongly suggests there is a single, identifiable path to becoming a violent extremist. Rather, the process appears to be a complex mix of individual personality and beliefs, perceptions of identity, and group social dynamics.23 This mix often includes aspects of socialization, moral outrage at injustice, personal grievances, and some sort of extreme ideological or religious mind-set that condones violence (often in a way that the vast majority of fellow coreligionists would reject). Moral outrage, for example, is often caused by the perception of group grievance tied to things such as foreign conflicts and perceptions of injustice. The plight of one’s widest imagined social grouping can be empathized with in a way that is not restricted to any one religious or ethnic community; for example, “Muslims are persecuted all over the world,” or “white people are losing power and influence to nonwhite minorities,” or “Sunni–Shiite sectarian conflict transcends borders.” Religious communities, social groups, and individuals that are highly impacted by overseas conflicts are particularly able to generate moral outrage in this way. This phenomenon connects with René Girard’s understanding of the modern sympathy for the victim, which instead of being used to unmask violence, rather is used to justify more violence based on moral outrage over those victimized. An example of this complex mix can be given that, while hypothetical, resonates with the sorts of dynamics that appear to support Muslim youth radicalization to violent extremism and terrorism in many Western European countries. In this case, the social group could be organized around a mosque, a football game, or an Internet chat room. The moral outrage could be supplied by current affairs in the Middle East such as the second Iraq war or the plight of fellow Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, etc. The universalization of grievance, such as a “cosmic” battle spanning all time and space, is something that terrorist groups commonly excel at cultivating through their propaganda and messaging. The personal experience can be the perception of unfair actions by local police, government legislation, or a person’s experience of exclusion or racism by the broader society.24 Only in combination are these factors likely to resonate with a particular worldview that leads to violent extremist acts.



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This nexus of factors is particularly challenging for local communities to effectively deal with as it bridges international, national, and local contexts, and is based on perceived connections between religion, global geopolitical issues, and local experiences of perceived marginalization and/or racism. Local issues, global issues, religious grouping, and immediate social group are connected, and any community resilience strategy that focuses on only one of these will likely be inadequate. If the connection between radicalization and religion is difficult to define, and based on a complex and potent mix of factors, then the opposite process of religious “deradicalization” is even more problematic. Deradicalization is a process that fosters an individual to change or abandon his or her extremist mind-set and adopt more mainstream views, particularly in regard to a justification of violence to achieve goals. Some CVE programs, particularly those in Muslim majority states such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Indonesia, have focused on religious deradicalization, which proposes that an individual must make a commitment to rejecting deeply held beliefs and worldviews that are tied to identity. In these programs, an individual—often a prison inmate charged under antisedition or antiterrorism legislation—is encouraged to adopt a theological perspective that is more closely aligned with that proposed or supported by the state, often through the intervention of a state-sponsored imam and application of vocational and economic incentives for the inmate and his or her family. How central this conceptual theological worldview actually is to a person’s commitment or not to violence, how deeply it is held, and whether this cognitive/religious shift actually leads to a permanent rejection of violence and extremism is, however, unknown. Countering violent extremism programs that focus purely on religious deradicalization are problematic for four main reasons. First, the relationship between beliefs and a commitment to violence is complex, and the assumption that violent extremism is caused by radical beliefs, including religious ones, is not borne out by research that suggests that it is more often supported by social dynamics and perceptions of identity.25 Second, it is a difficult and sensitive task, both practically and ethically, to convince an individual to make changes to deeply held religious beliefs especially when these are tied to a person’s identity and reinforced through social networks such as close-knit religious fraternities, families, and support groups. Third, recidivism is likely even after a reputedly successful process of deradicalization if these former religion-based social networks and lifestyle remain intact. Fourth, when related to ideology

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or religion, any attempt by the state to support deradicalization programs may necessitate the government making pronouncements on religious or theological truths, including which religious perspective is considered politically acceptable or not. This may blur the line between religion and the state. In the case of multiethnic and multireligious societies that are built upon a secular mode of governance, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, this connection of the state with one state-sanctioned version of a faith may breed further divisiveness, especially when it is put in place for Islam—or a particular type of Islam such as Sunni Salafism—but not, say, for Christianity or Buddhism. Indeed, in the face of these complexities around religion, identity, and social dynamics, it has been suggested that a better way of preventing people from committing acts of violent extremism is to focus not on deradicalization, but rather on disengagement. Disengagement is a process of behavioral change where an individual’s involvement in violent extremist activities as a method of achieving an ideological, religious, or political goal reduces or ceases.26 The closely related term “desistance” refers to the act of ceasing commitment to violent acts. People who are disengaged from violence are not necessarily deradicalized and may still hold the radical beliefs that led them to a commitment to violence in the first place, and even to continue to believe that such violence is justified in an abstract sense. In this case, for example, an extreme Hindu nationalist who believes in an exclusivist Indian identity based on hindutva narratives will still hold this identity, but he or she will desist from using violence against, say, Muslim inhabitants of India. In other words, a person can remain radicalized to extremist religious, social, or political views or causes, but have abandoned violence as a preferred way in which these can be reached.27

Societal resilience and active counternarratives In the post–9/11 environment, however, in which many individuals and communities are hyperalert to terrorism fears (if not actual risks), it is perhaps not enough for the state to simply encourage as many individuals as possible not to become violent extremists. Indeed, when facing the seeming inevitability that at least some people will act out on behalf of the extremist views advocated by terrorist groups, no matter how minuscule a number, it is equally if not more important to consider how society as a whole—including faith



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communities—can be made resilient to the outcomes of these extremist actions. The aim of this would be to prevent, for example, religious and ethnic groups such as Muslim communities from being marginalized and impacted by hate and recriminations after a successful attack by a self-proclaimed IS supporter. Resilience is a process of building and strengthening social and cultural capital at the community level that can be harnessed to support programs or interventions seeking to prevent or reduce the likelihood of violent extremism.28 Social resilience is not a fixed state, however, but rather a process that needs to be maintained and “tended” through time.29 In the CVE context, community resilience relates to the capacity for CVE programs to proactively maintain and build strong, secure, networked communities that can “bounce back” and draw on their social capital and connectivity with other members of society in the face of violent extremism events. Perhaps even more importantly, resilient communities are able to maintain their cohesion and mobilize their positive networks and relationships to stand up and stand united in the face of tensions brought about through extremist threats and acts. In such a way, social resilience is central to a successful multifaith and multicultural society. Building and supporting community resilience is a key form of CVE early intervention as it provides a primary defense against violent extremist influences and targets the foundational social issues, relationships, and contexts that can put individuals or groups at risk of violent extremism in the first place. By building and maintaining a healthy and socially cohesive society, that society is more prepared to respond to extremist influences, threats, and acts when they occur.30 In this regard, it can be argued that community resilience is the earliest form of early CVE intervention, as it actively aims to prevent groups and individuals from becoming attracted to extremism and violence in the first place, reducing the need for later CVE interventions or law enforcement responses. Programs that enhance resilience also proactively create and support a society that can react positively in the face of any extremist act, while simultaneously encouraging social cohesion, trust, and harmony. Social cohesion refers to the degree to which a society creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity for upward mobility. In countries with diverse multiethnic and multireligious societies, religious communities often play active and essential roles in promoting social resilience. The clearest example is Islamic communities in Western states such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, which are often the most impacted on by terror attacks, violent extremism, and the community

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backlash that can, in turn, result. It is sometimes overlooked that it is Muslims who usually suffer the consequences of terrorism overseas, and it is also they who suffer from community backlash in the wake of terrorist attacks in the West.31 Acknowledging Muslims and Muslim community groups as stakeholders and partners in a truly whole of society CVE strategy has been shown to be essential.32 Indeed, a truly resilient society that achieves broad harmony between different religious and ethnic groups is itself a very powerful counternarrative to the discourse of hate and intolerance proposed by intolerant violent extremist and terrorist groups. In the wake of the 2014 Lindt Café siege, for example, the Australian state of New South Wales showed itself to be a resilient and socially cohesive society that responded to an act of attempted IS-inspired extremism with peace, cohesion, and multicultural unity. Grassroots social initiatives appeared in the wake of the attack, for instance, the #illridewithyou campaign on Twitter and other social media, which signaled to Muslim Australians that if they felt worried about being discriminated against—as coreligionists with the attacker—they were not to feel discouraged from sitting beside non-Muslims on public transport. Resilient societies provide a practical example that is the most effective, credible, and robust counternarrative. This responsive form of resilience to violent extremism in turn serves to build the preventative capability of CVE. The role of social resilience in providing an organic and grassroots “bottom-up” counternarrative to violent extremism is important, as efforts by government to produce artificial “top-down” counternarrative messaging often fail, particularly when they attempt to address issues of religion and, especially, youth. It is widely acknowledged that religious counternarratives to violent extremism should be organically produced. Counternarratives need to be, as much as possible, created by elements of the actual communities that these narratives are aimed toward. For instance, not only should Muslim groups be supported to take a leading role in establishing material opposing radicalization and mobilization to violence, but youth should be a part of this process as they can often use the most appropriate language to reach the target audience.33 Indeed, in order to be credible and effective, a counternarrative will need to speak to youth who may already hold extreme views, and do so in a voice that they understand and consider legitimate. Effective counternarratives may need to draw on the voices of extremists who do not advocate mobilization to violence, or former violent extremists who have renounced violence (but



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not necessarily their extremist cause). A particularly controversial example is the use of returned foreign fighters who had joined IS as part of a sense of religious duty but been turned off by the violence or hypocrisy they experienced once enlisted. These voices, while controversial, will still speak from a place of extreme religious conviction and thus provide a credible debate and discussion necessary to turn those people who are perhaps flirting with a mobilization to violence away from this path. The social aspect of religion and radicalization also needs to be considered. Although processes of radicalization and the relationship between holding radical ideas and a commitment to violence are debated, it has been demonstrated that joining a terrorist organization is typically a profoundly social process, drawing on existing family, friends, and relationships.34 People who radicalize often show a particular aspiration to find and acquire new belonging within a social group, and a new identity, which that group can in part grant them.35 In this regard, the very terms “lone-wolf ” or “homegrown” terrorist can be misleading, as they wrongly assume that the person has become radicalized or mobilized in isolation from any social network. Instead, in most cases individual violent extremist actors are firmly linked into extensive horizontal peer-to-peer social networks, often online. In particular, narratives and counternarratives work best when grounded in social life, and are not merely conceptual, theological, and abstract. Religion, however, remains a particularly problematic area for government to support counternarratives. It is difficult for government-sponsored counternarratives to have legitimacy when they are designed to meet and address extremist ideologies founded in an (often misunderstood) religious worldview. Government has neither the credibility and skills nor usually the willingness to pronounce on matters of faith, and is ill equipped to intervene in matters of religion. However, civil society can and does have significant soft power in this sphere, and can be supported to create positive narratives that counter religious extremism.

Conclusion Overall, it can be seen that such a widely used and contested concept as radicalization to violent extremism has become central to our understanding of the role that religion plays in the process of driving people to become violent extremist actors. However, in the current challenging terrorist environment in which groups

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such as AQ and IS attempt to influence lone actors through the spread of their intolerant, minority, and extreme religious perspectives, societies are increasingly looking beyond a sole focus on radical ideology and religious doctrine in order to meet this challenge. When considering violent extremism, and especially countering violent extremism programs, many nonreligious dynamics appear to be central to this process, factors such as grievance, marginalization, youthful aspirations to effect change in an often unjust world, and small-group social dynamics. In order to create effective community responses to the challenge of violent extremism, academics, government, and faith groups, certainly in the West, have begun to shift away from CVE programs based on assumptions about a person’s religious ideology, and toward community programs that look beyond issues of religious extremism and instead promote social and societal resilience based upon active counternarratives and youth engagement.

Notes 1

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J. Gunning and R. Jackson, “What’s So ‘Religious’ About ‘Religious Terrorism’?,” Critical Studies on Terrorism 4, no. 3 (2011): 369–88; B. Hoffman, “‘Holy Terror’: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 18, no. 4 (1995): 271–84; B. Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion After September 11, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006); M. Ranstorp, “Terrorism in the Name of Religion,” Journal of International Affairs 50, no. 1 (1996): 41–62; D. Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism,” in Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy, ed. A. Cronin and J. Ludes (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2004), 46–73. A. Aly and J. Striegher, “Examining the Role of Religion in Radicalisation to Violent Islamist Extremism,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35, no. 12 (2012): 849–62; N. Irwin, “The Complexity of Responding to Home-Grown Terrorism: Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, and Disengagement,” Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism 10, no. 2 (2015): 166–75. P. Neumann, “The Trouble with Radicalisation,” International Affairs 89, no. 4 (2013): 873–93; “How Rigorous Is Radicalization Research?,” Democracy and Security 9, no. 4 (2013): 360–82. J. Droogan, Religion, Material Culture and Archaeology (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). J. Droogan and S. Peattie, “Reading jihad: Mapping the shifting themes of Inspire agazine,” Australian Journal of International Affairs (published online, 30 Aug 2016), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546553.2016.1211527.

6 7 8

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Gunning and Jackson, “What’s So ‘Religious’?.” S. Atran, Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What It Means to Be Human (London: Penguin, 2010); Lincoln, Holy Terrors. S. Harris-Hogan and K. Barrelle, Evaluation of ANZCTC–funded Capability Development to Counter Violent Extremism and Review of the National Framework to Counter Violent Extremism. Confidential report to the Australian New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee’s Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee (Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2014), 6. A. Aly, “Countering Violent Extremism: Social Harmony, Community Resilience and the Potential of Counter-Narratives in the Australian Context,” in Counter Radicalisation: Critical Perspectives, ed. C. Baker-Beall et al. (New York: Routledge, 2015), 71–87. L. Dawson, “The Study of New Religious Movements and the Radicalization of Home-Grown Terrorists: Opening a Dialogue,” Terrorism and Political Violence 22, no. 1 (2009): 1–21. B. Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 37. J. Droogan and S. Peattie, “Reading Jihad: Mapping the Shifting Themes of Inspire Magazine,” Terrorism and Political Violence, August 2016, 1–34; Droogan and Peattie, “Mapping the Thematic Landscape.” C. Bunzel, From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State (Brookings: Center for Middle East Policy, 2015), http://www.brookings.edu/ research/papers/2015/03/ideology-of-islamic-state. P. Romaniuk, Does CVE Work? Lessons Learned from the Global Effort to Counter Violent Extremism (Washington, DC: Global Center on Cooperative Security, 2015). D. Pratt, “Religion and Terrorism: Christian Fundamentalism and Extremism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 22, no. 3 (2010): 438–56. M. Bentley, “Recognition Masking Response: Preventing Far-Right Extremism and Radicalisation,” in C. Baker-Beall et al., Counter Radicalisation, 106–22; R. Briggs, “Community Engagement for Counterterrorism: Lessons from the United Kingdom,” International Affairs 86, no. 4 (2010): 971–81; HM Government, CONTEST: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism; Annual Report (London: Home Office, 2013). L. Vidino and J. Brandon, Countering Radicalization in Europe (Kings College, London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2012). Muslim Public Affairs Council, Safe Spaces Initiative: Tools for Developing Healthy Communities (Washington, DC, 2014).

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19 M. Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); J. Horgan, The Psychology of Terrorism (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005); Atran, Talking to the Enemy. 20 M. Sageman, “The Stagnation in Terrorism Research,” Terrorism and Political Violence 26, no. 4 (2014): 565–80. 21 Irwin, “The Complexity of Responding to Home-Grown Terrorism”; A. Kundani, “Radicalisation: The Journey of a Concept,” in C. Baker-Beall et al., Counter Radicalisation, 14–35. 22 H. Tahiri and M. Grossman, Community and Radicalisation: An Examination of Perceptions, Ideas, Beliefs and Solutions throughout Australia (Melbourne: Victoria University and Victoria Police, 2013). 23 Kundani, “Radicalisation.” 24 T. Choudhury and H. Fenwick, “The Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Muslim Communities,” International Review of Law, Computers and Technology 25, no. 3 (2011): 151–81. 25 Atran, Talking to the Enemy. 26 Commonwealth of Australia, A National Approach to Countering Violent Extremism in Australia: The CVE Strategic Plan (Attorney General’s Department: Countering Violent Extremism Branch, 2011); Harris-Hogan and Barrelle, Evaluation of ANZCTC–funded Capability Development; Irwin, “The Complexity of Responding to Home-Grown Terrorism.” 27 J. Horgan and K. Braddock, “Rehabilitating the Terrorists?: Challenges in Assessing the Effectiveness of De-Radicalisation Programs,” Terrorism and Political Violence 22 (2010): 267–91. 28 M. Grossman, H. Tahiri, and P. Stephenson, “Harnessing Resilience Capital: Executive Summary,” unpublished project summary (Melbourne: Victoria University and Victorian Police, 2014), 1. 29 S. Luthar, D. Cicchetti, and B. Becker, “The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work,” Child Development 71, no. 3 (2000): 543–62. 30 A. Aly, E. Taylor, and S. Karnovsky, “Moral Disengagement and Building Resilience to Violent Extremism: An Education Intervention,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37, no. 4 (2014): 369–85. 31 Aly and Striegher, “Examining the Role of Religion.” 32 S. Akbarzadeh, “Young Rebel’s Guide to Terror,” Australian, 1 May 2015; B. Spalek and R. Lambert, “Muslim Communities, Counter-Terrorism and CounterRadicalisation: A Critically Reflective Approach to Engagement,” International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 36, no. 4 (2008): 257–70.



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33 R. Richardson, Fighting Fire with Fire: Target Audience Responses to Online and Anti-Violence Campaigns (Canberra: Australian Strategy Policy Institute, 2013). 34 S. Harris-Hogan, “The Importance of the Family: The Key to Understanding the Evolution of Neojihadism in Australia,” Security Challenges 10, no. 1 (2014): 31–49; Atran, Talking to the Enemy. 35 A. Bergin, Gen Y Jihadists: Preventing Radicalisation in Australia (Canberra: Australian Strategy Policy Institute, 2015).

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Religious Extremism, Terrorism, and Islam: A Mimetic Perspective Wolfgang Palaver

Religious extremism and terrorism are today frequently linked to Islam, which is often seen as nothing but a religion of violence. Contrary to this superficial othering of Islam I side with Pope Francis, who emphasizes in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium from 2013 that “faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”1 I will therefore first show, with the help of René Girard’s mimetic theory, that Islam belongs to the Abrahamic religions, and is much closer to Judaism and Christianity than many of its critics believe. Secondly, I will address dangerous temptations that frequently accompany all three Abrahamic religions. Thirdly, I will examine apocalyptic cults of the victim contributing to an escalation to extremes. Finally, I will emphasize the necessity to distinguish between the sacred and the holy.

Islam belongs to the Abrahamic religions Among scholars dedicated to mimetic theory, recent debates have raised the question of how Islam relates to Judaism and Christianity. One frequently mentioned starting point is the “epilogue” in Girard’s book Battling to the End, in which he claims that Islam is a religion that “has used the Bible as a support to rebuild an archaic religion that is more powerful than all the others.”2 Could one draw from this and similar remarks the conclusion that Islam is an archaic religion and not at all comparable with Judaism and Christianity, and even go

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as far as rejecting any notion that addresses these three religions together as “Abrahamic religions”? This question is much more complicated than it seems at first sight. First, Girard is very careful when he addresses Islam, always telling the people with whom he discusses it that he is not an expert in this field and has never studied Islam or the Qur’an thoroughly. He is also very much aware of the danger of opposing Islam mimetically without really coming to an understanding of it. Girard therefore warns of the danger of finding explanations that “often belong to the province of fraudulent propaganda against Muslims.”3 His claim that there is a “return to the archaic” in Islam is also clearly in need of some further clarification, because Girard at the same time maintains that there are “no longer any archaic religions” in today’s modern world.4 My thesis is that Islam belongs to the Abrahamic religions and that, like Judaism and Christianity, it has contributed to a profound transformation of the archaic sacred.5 My favorite story to support this argument is the Joseph story, to which Girard refers repeatedly in order to illustrate how the Bible differs from archaic myths.6 By comparing the Oedipus myth with the Joseph story, Girard was able to demonstrate similarities and differences between archaic myths and the Bible. Both narratives retell collective persecutions of single victims, but only the Bible sides with the victims and emphasizes their innocence. Already in their youth, Oedipus and Joseph are scapegoats of their own families. However, the difference between these two narratives is more important than their similarities. Contrary to Oedipus, who remains a scapegoat, Joseph is, according to Girard, a “rehabilitated scapegoat.”7 While in the eyes of his persecutors, Oedipus was the cause of the plague in Thebes due to his incestuous relationship with his mother, the biblical text is free of any comparable accusations against Joseph. In the latter case, Joseph did not rape the wife of his paternal father, Potiphar, but rather, she tried to seduce him. Furthermore, according to Girard, archaic myths deify their victims. It is therefore no surprise to recognize that Oedipus is exalted to quasi-divine heights after his expulsion from Thebes. Joseph, in contrast, expressly rejects similar attempts by his brothers who had persecuted him (Gen. 50:18-19). The story of Joseph is also part of the Qur’an. It is one of its very few narratives and the only biblical narrative that is nearly completely included in the Qur’an.8 Compared with the biblical version, the Qur’anic one is less dramatic and aims primarily to present Joseph as a true prophet of monotheism, as the Christian Qur’an scholar Michel Cuypers discovered with the help of Semitic rhetoric.9 Despite these differences, however, the Qur’anic version of the Joseph



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story also differs from archaic myths. Like the biblical story, it sides with the scapegoat, Joseph, and rejects all idolatry.

Violent temptations challenging the Abrahamic religions It is important for the purposes of my argument to clarify the difference between archaic myths and the perspective of the Abrahamic religions. Looking at our world today, however, it is evident that the Abrahamic revolution did not lead automatically to a more peaceful world. Girard has shown how the biblical revelation liberated humanity from the archaic world of bloody sacrifices toward an attitude that sides with the innocent victims of collective persecution, but it has also contributed to the conditions for new outbreaks of violence that often surpass all violence of the archaic past. The perspective of the victim is a very dangerous attitude if a spirit of forgiveness does not go together with it. At the heart of the Joseph story, both in the Bible and in the Qur’an, the victim’s perspective is combined with forgiveness. In the Qur’anic version, we find a strong emphasis on forgiveness. Joseph refers to God’s mercy as his mimetic model when he addresses his brothers, who fear his understandable revenge: “This day let no reproach be (cast) on you: Allah will forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!” (Sura 12:92). Despite the fact that forgiveness plays such an important role in all three Abrahamic religions, it seems that the perspective of the innocent victim has gained more prominence, whereas forgiveness has not attracted as many followers. This fact is especially visible in cases of terrorism and religious extremism. Muslim, Jewish, and Christian terrorists, and even the Aum Shinrikyo group which carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, legitimate their violent acts as deeds in defense of persecuted victims. The manifest of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed seventy-seven people in a terrorist attack in 2011, clearly shows this attitude, too. Louise Richardson, a political scientist who specializes in the study of terrorism, precisely summarized this characteristic of contemporary terrorism: Sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer asked Dr Abdul Aziz Rantisi, one of the founders of Hamas (assassinated by Israel in April 2004), in what way he thought Hamas was misunderstood. He said, “You think we are aggressors. That is the number-one misunderstanding. We are not: we are victims.” Bin

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Laden, characteristically, phrased it more dramatically: “The truth is the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America and the United Nations.” A member of the IRA explained to Kevin Toolis why he joined the terrorist movement: “I knew that the IRA were our defenders, looking after our interests, fighting for our rights. There was a great sense of anger.” On another occasion bin Laden used a homely analogy to explain his followers’ behaviour: “Let us look at a chicken, for example. If an armed person was to enter the chicken’s home with the aim of inflicting harm on it, the chicken would automatically fight back.” Seeing oneself as a victim who is fighting defensively, of course, makes it altogether easier to justify one’s action.10

What we realize in this dangerous cult of the victim that characterizes contemporary terrorism is a separation of the perspective of the victim from forgiveness. Girard addressed this problem more generally where he discussed how the Bible turns into a weapon in mimetic rivalries when it is just used in pieces and its broader thrust is neglected: If the revelation is to be used as a weapon of divisive power in mimetic rivalry it must first be divided. As long as it remains intact it will be a force for peace, and only if it is fragmented can it be used in service of war. Broken into pieces it provides the opposing doubles with weapons that are vastly superior to what would be available in its absence.11

Girard’s observation about such a violent abuse of the Bible can also be applied to the use of the Qur’an by violent extremists. I have already mentioned the importance of God’s mercy when I addressed forgiveness in the Qur’anic Joseph story. Mercy is mentioned not just in this story. It is a central theme throughout the whole Qur’an.12 Islam in general as well as the Qur’an particularly are deeply characterized by an “ontological mercy,” as was especially highlighted by the medieval Sufi mystic and philosopher, Ibn Arabi, who referred for this reason to Sura 7:156, “My mercy extendeth to all things.”13 Mercy is so important for an understanding of God that it is the only quality that God prescribes for himself, as is evident in Sura 6:12: “He hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy.” Moreover, the contemporary Muslim scholar Reza Shah-Kazemi shows how this ontology of mercy relates to the Qur’anic understanding of Jesus and how it characterizes a peaceful interpretation of jihād.14 Further, 113 out of 114 suras begin with the basmala, the praise of God’s mercy, even repeating this most important quality of God: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” (bismi’Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim).15 How can a jihadist sincerely claim to take



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revenge in the name of God if he remains aware of the all-encompassing mercy of God? He can do it only by neglecting the center of the Qur’an and Islam. Only Sura 9 does not start with the praise of God’s mercy. And it is this very sura that contains the infamous Verse of the Sword, which is often invoked by violent jihadists. Let’s look a little bit closer at this verse. Its first part (Sura 9:5a) is often quoted by jihadists and also by many critics of Islam who want to quickly prove that Islam is nothing but a warmongering and violence-generating religion: When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters [mushrikin16] wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. (9:5a)

This is, of course, a problematic passage in the Qur’an. But even if we focus just on this fragment of Sura 9 we realize that it starts with a traditional limitation on war. Violence is forbidden in sacred months. This refers to the ancient Arabian custom of setting aside four months in which warfare was forbidden, as we can see in verse 2 of this sura. Jihadists who today prefer the month of Ramadan for their violent attacks, on the contrary, seem to have forgotten such limitations. It is also important to reflect on the particular group of people against whom violence was allowed according to this passage: it was the Arab polytheists that were living outside Muslim control after the conquest of Mecca. Many modern Islamic scholars tell us that this particular group of people is definitely not part of our contemporary world. The Verse of the Sword does not justify an all-outwar against Christian, Jews, Western people, or Muslims who do not agree with the jihadist interpretation of Islam.17 And as soon as we look at this verse as a whole we realize that it is also aiming at mercy for all those who repent: But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (9:5b)

In Osama bin Laden’s Declaration of War, from 1996,18 this second part of the verse is not mentioned at all because it would undermine his justification for terrorist acts that aim not only against US military forces but also against other Muslims who do not respect the traditional protection of noncombatants.19 We also should look at the verse that follows the Verse of the Sword: And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not. (9:6)

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This verse seems to contradict the preceding one because it advocates courteous behavior toward Arab polytheists. Many interpreters conclude from this verse that safe conduct should be offered to peaceful non-Muslims.20 This verse and the broader context of Sura 9 (9:1-17) show that violence is justified only in selfdefense.21 To use the Verse of the Sword as a justification for the annihilation of one’s enemies, one must completely disregard its historical background and its broader context in the Qur’an. Sadakat Kadri, a lawyer and writer, who wrote a very readable book on the history of sharia law, Heaven on Earth, provides us with an even broader outlook on Sura 9. He emphasizes that passages like the Verse of the Sword do not represent the tone of the Qur’an as a whole: Calls for violence were greatly outnumbered by recommendations of harmony, and even aggressively minded interpreters of God’s words were bound to recognize how often He had spoken of peace. One ninth-century theologian identified 124 verses that seemed inconsistent with the Verse of the Sword. There were no fewer than 140, if a calculation made a couple of centuries later was to be credited.22

Muslims who want to give the Verse of the Sword precedence over all those many passages that emphasize peace and nonviolence use the theory of abrogation that claims that Sura 9, which was the last sura revealed, trumps earlier verses. A striking example in this direction is, for instance, ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj, a member of a jihadist group that assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1982. Faraj, who had no scholarly training at all, claimed that the sword verse “abrogated 114 verses in 48 (or 54) chapters of the Qur’an that advocate conciliation and forbearance with one’s adversaries.”23 The Islamic scholar Asma Afsaruddin calls the theory of abrogation a “hermeneutical ruse” and a highly “controversial hermeneutical tool” that has been used particularly by certain exegetes to “privilege more belligerent readings of the Qur’an.”24 This is especially true in those cases where interpreters have even claimed that verse 9:6 was abrogated by the preceding verse, 9:5. Such an unusual interpretation—a previous verse abrogating the following one—is not even consistent with the principle of abrogation, but more so with “the ideology of expansionist jihād.”25 Contrary to such a fragmented understanding of the Qur’an, however, Afsaruddin refers to the “Qur’anic text as a whole” that clearly rejects, for instance, a legitimation of holy wars because “it is not the religious affiliation of an adversary but rather its commission of hostile actions



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that legitimates a proportional counter-attack on the part of Muslims.”26 Fazlur Rahman, the well-known Islamic scholar, emphasizes most strongly that the Qur’an always has at first to be interpreted “as a whole.”27 According to Rahman, “the men of the first generation of Islam gave judgments in the light of their experience of the Qur’anic teaching as a whole … they did not quote individual verses unless these had a direct bearing on the problem under question.”28 Violent interpretations of the Qur’an by today’s jihadists, on the contrary, reject such a holistic approach, using small passages disregarding the historical or textual context to justify their bloody acts. Such an interpretation of the Qur’an, however, comes close to Girard’s critique of the fragmentation of the Bible. It would be interesting to find out if a dramatic interpretation of the Qur’an like Raymund Schwager’s reading of the gospels could be a fruitful way of solving tensions between verses and passages that look like contradictions at first glance.29

Apocalyptic cults of the victim escalating to extremes In his last major work (on Clausewitz), Girard recognized an advanced state of “escalation to extremes,” where he reflects on religious terrorism and the war against it: “The reciprocal theologization of war (‘Great Satan’ versus ‘the forces of Evil’) is a new phase in the escalation to extremes.”30 This dangerous state of our world results from a one-sided and vengeful appropriation of the perspective of the victim. Siding with the victim without a spirit of forgiveness easily results in a demonization of the enemy, who is seen as the incarnation of absolute evil. Roy Baumeister, an American social psychologist who has reflected on the nature of evil in the modern world, points to the fact that evil exists especially “in the eye of the victim.”31 Its most dangerous form is the “myth of pure evil” that justifies an all-out-war against evil perpetrators: The myth of pure evil conceals the reciprocal causality of violence. By doing so, it probably increases the violence. The myth of pure evil depicts innocent victims fighting against gratuitously wicked, sadistic enemies. The myth encourages people to believe that they are good and will remain good no matter what, even if they perpetrate severe harm on their opponents. Thus, the myth of pure evil confers a kind of moral immunity on people who believe in it. … Belief in the myth is itself one recipe for evil, because it allows people to justify violent and oppressive actions. It allows evil to masquerade as good.32

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We can discover such a myth of pure evil especially in apocalyptic fundamentalism and extremism. It is the myth of pure evil that leads to the theologizing of war as Girard criticized it. The Islamic State or ISIS represents an apocalyptic worldview that results from a victim’s perspective fueling the violent battle against a demonized enemy. In a highly provocative article in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” the Canadian journalist Graeme Wood emphasizes the apocalyptic theology that characterizes this jihadist group: “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”33 Dabiq is the title of the propaganda magazine of ISIS. It refers to a place in Syria near Aleppo where the Mahdi (in Islamic eschatology, the prophesied redeemer who will rule for a couple of years before the end of time) together with Jesus will fight a victorious final battle against all enemies of Islam, including the Antichrist.34 According to political analysts, ISIS is even hoping for an invasion of Syria by US troops, because this would accelerate the coming of the final battle. As in the history of Christianity, we can also find apocalyptic groups in the history of Islam. It has been a little bit more difficult, however, for Islamic apocalyptic groups to connect their message to the Qur’an than for Christian groups to connect to the Bible, because the Qur’an is an eschatological, not an apocalyptic book.35 This means that the Qur’an aims much more at the unchangeable future after the day of judgment and not at those changeable apocalyptic events or signs before this day, which can be used as a political weapon. Recent Muslim apocalypticism has been strongly influenced by Christian fundamentalists and their own apocalyptic longing for a final battle.36 Christian fundamentalists are expecting a battle at Armageddon that is to some degree mirrored by the jihadist’s longing for a battle at Dabiq. Concerning Israel and the Jews, we can see how similar and how prone to war these apocalyptic expectations are: By incorporating elements of Christian apocalyptic literature, contemporary Muslim writers have created a parallel discourse that sees the final solution for the “Jewish problem.” Both Muslim and Christian apocalyptic authors look for the ultimate destruction of Israel and the death of its population. Both see a remnant saved. The Christians see the Jewish remnant converting to Christianity, while the Muslims see both Christians and Jews converting to Islam.37



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A violent apocalypticism, as we recognize it in these groups, tends toward a gnostic view of the world and of life in general. They separate themselves from the Abrahamic mainstream with its affirmation of a good creation. A genuine apocalypticism that does not separate itself from an affirmation of the creation may expect an apocalyptic end of the world without, however, giving up hope for all creation and without ending its care for creation and all its life. We could refer to the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper or to René Girard for such an argument. In addition, we find powerful examples of such an attitude being expressed in the Christian and Muslim traditions. It is expressed, for instance, in those famous words that are attributed to Martin Luther: “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today.”38 A similar saying by Mohammed is transmitted in the following hadith: “If one of you holds a [palm] shoot in his hands when the Judgment Day arrives, let him quickly plant it.”39 Christian and Muslim theologians have to engage critically with the violent apocalypticism that is put to use in terrorism and that tries to accelerate the end of the world. For Christians it is important to realize that not only Muslims have to do this work. We Christians have to challenge violent fundamentalists, too.

The necessity to distinguish between the sacred and the holy Recent terrorist acts by jihadists have raised questions about the nature of religion. Is religion by its very nature prone to violence? Graeme Wood’s provocative article, referred to above, emphasizes the religious dimension of ISIS. Wood’s thesis, however, has been sharply criticized by experts on terrorism like Robert Pape, who does not see a prior role of religion. He, on the contrary, emphasizes secular goals in the case of ISIS, like the controlling of resources and territory. Pape interprets ISIS as primarily a nationalist movement: Wanting territory means there’s a community that wants a state. ISIS, and most suicide groups, are driven by an ideal of nationalism; they want to control their destiny with a state. ISIS is composed of a leadership of about 25 people, which is one-third very heavily religious, for sure; one-third former Saddam [Hussein] military officers who are Baathists, who are secular; and one-third who are Sunni militia, Sunni tribal leaders. That just conveniently is lost in the Wood

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piece. It’s definitely the case that ISIS wants to kill people who are not part of its community. But this is normal in nationalist groups.40

In order to enter into this debate about the role of religion concerning terrorism and violent extremism, we need a much more substantial understanding of religion. We can, for instance, draw on Girard’s distinction between the sacred and the holy that he emphasized strongly in Battling to the End. Moreover, Girard expressed “the gradual transformation of the sacred into the holy” in the following way: “The God of the Bible is at first the God of the sacred, and then more and more the God of the holy, foreign to all violence, the God of the Gospels.”41 Michel Serres, Girard’s colleague and friend, underlined this essential distinction in his encomium for Girard at his reception into the Académie Française in 2005: The holy is distinguished from the sacred. The sacred kills, the saint pacifies. Nonviolent holiness roots out envy, jealousy, ambition for high position, sanctuaries of mimeticism, and thus delivers us from rivalries that exasperate us towards the violence of the sacred. Sacrifice devastates; sanctity gives birth … The sacred unites violence and lying, murder and falsity; its gods are modelled by the collective in its fury. Inversely, the holy brings love and truth into accord.42

The French mystic Simone Weil influenced both Girard and Serres with regard to their distinction between the sacred and the holy. Weil could help us to develop a substantive understanding of religion. She used the term “gravity” for both the impregnable force of the mob of the scapegoat mechanism and the archaic image of God, finding an especially striking example for it in Thucydides’ Melian dialogues. Here the powerful Athenians explain to the islanders of Melos that justice relies on a balance of power and that in all other cases power always gets its will. In the eyes of the Athenians, this natural law dominates the human as well as the divine sphere: “In the case of the gods we believe, and in the case of humankind it has always been obvious, that as a necessity of nature wherever anyone has the upper hand they rule.”43 As in the case of Girard, however, who recognized in the biblical revelation a God who does not stem from a foundational murder, so also is Weil’s view of religion not limited to the pseudoreligiosity of gravity. She recognizes grace as a radical alternative. According to Weil, gravity and grace go together with very different types of religion. The realm of gravity dominates a type of religion that the Athenians addressed in the Melian dialogues and that sees human beings as well



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as gods always determined by power and violence. She also asserts that grace has nothing in common with this pseudoreligiosity of power but stems from a God who differs radically from such human projections of power. Grace refers back to the divine creator, whose renunciation and selflimitation created the world. Because God “emptied a part of his being from himself,” he enabled his creation to fill the emptied space.44 In Christ we discover this type of divinity exactly where he renounced it: “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7). These considerations led Weil to a fundamental distinction between true religion and false idolatry in her book Waiting for God: The religions which have a conception of this renunciation, this voluntary distance, this voluntary effacement of God, his apparent absence and his secret presence here below, these religions are true religion, the translation into different languages of the great Revelation. The religions which represent divinity as commanding wherever it has the power to do so seem false. Even though they are monotheistic they are idolatrous.45

Weil used this distinction to criticize certain images of God in the Hebrew Bible as well as in the Qur’an. This did not prevent her, however, from recognizing in the Middle Ages, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim mystics whose God was not the God of power but rather a God who is an “infinitely small thing,” and who is “infinitely more than everything.”46 We need many people all over the world to walk this mystic path of saintliness in order to overcome the danger of religious terrorism. As scholars, we should try to apply the distinction between the sacred and the holy in studying all forms of religious extremism.

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http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/ documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium. html#Interreligious_dialogue, n. 253. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 214. Ibid., 215. Ibid., 212, 214.

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Does Religion Cause Violence? Wolfgang Palaver, “Mimetic Theories of Religion and Violence,” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence, ed. Mark Juergensmeyer, Margo Kitts, and Michael K. Jerryson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 533–53, 539–40. René Girard, with J.-M. Oughourlian and G. Lefort, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, trans. Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 149–53; René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001), 107–15; René Girard, Oedipus Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 107–13; René Girard and Michel Treguer, When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer, trans. Trevor Cribben Merrill, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014), 28–9. René Girard, with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origin of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 199. Jay R. Crook, The Bible: An Islamic Perspective: Jacob and Joseph (Chicago: ABC International Group, 2005), 25; Joachim Gnilka, Die Nazarener und der Koran: Eine Spurensuche (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2007), 126–7. Michel Cuypers, “Structures Rhétoriques dans le Coran: Une analyse structurelle de la sourate ‘Joseph’ et de quelques sourates brèves,” Mélanges de l’Institut Dominicain d’Études Orientales (MIDEO) 22 (1995): 107–96. According to Cuypers’ interpretation of Sura 12, the following verse from the Joseph narrative emphasizes monotheism: “O my two companions of the prison! (I ask you): are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One Allah, Supreme and Irresistible?” Sura 12:39. Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Terrorist Threat (London: John Murray, 2006), 65. René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 116. Mouhanad Khorchide, Islam ist Barmherzigkeit: Grundzüge einer modernen Religion (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2012); Reza Shah-Kazemi, My Mercy Encompasses All: The Koran’s Teachings on Compassion, Peace and Love (Emeryville: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2007). Ibn al-’Arabī, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R. W. J. Austin, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist, 1980), 188, 190, 226–7; cf. Toshihiko Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 116–40; Shah-Kazemi, My Mercy Encompasses All. Reza Shah-Kazemi, “Jesus in the Qur’an: Selfhood and Compassion; An Akbari



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Perspective,” in Sufism: Love and Wisdom, ed. Jean-Louis Michon and Roger Gaetani, Perennial Philosophy (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2006), 217–35; Reza Shah-Kazemi, “From the Spirituality of Jihād to the Ideology of Jihadism,” in Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars, ed. Joseph E. B. Lumbard, Perennial Philosophy (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2009), 119–48, 123–5. 15 We find the basmala also in Sura 27:30 so that it is mentioned 114 times in the Qur’an, matching the 114 suras. 16 “This term comes from a three-letter Arabic root ‘sh-r-k’ which means ‘to associate’ or ‘take partner unto something,’ and the word mushrikun literally means ‘those who take partner unto God,’ that is to say, ‘polytheists’ or ‘idolaters.’ It should be noted that from the point of view of Islamic law, this injunction to perform jihad against the polytheists does not pertain to either Jews or Christians.” David Dakake, “The Myth of Militant Islam,” in Lumbard, Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition, 3–38, 9–10. “The mushrikun referred to in verse 9:5 are therefore the Arab polytheists/idolaters who remained in other parts of Arabia not yet under Muslim control. This being the case, the use of 9:5 would represent a misappropriation of this verse to an end other than the one intended from its established traditional context of fighting the ‘pagan’ Arabs.” Ibid., 25. Cf. Angelika Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike: Ein europäischer Zugang (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2010), 337–40. 17 Asma Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God: Jihād and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 71–5, 275–7. 18 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Osama_bin_Laden%27s_Declaration_of_War. 19 Rosalind W. Gwynne, “Usama bin Ladin, the Qur’an and Jihad,” Religion 36, no. 2 (2006): 61–90; Bruce Lawrence, The Qur’an: A Biography (London: Atlantic Books, 2006), 181–3; Dakake, “The Myth of Militant Islam.” 20 Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 88–90, 279. 21 Klaus von Stosch, Herausforderung Islam: Christliche Annäherungen (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2016), 141–3. 22 Sadakat Kadri, Heaven on Earth: A Journey through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012), 149. 23 Afsaruddin, Striving in the Path of God, 214–15, 293. 24 Ibid., 94, 274. 25 Ibid., 279. 26 Ibid., 274. 27 Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition

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(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 6; cf. Farid Esack, The Qur’an: A User’s Guide (Oxford: Oneworld, 2007), 143. 28 Rahman, Islam and Modernity, 24. 29 Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption, trans. James G. Williams and Paul Haddon (New York: Crossroad, 1999). 30 Girard, Battling to the End, 211. 31 Roy F. Baumeister, Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence (New York: W. H. Freeman, 2001), 1, 33. 32 Ibid., 95–6. 33 Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Atlantic 315, no. 2 (2015): 78–94. 34 “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army) which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed and the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople. And as they would be busy in distributing the spoils of war (amongst themselves) after hanging their swords by the olive trees, the Satan would cry: The Dajjal has taken your place among your family. They would then come out, but it would be of no avail. And when they would come to Syria, he would come out while they would be still preparing themselves for battle drawing up the ranks. Certainly, the time of prayer shall come and then Jesus (peace be upon him) son of Mary would descend and would lead them in prayer. When the enemy of Allah would see him, it would (disappear) just as the salt dissolves itself in water and if he (Jesus) were not to confront them at all, even then it would dissolve completely, but Allah would kill them by his hand and he would show them their blood on his lance (the lance of Jesus Christ).” Sahih Muslim Book 41, Hadith Number 6924. 35 David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam (Princeton: Darwin Press, 2002), 9, 301–2. 36 Yvonne Y. Haddad and Jane I. Smith, “The Anti-Christ and the End of Time in Christian and Muslim Eschatological Literature,” Muslim World 100, no. 4 (2010): 505–29.



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37 Ibid., 529. 38 Quoted in Hoimar von Ditfurth, So laßt uns denn ein Apfelbäumchen pflanzen: Es ist so weit (Munich: Droemer Knaur, 1988), 367. 39 Quoted in Tariq Ramadan, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 235. 40 http://chicagopolicyreview.org/2015/05/05/myth-busting-robert-pape-on-isissuicide-terrorism-and-u-s-foreign-policy/. 41 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 218. 42 Michel Serres, “Receiving René Girard into the Académie Française,” in For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth, ed. Sandor Goodhart et al., Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009), 1–17, at 16. 43 Thucydides, The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, trans. Jeremy Mynott, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 382. 44 Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd (New York: Perennial Classics, 2001), 89. 45 Ibid. 46 Simone Weil, Selected Essays 1934–1943, trans. Richard Rees (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 215.

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The Jihadist Current and the West: Politics, Theology, and the Clash of Conceptuality Jonathan Cole

In spite of being materially engaged in a bloody confrontation with jihadists for well over a decade, the West still exhibits all the hallmarks of confusion and uncertainty about the causes and nature of the conflict.1 Remarkably, there is still no agreed or uncontroversial terminology in the West for describing those fighting in the name of Islam in conflicts across the world, nor anything approaching a consensus on precisely what has generated this global conflict, and more importantly, what perpetuates it. In this chapter, I suggest an explanation for why an understanding of the “jihadist current”—a term used by jihadist intellectual Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri—has proven so illusive for the West. The chapter’s central contention is that the principal obstacle to a Western understanding of the “jihadist current” is a significant clash of conceptuality between the West and today’s jihadists. Western analysts and scholars instinctively analyze the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism with the Western conceptual tools with which they analyze all historical developments and social phenomena. The tools in question relate to the research methodologies, theories, categories, and concepts developed and applied in the Western academic disciplines of political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, history, and cultural theory with all of the Western epistemological and ontological presuppositions that underpin them. However, jihadists do not view the world, and their activity in it, through the same Western conceptual framework. This much is clear to all analysts. But it is one thing to understand the generic principle of cultural difference and another thing entirely to understand an alien worldview in all its detail and particularity. Too much analysis of the “jihadist current” is evidently not informed by a detailed knowledge of the particular worldview of jihadists.

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It is important to beware false dichotomies here. It is not my contention that there is no insight to be gained from utilizing Western intellectual tools to analyze the “jihadist current.” Nor do I wish to suggest that all one need do is listen to what jihadists say about themselves in order to reach an exhaustive understanding of who they are. My contention is that Western conceptuality alone cannot provide a sufficient explanation for the existence and nature of the “jihadist current.” All too often Western thinkers, analysts, and commentators are predisposed to using Western conceptuality to define the “jihadist current,” rather than as a means for interpreting the way jihadists self-define. This can result in an obfuscated rather than illuminated understanding of the “jihadist current” and its conflict with the West.

The significance of jihadist literature One of the important reasons that jihadist conceptuality is poorly understood in the West is that the significant body of jihadist intellectual literature is often ignored in Western analysis. This literature is not to be confused with jihadist propaganda, which is much better known, and to some extent better researched. Jihadist literature is of a very different kind. “Jihadist literature” relates to the many substantial books and essays written by jihadist intellectuals on the theology, history, nature, and direction of the “jihadist current.” Several reasons can be adduced for why this literature is often ignored in Western analysis. In the first place, the lacuna possibly reflects the confidence many Western thinkers have in the ability of Western conceptuality to provide exhaustive explanations for social phenomena in non-Western cultures. This confidence, however, often carries a type of Western conceptual prejudice in which Western intellectuals adjudge that what social actors in alien cultures say they are doing and the reasons they provide for doing it are either naïve, mistaken, or deceptive. Thus some researchers see no pressing need to pay close attention to what the subjects of their study actually say and think. In the second place, Western governments and researchers often focus their research priorities on Western jihadists, whether those seeking to commit acts of violence domestically or those seeking to join a foreign jihad. This is done for entirely pragmatic reasons—to aid detection and prevention of radicalization and acts of violence within their jurisdictions. This focus in turn creates funding incentives for Western researchers to concentrate their research on Western



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jihadists and radicalization. But Western domestic terrorists and foreign fighters are a relatively small part of the global jihadist jigsaw and have a negligible impact on the intellectual direction of the “jihadist current.”2 Western cohorts of jihadists are not particularly representative of jihadists globally and in general they follow, rather than shape, the movement. Lastly, a large part of the jihadist intellectual corpus is not available in European languages, and it is not always easy to locate and access. Some key works are banned in Muslim-majority countries and some are published solely on the Internet. Moreover, some of the websites that serve as repositories for jihadist literature are not always available due to cyber attacks from Western intelligence services.

Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, Jihadist philosopher3 To investigate further the contention that a Western understanding of the “jihadist current” is impeded by the failure of many researchers to analyze and absorb the jihadist conceptuality evident in jihadist literature, I will examine a single essay written by one of the most important jihadist thinkers, Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri.4 The essay, written in Arabic and published in 2001, is called “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap in the Contemporary Jihadist Current: A Dangerous Fissure that Needs to Be Mended.”5 The object of this exercise will be to analyze the conceptuality evident in this essay (henceforth referred to as “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap”) and the differences it illuminates in relation to Western interpretations of the “jihadist current.” “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap” is a clarion call to experienced jihadists like Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri to intellectually equip the coming generation of jihadists for the global phase of their struggle.6 The context for this call are the perceived dangers of intellectual stagnation, dispersal, and weakness within the jihadist movement following its victory against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and particularly as a consequence of what Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri dubs the “global counterterrorism regime” (nizam dawli li-mukafahat al-irhab).7 The essay is useful because it provides a succinct overview of the history of the “jihadist current,” along with insight into the nature and purpose of the movement by an insider. Although the 2001 provenance of the essay makes some of its analysis of geostrategic developments dated, it nevertheless reflects a rather typical jihadist conceptuality that provides insight into how jihadists perceive the world and their place in it.

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Origins of the jihadist current Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri locates the origins of what he refers to as the “jihadist current” (al-tayyar al-jihadi) in the “Contemporary Islamic Awakening” (al-sahwah al-islamiyyah al-mu‘asirah) of the 1930s, which he construes as a response to the fall of the Ottoman caliphate (1923).8 As he evocatively puts it, the “jihadist current” was born in the “womb” of the Islamic Awakening.9 It was, he contends, the greatest achievement of the Awakening. The specific period in which the “jihadist current” emerged was the 1960s. “Jihadist current” functions as a metaphor in Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s account of the origins of the contemporary jihadist movement: the stream or river is the Islamic Awakening and the jihadists form a current in that river.10 I have adopted the term “jihadist current” principally on account of its empirical merit, but also because it illustrates the clash of conceptuality that is the subject of this study. There are myriad terms employed in Western discourse to describe the enemy combatants in what was once dubbed the “War on Terror.”11 But “jihadist current,” a term actually used by the actors in question, is not among them.12 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s account of the origins of the contemporary jihadist movement is conventional and entirely uncontroversial among jihadists. But it does represent a significant disjuncture with respect to Western accounts of the jihadist movement. Much Western analysis does not treat the jihadist movement as a historical “movement” connected to wider developments within Islam at all, but rather as a relatively recent phenomenon arising primarily as a consequence of economic, social, and political factors.

The activities of the jihadist current Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri lists all the activities the jihadist movement is engaged in and this list is instructive for what it says about common Western misconceptions about Islamist terrorism. The activities include inter alia: “establishing an intellectual foundation,” “preaching,” “reform,” “education,” and “politics.” There is also “jihad” in the form of “armed resistance,” which includes, but is not limited to, the use of the tactic, “terrorism.”13 Yet “terrorism” is just one tactic used as part of armed resistance, which is itself one of a number of activities pursued by the “jihadist current.” Thus armed conflict and terrorism are only part of what characterizes the “jihadist current.”



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It is interesting to contrast this account of the activities of the “jihadist current” with Western analysis of the movement, which often betrays an obsessive, if perhaps understandable, focus on the tactic of terrorism as though it were an autonomous phenomenon unconnected to other jihadist activities. This preoccupation obscures the fact that jihadists belong to a synchronic and diachronic movement with a wide-ranging social agenda. It also obscures the connection between the “jihadist current” and wider trends and developments in Islam in the latter part of the twentieth century.14 It is important to understand that jihadist violence is teleological, not the end that some analysts and commentators construe it as. The overarching goal of the “jihadist current” is to establish God’s rule over the Earth in the concrete form of the sharia (as interpreted by jihadists). Their ultimate goal is not the imposition of a reign of terror, even if that is how their rule manifests in practice. Jihadists believe that it is the failure to properly implement the sharia that is the cause of many of the injustices and problems confronting the Muslim world. The revolutionary imposition of the sharia is about bringing justice and prosperity to the global order, particularly for Muslims. This gives the movement a utopian character that is not always well appreciated in Western analysis.

The “new world order” and “total global confrontation” Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri breaks the “jihadist current” into different historical phases and generations. He is a member of the second generation, and extrapolating from his system, the young jihadists fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria today would presumably constitute the fourth generation.15 The first generation laid the intellectual foundations of the movement in the 1960s and 1970s.16 The second phase comprised independent local jihadist fronts in the 1980s and early 1990s that focused on toppling “apostate” regimes in Muslimmajority countries. The highpoint of this phase was the jihad in Afghanistan, which galvanized and united mujahideen, setting the foundation for a coordinated global struggle.17 The third phase (the phase at the time of writing) is described by Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri as “total global confrontation” (al-muwajahah al-shumuliyyah al-‘alamiyah).18 “Total global confrontation” consists of a violent struggle between the “jihadist current” and what Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri terms the “new world order” (al-nizam al-‘alami al-jadid).19 The “new world order” consists of a fourfold

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alliance: Jews, Crusaders (i.e., Christians), “apostates” (murtaddun) and “hypocrites” (munafiqun). This alliance rose to global dominance in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.20 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri maintains that the leadership of this alliance is Israel and the United States of America, with England, France, and Russia prominent members of the “Crusader powers.”21 In support of this contention he points to developments such as the “Crusader” occupation of Saudi Arabia, by which he means the stationing of US troops there during and after the First Gulf War (1990–1); the “Crusader attack on the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo”; Russia’s “Crusader–socialist attack” (al-hujum al-salibi-al-shuyu‘i) on Chechnya; and the Palestinian–Israeli peace process.22 The current phase of the jihadist struggle against the “new world order” is characterized by “open front confrontations” (al-muwajahat al-jabhawiyyah al-maftuhah) and “limited individual terrorist undertakings” (al-mubadarat al-irhabiyyah al-fardiyyah al-mahdudah).23 This sounds remarkably prescient considering it was written before 9/11. But it is important to realize that Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri was an early and influential proponent of what would later come to be known as “lone-wolf attacks.” It is noteworthy that “apostates” and “hypocrites” are Islamic concepts with origins in the Qur’an.24 “Apostate” denotes Muslims (including converts) who leave or renounce Islam. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri applies the term to governments in Muslim-majority countries.25 “Hypocrite” describes those who profess Islam externally but betray Islam in their thoughts or deeds. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri applies the term to the Ulema who legitimize “apostate” governments.26 Interestingly, while Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri calls for armed resistance against Jews, Crusaders, and apostates, he calls for jihad al-bayan only in the case of “hypocrites.” Jihad al-bayan literally means “jihad of statement,” that is, a rhetorical confrontation involving arguments, rather than violence. This is advice that many jihadists have not heeded. Suffice to say, the Jewish–Crusader–apostate–hypocrite world order that Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri perceives as threatening Islam is not one many in the West would recognize, accept, or even understand. The use of the term “Crusader,” with its conscious link to Christendom, is particularly discordant with the Western conception of its own culture and political order as post-Christian and secular. “Apostates,” “hypocrites,” and “Crusaders” are not categories used in the West to describe or analyze the current global order.



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The theological conceptuality of the jihadist current There is a common thread to the worldview expounded by Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri in “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap.” It is profoundly shaped by Islamic theological concepts such as “jihad,” “apostate,” and “hypocrite.”27 It is also shaped by religious distinctions, such as Muslim, Jew, and Christian. These concepts are an authentic part of the Islamic tradition, even if their contemporary jihadist interpretation and application are contested. In saying that the thought of the “jihadist current” is profoundly shaped by Islamic theological concepts, I do not claim that jihadist conceptuality is exclusively theological and Islamic. Prominent concepts in Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s thought, such as the “new world order” and “total global confrontation,” for example, are not theological, Islamic, or even Qur’anic concepts, even if they are shaped in important ways by the underlying jihadist theological conceptuality.28 Moreover, several Western concepts such as “secular” (‘ilmani) and “globalization” (al-‘awlamah) also appear in “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap,” albeit infrequently.29 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri identifies “secularists” as forming part of the threat posed to Islam by the “new world order.”30 But the fact that some Western concepts interact with Islamic theological concepts in jihadist thought is not evidence that theological concepts are not central. Entertaining the notion that Islamic theological concepts might be an important impetus in the thought and actions of the “jihadist current” should not be conflated with making judgments about the legitimacy of the jihadists’ particular interpretation and usage of those concepts. The test for whether a theological concept profoundly shapes the thought and activity of a social movement is not the relative merits of the theology underpinning it, nor its wide acceptance by all those who profess membership of the faith. Too often one encounters the argument that because the jihadist theology is deviant or perverted, it is not a plausible causal factor in jihadist violence. It is important to recognize that Islam, like all religions, is in reality a constellation of claims to normativity in dialogue and conflict with one another. Jihadist theology, exegesis, and interpretation of Islamic history form one such contemporary claim to normativity within Islam, but by no means the only one. The pertinent question for this study is not whether jihadist theology is normative, or even sound, but rather whether the “jihadist current” can be understood without taking seriously the Islamic theological conceptuality (whatever its merit) that shapes its thinking.

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Religion, theology, and Islam: Navigating a terminological minefield In the previous section I introduced two concepts—“religion” and “theology”— that are each, in their own way, highly contentious and contested. There is now a widely held view that “religion” is a Western colonial invention that prejudicially applies Christian theological categories to alien cultures, manufacturing “religions” out of Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, where none previously existed. On this basis, some, such as William Cavanaugh in this volume, conclude that there is no such thing as “religion.” Meanwhile, those who continue to believe in the validity of the concept “religion” cannot agree on what it denotes.31 A further complication is that “religion” has become inextricably bound to that equally problematic and contentious term “secular” in Western discourse. It thus forms part of a putative dichotomy that is the subject of an increasingly ideological and polemical contest.32 Matters are compounded by the fact that in everyday usage “religion” has an entirely conventional-functional meaning divorced from the scholarly problematization of the term. In popular usage “religion” often serves as a mechanism for functionally classifying people according to identity, culture, and community membership, using a conventional list of religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. This functional usage can be seen in paradoxical notions like “atheist–Jew.”33 Yet another complication is that a more traditional notion of “religion,” (i.e., the problematized “colonial” definition) is still in wide usage, even among the educated. English dictionaries, for example, still provide traditional definitions of “religion”: “a belief in a supreme supernatural power or powers thought to control the universe and all living things.”34 The “functional–conventional” and “traditional” definitions are distinct from yet a third type of definition best termed “theoretical.” “Theoretical” definitions attempt to identify and describe the essence of “religion.” French-American intellectual René Girard’s work forms part of this discourse, though he saw religion and culture as entwined: “Any phenomenon associated with the acts of remembering, commemorating and perpetuating a unanimity that springs from the murder of a surrogate victim can be termed ‘religious.’”35 With this debate in mind, my task in this chapter is to identify and characterize important Islamic concepts that shape the jihadist understanding of history, anthropology, and political order (national and global), and to argue



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that such concepts have not received sufficient attention in Western analysis. For this reason, I have chosen to speak of “Islamic theological conceptuality” rather than “religious conceptuality” in the context of the jihadist movement. Where “religion” is used in this chapter, it has a purely conventional-functional meaning. “Theological” is not problem-free, however. While it has the virtue of avoiding intractable debates about the generic definition of “religion,” it does not altogether avoid definitional problems. The immediate problem is that “theology” is not an indigenous Islamic concept.36 Moreover, it purports to describe an activity discernible in multiple species of “religion” (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, for example). In the context of this chapter “theological” is used in a sense akin to the “traditional” definition of “religion,” without purporting to describe the essence of “religion.” It denotes those ideas or concepts that find their basis in, or are shaped by, God’s will for humankind authoritatively revealed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, as interpreted by Muslims. This definition serves an entirely pragmatic function: to highlight an important distinction between jihadist and Western conceptuality, and to highlight a dimension of jihadist thought that has not received due attention in Western analysis. “Islamic theological concepts” is employed to avoid a generic sense of theology. This terminology is admittedly less than ideal, but the alternative would seem to be to discuss Islam exclusively using Arabic Islamic terminology, which is neither practical nor efficacious. Before proceeding, it is important to note that it is not my intention to deny the explanatory potential of generic theoretical understandings of “religion,” such as that offered by Girard, in relation to the “jihadist current.” Indeed, Girard’s insights about mimetic rivalry and its capacity to generate violence, and the role of scapegoating, myth, and ritual in mediating violence in human culture, represent promising avenues of inquiry in that regard.37 But there is an attendant danger in the application of any generic theory of religion to the “jihadist current.” Girard’s conception of “religion,” in spite of its ostensibly narrow definition, is in actual fact all-encompassing. It purports to describe the very origins and function of all human culture and the dynamic behind human cultural evolution—“religion is the mother of culture,” as Girard evocatively put it.38 Thus “religion” is quite literally everywhere, and everywhere essentially the same.39 With respect to jihadist violence, Girard says: “No doubt terrorism is bound to a world ‘different’ from ours, but what gives rise to terrorism does not

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lie in that ‘difference’ … On the contrary, it lies in the desire for convergence and resemblance. Human relations are essentially relations of imitation, of rivalry.”40 The question is whether Girard’s conception of “religion,” which sees “convergence” and “resemblance” in jihadist violence rather than “difference,” can adequately explain the phenomenology of jihadist thought. It is difficult to answer this question, because Girard’s analysis proceeds from a priori assumptions about the generic nature and function of religion, particularly as it relates to violence in human culture. At root, jihadist violence is not essentially different from any other violence, even if its current historical manifestation is particular. Girard does not contend with the “jihadist current’s” Islamic theological conceptuality and worldview, though such an application of Girard’s thought is important it if is to maintain its claim to scientific credibility (as Girard emphasized that it should). The challenge for Girard is that jihadists are ignorant of his theories of mimetic rivalry and scapegoating and their role in cultural development and violence. They offer an ostensibly very different conception of their violence. This appears to commit Girard to the view that jihadist conceptuality is merely delusion, blinding jihadists to the operation of mimetic rivalry and scapegoating that is the real cause of their violence. In any event, it is difficult to see how such a proposition can be sustained without a closer analysis of jihadist thought.41 This is not the place to try to resolve these questions. It is, however, interesting to observe that Girard’s ostensibly “religious” analysis of the “jihadist current,” which on the face of it appears to cut against the grain of the self-consciously “secular” approaches that privilege “political,” “economic,” and “psychological” explanations, nevertheless, paradoxically lands in the same orbit: it offers a psychological–cultural explanation for jihadist violence (mimetic rivalry and scapegoating), and, albeit for entirely different reasons, can be seen to view Islamic theological conceptuality as of marginal significance.42 That said, Girard does emphasize the need to take account of the empirical data in relation to any form of violence. He also offers a timely reminder of the risks of treating jihadist violence as utterly sui generis and unrelated to any other culturally mediated form of violence.



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“Preference-based typologies”: A critique In this final section I will critically engage Thomas Hegghammer’s “Jihadi-Salafi or Revolutionaries? On Religion and Politics in the Study of Militant Islamism,” in Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, as it contrasts with the thesis of this chapter.43 Hegghammer is one of the more astute and sophisticated analysts of the contemporary “jihadist current.” He is familiar with the jihadist literary corpus, has a good knowledge of the movement’s history, and is sensitive to the language and concepts jihadists use to describe themselves and their movement. Furthermore, he is attuned to the conceptual clash between the jihadist and Western worldviews and the difficulties this presents for Western researchers. Hegghammer proposes a specific “preference-based typology” for assessing jihadist organizations, which focuses on their “political preferences” and “political behavior.”44 This typology is designed to explain “most forms of Islamist activism.”45 Hegghammer maintains that “categories rooted in political behavior as opposed to theology” entail a stronger methodology for “facilitating the study of Islamist militancy.”46 He further argues that “the assumption that political actors can only be analyzed using concepts employed by the actors themselves is a flawed one” and that “if the concepts and categories are clearly defined, rooted in observable behavior and constructed with an acute awareness of relevant cultural specificities, then their Western origin is irrelevant.”47 I contend that Hegghammer’s “political–conceptual” understanding of the “jihadist current” is deficient because it consciously minimizes the prominent role that Islamic theological concepts play in shaping the thought and action of jihadists. Hegghammer’s typology identifies five main “rationales” that “represent the most important reasons for which Islamists act”: (1) “state-oriented,” (2) “nationoriented,” (3) “Umma-oriented,” (4) “morality-oriented,” and (5) “sectarian.”48 These five “political aims,” which help to distinguish different manifestations of “militant Islam,” are construed as “ideologies.”49 Hegghammer later makes a distinction between “ideology” and “theology,” arguing that “ideology—even religious ideology—is not the same as theology. Islamist ideology has both theological and political dimensions and may be analyzed from both perspectives. The preference-based approach simply highlights the politics, it does not necessarily ignore religion.”50

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He further acknowledges that his typology “leaves little room for dynamics of a religious or theological nature.”51 He also claims that “we must … be particularly careful not to conflate theological orientations and social movements.”52 The question that needs to be asked is whether Hegghammer’s typology, which consciously analyzes the “jihadist current” in ideological–political terms, can cogently explain the “reasons for which Islamists act,” particularly in light of the reasons jihadists give. In regard to the latter, I note that Hegghammer is aware that his ideological–political typology is not one grounded in jihadist conceptual language. First, the categorical distinction Hegghammer appears to make between politics and theology is questionable. It is not clear why he believes, for instance, that “theological orientations” must not be conflated with “social movements.” This appears to deny that “religious social movements” are a real phenomenon. Yet history is full of what can reasonably be construed as religious social movements. Scholars are still debating the precise nexus between theology, politics, and social change in relation to the sixteenthcentury Protestant Reformation in Europe. But they are not in any doubt that the Reformation constituted a “social movement,” and that that movement was theological, political, and social in both its characteristics and impact. The fact that Hegghammer finds jihadist “slogans” like “establishing the Caliphate” and “establishing God’s rule” “too vague to tell us anything about the expected political behavior of a group in the short and mid term” is revealing.53 He is patently aware that these are consistent and prominent goals of the “jihadist current,” as seen in their propaganda, rhetoric, and literature. Moreover, they are very explicitly shaped by Islamic theology, tradition, and history. However, just because Hegghammer finds such notions “too vague” and “ambiguous” does not gainsay their importance in driving and shaping the jihadist movement. It is possible that his preference for analyzing jihadist organizations on the basis of their political goals has led him to unduly diminish the significance of the movement’s explicit and central theological goals. Part of the problem is that Hegghammer’s distinction between the political and the theological (or religious), is a Western conceptual distinction not made by jihadists. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap” makes no such distinction. In fact, like much other jihadist literature, it explicitly repudiates such a distinction, identifying “secularism” and its separation of religion and politics as a threat to Islam. The general lack of distinction in Islamic theology and tradition between the religious and the secular, or the religious



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and the political, poses problems for Western analysts whose conception of the relationship between religion and politics has been profoundly shaped by Christian theology, secularization theory, and recent historical developments in church–state relations in the West. Muslim revelation addresses issues considered unambiguously political and secular in the West.54 This might help explain the propensity of Western researchers to construe jihadists’ activity, strategy, and goals as “political” even though they are conceived by jihadists as theological, sacred, and even forms of “worship” (‘ibadah).55 I agree with Hegghammer that there are political and theological dimensions to the “jihadist current.” However, Hegghammer’s typology appears to function as more than a taxonomical device: it purportedly identifies “the most important reasons for which Islamists act.”56 The interesting thing about the ideological–political categories (“rationales”) that constitute Hegghammer’s typology is that they all explicitly or implicitly have something to do with Islam, yet they are construed as merely political. This becomes clearer when Hegghammer’s explanation of each of the categories in his typology is brought into view. “State-oriented” relates to the “desire to change the social and political organization of the state.”57 “Nationoriented … is defined by a desire to establish sovereignty on a specific territory perceived as occupied or dominated by non-Muslims.”58 “Umma-oriented … is distinguished by a desire to protect the Islamic nation as a whole from external (non-Muslim) threats.”59 “Morality-oriented … is characterized by a desire to change Muslims’ social conduct in a more conservative and literalist direction.”60 “Sectarian” is self-evidently a religious category. What these typologies do not make clear is that the social–political–moral change that forms the “political” objectives of jihadists are very explicitly and consciously theological, in the sense that I have given to that term. None of the categories is coherent if Islamic theology is assumed to be irrelevant. They all depend on a particular conception of Islamic history, of the proper relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, of Muslim morality and political order, and of Muslim social and moral decline or deviation. By construing these categories as merely political, Hegghammer, perhaps inadvertently, gives the concept “Muslim” the function of something akin to an ethnic marker, or national identity, rather than a religious marker. Hegghammer is aware that his ideological–political typology and explanation for the “jihadist current” might be vulnerable to the criticism that “an exclusively political approach does not sufficiently take into account the theological

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dimension of militant Islamist ideology.”61 This concern may be the product of his cognizance that Islamic theological concepts are central to jihadist thought. Hegghammer is also aware that “some will argue,” as indeed I am doing, “that there is a danger of projecting Western analytical categories onto the complex and idiosyncratic phenomenon of Islamism.”62 He concedes that there is “some validity” to this criticism and to the notion that “Islamism is best understood through the terms and categories used by Islamists themselves.”63 His concern, however, is that “taken to its logical conclusion, this argument leads to essentialism and exempts militant Islamism from social scientific scrutiny.”64 It is difficult to discern a basis for this concern. There is no ostensible reason that social scientific scrutiny of the “jihadist current” would be rendered ineffectual by factoring into the analysis the movement’s Islamic theological conceptuality. If nothing else, it has the virtue of being empirical.

Conclusion The West has struggled to come to terms with the evidence for how the “jihadist current” amounts to what might be called a self-conscious religious revival movement that aspires to acquire political power in order to implement its specific theopolitical vision for Muslim societies and the global political order. Western scholars, analysts, and commentators also continue to resist, and to evince deep discomfort with, the notion that this vision has been profoundly shaped by a particular reading of Islam’s sacred texts, traditions, and history.65 I have suggested in this chapter that one of the reasons the theological dimension of the “jihadist current” has been overlooked or ignored in Western analysis is that jihadist conceptuality has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves. This is, in part, because jihadist literature has not received due attention in Western analysis. Other possible factors can be adduced, however. Part of the problem seems to stem from a false dichotomy that runs through much of the debate about the “jihadist current” in the West. It is particularly evident in the work of Hegghammer. This is the false dichotomy that the “jihadist current” is either a political or a theological movement, but that it cannot be both. An examination of jihadist literature, however, demonstrates the fallacy of this dichotomy. In reality, the “jihadist current” is both political and theological (using Western categories). Interestingly, the notion that Islam is a “political religion” is not as controversial among Muslim scholars as it is



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among non-Muslims scholars. Western-Muslim philosopher Shabbir Akhtar, for example, writes in Islam as Political Religion: The Future of an Imperial Faith that “the Quran seeks to absorb politics into religion and thus sanctify it.”66 He also asserts that Islam has a “theology of temporal power” and that “Islam is the paradigm of religion born as imperial power.”67 Part of the problem may relate to the nature of social science theory in the West. Whether it is due to the post-Christian culture that characterizes the West with its conception of religion as private belief, or the lack of personal religious conviction and/or experience on the part of many researchers, the social sciences have exhibited a tendency towards skepticism that theology can be a social force. The predominance of naturalistic ontologies and anthropologies in social theory might help to explain why so many analysts and scholars seem to be attracted to the notion that jihadists cynically or expediently use, exploit, or manipulate religion for ulterior motives.68 Another source of the problem is attributable to understandable sensitivities surrounding the normative claims jihadists make about Islam. Many Western nations have Muslim diasporas, the cooperation of which is critical to counterterrorism efforts. Moreover, supporting moderate Muslim community leaders and promoting social harmony are reasonable policy objectives for Western governments. So concern about the risks and consequences of inadvertently legitimizing jihadists by acknowledging the theological language and concepts they employ is not without foundation.69 It is a concern, however, exacerbated by the forceful opposition of some Muslim academics in the West to the usage of jihadist language in Western discourse.70 If the West is to finally arrive at an empirically grounded and efficacious understanding of the “jihadist current” and its violence, then it cannot continue to skirt around the Islamic theological conceptuality that animates jihadist thought. In many respects, while the West is materially engaged in the same conflict as jihadists, it is not conceptually engaged in the same conflict. The West must find a way to bridge this conceptual gap. This does not mean that Western researchers must dispense with Western conceptual tools and theories. Nor does it necessitate privileging the theological dimension of the “jihadist current” at the expense of the political dimension, or of any other dimension for that matter (e.g., psychological). Nor does it imply that the West must accept the validity of jihadist theology. Rather, the West must find a way to speak empirically and soberly about jihadist theology, without conflating such speech with passing judgment on the normative claims made by jihadists. This is the only pathway

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to a more penetrating and productive understanding of the jihadist movement. There is no reason in principle why this cannot be achieved.

Notes 1

2

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There is no consensus in the West about how to date the beginning of this conflict. In the popular imagination, it began on September 11, 2001, with the al-Qa‘ida attacks on New York and Washington DC. However, the first al-Qa‘ida attack on US interests occurred on August 7, 1998, with the coordinated bombings of US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Moreover, al-Qa‘ida declared war on the United States in 1996. The first significant attack on US soil by Islamist terrorists was the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York on February 26, 1993. Western jihadists can and do play significant roles in jihadist propaganda and recruitment on account of their language skills and ability to communicate effectively with Western audiences. But this possibly inflates their intellectual significance in the eyes of some Western researchers. One website describes Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri as “Al-Qaida’s philosopher.” “Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri: faylasuf al-qa’ida” (Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri: Al-Qa‘ida’s Philosopher), al-sakinah, December 24, 2014, http://www.assakina.com/center/parties/60190. html. Full name: Mustafa bin abd al-Qadir bin Mustafa bin Hussein bin Sheikh Ahmad al-Muzayyik al-Jakiri al-Rifa‘i. Abu Musab al-Suri is a nom de plume. He is also known by the name Mustafa Setmariam Nasar. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1958. He has a long history of involvement in the global jihadist movement, beginning with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising in the early 1980s, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, a period working in jihadist media in Europe in the early 1990s, and the running of an international jihadist training camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. He has written a number of influential books recounting his personal experiences in jihad, expounding the history of the jihadist movement, and making proposals for its strategic direction. For detailed background on Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri in English, see Lia Brynjar, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). That book includes a useful appendix of translated excerpts from some of Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s major works. Writing in 2007, Brynjar described Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri as “probably the world’s foremost ‘jihadi theoretician.’” Ibid., 8, 97. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “Al-fajwah al-fikriyyah al-manhajiyyah fi al-tayyar al-jihadi



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al-hali: thugrah khatirah tahtaj ila sadd,” Minbar al-tawhid w’al-jihad, www. ilmay.com/site/maqdis/MS_25656.html. The essay was first published in a jihadist journal founded by Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri called majallat qadaya al-zahirin ‘ala al-haqq (Journal of Issues for the Triumphant in Righteousness), no. 2, dhu al-hijjah 1421 (February 24–March 25, 2001). The title of this essay is translated in Brynjar, Architect of Global Jihad, 488, as “The Ideological-Programmatic Gap in the Contemporary Jihadi Current: A Dangerous Fissure which Has to Be Mended.” 6 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Ideological-Programmatic Gap,” 3–4. 7 Ibid., 2. 8 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap,” 1. 9 Ibid. 10 “Jihadist movement” (al-harakah al-jihadiyyah) is another common term used by jihadists. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri uses it synonymously with “jihadist current.” See, e.g., ibid., 10. 11 E.g., “radicals,” “extremists,” “fundamentalists,” “Islamists,” “salafis,” “jihadists,” “salafi-jihadis,” “nihilists,” “Islamo-fascists,” and even “death cult.” The latter was regularly used by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to describe ISIS. Rachel Olding, “Tony Abbott’s Obsessive Use of the Phrase ‘Death Cult’ Fails to Resonate with Half of Australians,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 12, 2015, http:// www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbotts-obsessive-use-ofthe-phrase-death-cult-fails-to-resonate-with-half-of-australians-20150512-ggzoce. html. 12 Nor, for that matter, is mujahidun (singular, mujahid), the most common term used by jihadists to refer to each other. Ikhwah or ikhwan (brothers) is another common term used by jihadists. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri uses “jihadists,” mujahidun, and “brothers” in “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap.” 13 Ibid., 1. It is interesting to note that while there is some controversy in Western discourse about the term “terrorism” and its connection with Islam, such as in phrases like “Islamist terrorism,” the term “terrorism” is used in jihadist literature without any embarrassment or controversy to describe one of the tactics used in their struggle against the West and “apostate” regimes. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, for example, refers to “acts of individual terrorism” (‘amal al-irhab al-fardiyyah). 14 This is also an area where an isolated focus on Western jihadists, particularly those who plan domestic terrorist operations, can obscure the true nature of the “jihadist current.” Such actors generally have little or no involvement, and sometimes little interest, in the intellectual, educational, political, and social activities that jihadist organizations pursue abroad, leaving the impression that violence is the solitary focus and goal of jihadists. In this regard, it is important to

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note that the majority of jihadist combatants are actually involved in insurgency, not terrorism. Only a minority of combatants actually participates in terrorist operations. Moreover, some members and supporters of the movement are not involved in military operations at all. 15 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap,” 3. He gives the following dates for the three generations he identifies: first generation, 1960– 75; second generation, 1975–90; third generation, 1990–2001, the time of writing. 16 Ibid. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri identifies Sayyid Qutb, Maulana Maududi, Abd al-Qadir Awdah, Said Hawa, and Marwan Hadid as the luminaries of the first generation. 17 Ibid. 18 We are still in this phase at the time of writing. 19 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Intellectual-Programmatic Gap,” 2. 20 Ibid., 1–2, 6, 11. There is also a reference to “false ‘Islamic’ sects” that aid and abet the “new world order’s” assault on Islam. These sects include: Shiah, Druze, Alawis, Ahmadis, Baha’is, and Ismailis. 21 Ibid., 4. He later adds “NATO states” to the list, 7. 22 Ibid., 4–5. 23 Ibid., 3. 24 See, e.g., 4:140: “And indeed He has revealed to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s messages disbelieved in and mocked at, sit not with them until they enter into some other discourse, for then indeed you would be like them. Surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites [al-munafiqin] and the disbelievers all in hell”; and 2:217b: “And whoever of you turns back [yartadid] from his religion, then dies while an unbeliever—these it is whose works go for nothing in this world and the Hereafter. And they are the companions of the Fire: therein they will abide.” Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur’an, with English translation and commentary, 2nd rev. ed. (Dublin, OH: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore, 2002). 25 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Ideological-Programmatic Gap,” 6. E.g., he refers to “the apostate Saudi government.” 26 Ibid., 2. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan established by the Taliban was widely regarded by jihadists as the first legitimate Islamic state since the fall of the caliphate. The legitimacy of the self-styled caliphate putatively founded by ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been contentious within the global jihadist movement. 27 Though not Islamic theological concepts, it is noteworthy that Jew and “crusader” are conventional religious categories. 28 The “new world order,” by way of example, is inextricably linked to Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s theological interpretation of the status of regimes in Muslim-majority



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countries, the establishment Ulema, and the Christian identity of major Western powers. Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, “The Ideological-Programmatic Gap,” 11. These Arabic terms are neologisms. There is also a single reference to “modern economic colonialism” (al-ist‘imar al-iqtisadi al-hadith), which relates to the theft of Muslim wealth. Ibid., 12. It is important to note, however, that these Western concepts are all posited as threats to Islam. Ibid., 10–11. It is interesting to note that Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri’s identification of these Western concepts as threats to Islam demonstrates an acute awareness of the clash of conceptuality at the heart of the jihadists’ conflict with the West. Kenneth Rose, Pluralism: The Future of Religion (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 11. Rose identifies several “spectra” of definitions: “realistic-stipulative,” “restrictive-expansive,” and “religious or naturalistic.” See William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). In colloquial usage, “religious” also can connote a sense of commitment, observance, or practice, as in the question: “Are you religious?” Macquarie Dictionary, 6th ed., s.v. “religion.” René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (London: Continuum, 2005), 333. Rose provides another example of a nontraditional theoretical definition: “Religion is the human quest to relate to an immaterial dimension of beatitude and deathlessness.” Rose, Pluralism, 12. There is an Arabic neologism for “theology,” which is ‘ilm al-lahut. But this is more commonly used by Arab Christians than Muslims. To the author’s knowledge, it is not a concept used by jihadists. E.g., Scott Cowdell has undertaken an analysis of the jihadist movement using Girard’s theories. See Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), Ch. 5. René Girard, with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: T&T Clark, 2007), 72, 97. That is to say, it shares the same essence, not that it manifests uniformly. Cowdell observes that “Girard sees secular modernity in the West as functionally religious.” Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity, 12. In reality, in Girard’s thought Christianity represents the normative expression and function of religion by its unmasking of mimetic rivalry and the scapegoating mechanism. But this doesn’t change the esse of religion, which remains the same across human culture (synchronically and diachronically). Rather, Christianity represents religion’s bene esse. It is also important to be mindful of the evolutionary nature of culture

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(religion). Girard often employs the notion of “archaic religion,” which can be contrasted with more mature expressions of religion. This evolution is not monodirectional, with regression being a feature of the cultural landscape. 40 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 238. A tension is discernible in Girard’s analysis of Islamist terrorism. He recognized that there was something seminal and novel in al-Qa‘ida’s 9/11 attacks and the global jihadist movement more broadly. He also recognized that Islam and its theology was a relevant variable in this violence and that an “understanding of the situation” required “using all the resources available from the study of Islam” “without any presuppositions.” Yet his own analysis of Islamist terrorism is inextricably tied up with reflections on Christianity (perhaps on account of its role as cultural cipher), notions of archaic religion, and a wide range of historical episodes. Girard also evinces some uncertainty about where jihadist theology sits vis-à-vis normative contemporary and historical expressions of Islam. This tension is possibly the product of Girard’s character as a metathinker and his lack of familiarity with jihadist thought. It may also reflect his focus on acts of Islamist terrorism rather than the jihadist movement from which such acts spring. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University, 2010), 211–17. 41 The way forward for Girardian scholarship might be to embark on a critical dialectic between Girard’s theories and a phenomenological understanding of jihadist thought. This would provide a pathway to discerning the true explanatory power of Girard’s theories as they relate to the “jihadist current,” whilst not ruling out the possibility that jihadist thought might necessitate some refinement of those theories. 42 Some of Girard’s analysis of Islamist terrorism bears uncanny resemblance to the political–economic explanations offered by those who contend the causes are not religious. In Battling to the End, e.g., Girard suggests that “Terrorism is the vanguard of a general revenge against the West’s wealth” and that “Islamism is only one symptom of a trend to violence that is much more global … it takes the form of a response of the poor to those who are well-off.” Girard, Battling to the End, 2011. 43 Thomas Hegghammer, “Jihadi-Salafi or Revolutionaries? On Religion and Politics in the Study of Militant Islamism,” in Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, ed. Roel Meijer (London: Hurst, 2009). 44 Ibid., 257. Hegghammer credits Gilles Kepel and R. Hrair Dekmejian with pioneering the “preference-based typology” model. 45 Ibid., 258. 46 Ibid., 262.



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47 Ibid., 263. 48 Ibid., 258–9 (Hegghammer’s italics in original text). Hegghammer clarifies that these five rationales function as “schematic ideal-type categories.” 49 Ibid., 260. 50 Ibid., 264. 51 Ibid., 263. 52 Ibid., 264. 53 Ibid., 260, 264. 54 Examples include aspects of criminal law, contract law, treaties, inheritance, and warfare. 55 Jihad is routinely described as ‘ibadah (worship) by jihadists, in perhaps one of the best indications that jihad for them is more than mere politics. 56 Hegghammer’s italics. 57 Ibid., 258. 58 Ibid. (my italics). 59 Ibid. (my italics). 60 Ibid. (my italics). 61 Ibid., 263. 62 Ibid., 262. 63 Ibid. 64 Ibid. 65 For a typical example of the thesis that “religion” is not a significant factor in jihadist violence, and the “politics-religion” dichotomy, see Giles Fraser, “It’s Not the Religion that Creates Terrorists, It’s the Politics,” Guardian, June 27, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2015/jun/27/ its-not-the-religion-that-creates-terrorists-its-the-politics. 66 Shabbir Akhtar, Islam as Political Religion: The Future of an Imperial Faith (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011), 91. 67 Ibid. It is also worth noting Akhtar’s comfort with the notion that Islam is a “religion.” In general, Muslim scholarship does not find the notion of “religion” as problematic as Western scholarship. This may have something to do with the fact that there is a Qur’anic word deen usually translated as “religion” in English, thus obviating the “neo-colonial” problem. See, e.g., 3:19: “Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam.” Ali, The Holy Qur’an. 68 If theistic beliefs have no factual ontological object or basis, then it follows that they can only be explained in material terms, such as psychology, political ideology, economic relations, and grievance. 69 As part of former US President Obama’s defense of criticisms that he had assiduously avoided using the term “radical Islam” in his rhetoric on

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counterterrorism, he said: “And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremists. Groups like ISIL and al-Qa‘ida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam.” “President Obama’s Remarks on ‘Radical Islam’ after Orlando Shooting,” Washington Post, June 14, 2016 (my italics), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/ wp/2016/06/14/president-obamas-remarks-after-national-security-councilmeeting-on-islamic-state/?utm_term=.a551eb383fea. 70 For such scholars, this is not merely an academic debate. They understandably wish to contest the normative claims made by jihadists. The question, however, is whether their opposition to any usage of jihadist language facilitates, or hinders, Western understanding of the “jihadist current.”

Appendix: René Girard at a Glance Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge

Note: Terms in UPPER CASE are defined in the glossary. René Girard (1923–2015) was a French-American thinker and remains an immortel of l’Académie française. He honed a remarkable account of human culture and religion over fifty years of research across the humanities and social sciences. He began with modern realist fiction in the 1950s to uncover a novel account of human DESIRE as mimetic (see MIMETIC DESIRE); he went on to engage with foundational texts in anthropology, sociology, and ethnography in the 1960s, venturing a new approach to culture and religion that recalls the sociopsychological phenomenon of l’esprit de corps, in terms of an ersatz peace that SCAPEGOATING a victim introduces to human communities; then he set out an alternative account of religion, seen to emerge in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Human desire, for Girard, is desire “according to” the desire of another. Our desires, in other words, are borrowed from and stimulated by the desires of others. What Girard terms “mimetic desire” (or “triangular desire”) means that the subject of desire imitates the desire of the model of their desire for an object of desire (see also MEDIATION). From Shakespeare and Cervantes to the great nineteenth-century novelists (Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust, Dostoyevsky), a psychology is revealed in which the mimetic influence of others proves to be the true unconscious. Girard offers his own simplifying account of Freud’s major conclusions to demonstrate the power of his approach, while, following Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche, he explores various pathologies of the modern self. These pathologies center on the distortion of desire into envy and rivalry, in which the subject seeks to acquire the object of desire from the model/rival. The subject risks being scandalized by the rival whenever his or her desire becomes a stumbling block to the fulfillment of the subject’s desire (see DOUBLING). In such rivalry, the dependence of the subject/self on the other’s desire is heightened yet repressed in increasingly unhealthy and obsessive ways, to the point that

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the object’s value decreases as the subject advances in obsessive competition with the model/rival, resulting in the madness described by Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche. This pathological stage of MIMESIS is a manifestation of what Girard calls METAPHYSICAL DESIRE, in which the desire for being that underlies mimesis becomes clear. In this stage, the object eventually drops from view altogether and obsession with the model/rival becomes all-consuming. The subject in effect seeks the being of the model/rival. Explicating this state of thralldom allows Girard to theorize what he calls PSEUDOMASOCHISM and PSEUDOSADISM, along with self-destructive addictive behaviors, as mimetic phenomena. Meanwhile, in the social context, the accumulation of mimetic rivalries risks wider mimetic contagion and disorder, threatening social breakdown. Girard argues that the mimetic escalation toward catastrophic violence in the protohuman group is contained by scapegoating, which founds and then maintains human culture. The contagion of mimetic violence comes to be focused on an individual or group arbitrarily chosen by the social whole, becoming a scapegoat upon which social chaos is focused and hence discharged. According to Girard, archaic cultures that manage by these means to survive their own violence show a common pattern in their myths, in which a violent crisis suddenly and miraculously gives way to peace and order. This change occurs as the hostile desires of “all against all” suddenly become the murderous desires of “all against one.” Through this victimization, the community returns to peace and to differentiation around the slain victim. This victim is made SACRED and divinized by the mob, which transfers responsibility for the crisis and its resolution onto the victim (double transference)—the two sides of the sacred (the destructive and the saving) that constitute Girard’s original account of Rudolf Otto’s mysterium tremendum et fascinosum. Religion is the part of culture that emerges from this single-victim mechanism to encode its beneficial effects in PROHIBITION, MYTH, and RITUAL. Girard sees archaic religion emerging naturally in the evolutionary process as a necessary evil, containing rivalry’s potentially catastrophic escalation by the memory of primal cathartic violence that scapegoating represents. Rooted in the management of our unfocused and unstable desiring, religion’s targeted, culture-founding violence is both recapitulated and revivified through ritual (especially by sacrificial rituals), justified in myth, and safeguarded by prohibition and taboo—these latter elements regulate relationships and establish boundaries to avoid further mimetic rivalry and violence.



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Yet, in the Judeo-Christian vision that comes to its climax in Jesus, Girard argues that religion overcomes its origins: the innocence of the victim is revealed, the scapegoat mechanism is exposed, and human desire is shown to be distorted and diverted from its true source in God the Father’s gratuitous and self-giving love. Through analysis of many biblical texts, and especially the gospels, Girard argues that the biblical revelation can be figured precisely thus: as a revelation from outside conventional human religion and culture that lifts the veil on human violence and distorted desire. He does this through a distinctive hermeneutical approach that first identifies the common structural characteristics of mythical and biblical stories: (1) the presence of crisis, (2) the identification of a victim, (3) vulnerable characteristics associated with the victim (e.g., disfigurement or disability), (4) the climactic and unanimous violence of SURROGATE VICTIMAGE, and, (5) the restoration of order and peace that follows this scapegoating violence. Then, on the basis of these structural commonalities, Girard identifies significant differences in the content and trajectory of mythical versus biblical accounts, showing that while archaic myths endorse the violent mob, the biblical narrative reveals and champions the victim’s innocence. In this way, according to Girard, the victim-making engine of all religions and cultures is sabotaged by the Bible, setting history on a secularizing path toward modernity. For Girard, this is Nietzsche’s death of God properly understood: the collapse of religion’s social function and the release of a dangerous instability evident in today’s most pressing global challenges.

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Glossary of Key Girardian Terms Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge

Note: Terms in UPPER CASE are defined within this glossary. Apocalypse/apocalyptic: Although present in his work on METAPHYSICAL DESIRE from the 1960s onward, the theme of “the apocalyptic” assumed increasing importance in Girard’s oeuvre. Harking back to the etymology of the Greek term apokalypsis, apocalypse concerns the “disclosure” of something—a “revelation” or “unveiling.” The term itself has biblical roots, and Girard’s interest in it concerns the revelation of violence. Here Girard emphasizes violence as that which threatens human order and security because of its contagious nature, and he emphasizes the extent to which this revelation itself further undermines human order and security. That is, the biblical uncovering of human violence—the laying bare of SURROGATE VICTIMAGE—itself destabilizes culture and society. By desacralizing the principal mechanism by which humans have attained unanimity and social cohesion—SCAPEGOATING—human communities are thrown into chaos that, in the short and intermediate terms, can exacerbate rather than ameliorate violence. In this situation, Girard argues that the internal logic of mimetic violence plays itself out as the mimetic and contagious nature of violence generates an “escalation to extremes” that leads to destruction. Although Girard argues that his concept of apocalypse remains utterly faithful to the biblical tradition, it runs counter to a widespread understanding of apocalypse as divine violence against humanity. Desire: Girard acknowledges that, while humans have evolved biological appetites that operate at the level of instinct, it is the further evolved capacity for MIMESIS that most fully accounts for the dynamics of human desiring, whether or not any particular desire builds on or directs a biological appetite. Doubling: In Girard’s schema, conflictual MIMESIS is characterized by “doubling.” This “doubling” refers to the progressive and mutually reinforcing de-differentiation of subjects that occurs by virtue of an intensification of mimesis. That is, mimesis encourages, through positive feedback, an increasing symmetry between antagonists, which emerges despite increasing attempts at differentiation; it tends toward the erasure of significant differences between individuals—those differences that mark their sociopsychological identity and position within a particular cultural order.

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Mediation: For Girard, whose conception of DESIRE is not object-oriented, desire is always mediated via a third party (a model or mediator) through a process of MIMESIS. There are two primary ways in which such mediation occurs: externally and internally. External mediation (mediation externe) occurs where the model or mediator is historically, socially, or ontologically distant from the subject such that conflict over the object of desire is precluded. Conversely, internal mediation (mediation interne) occurs where the desiring subject’s object of desire and their model’s object of desire overlap and thereby becomes a pretext for rivalry or “conflictual mimesis.” In this instance there is a mutual convergence on a desired object and the model is designated a “model-rival” or “model-obstacle.” Metaphysical desire: Metaphysical desire (Le desir de metaphysique) is an attraction to the very being of a mediator. The object is merely a means by which the desiring subject can attain or absorb the mediator’s (imagined) autonomy, uniqueness, or spontaneity. Metaphysical desire is particularly evident when the object of desire is honor or prestige directly, and not just one of their concrete markers. Mimesis/mimetic desire: The idea of “mimesis” is at the center of Girard’s thinking. The etymology of the term can be traced to ancient Greece, μίμησις (mimesis), from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), “to imitate,” and it has served a variety of purposes in theoretical discourse since at least Aristotle. In Girard’s thought it refers to imitative desire (le desire mimetique). For Girard, desire is itself imitative: we desire what we desire because we imitate—consciously or not—the desires of others. Girard has called this a “mimesis of appropriation” (une mimésis d’appropriation). The other main area in which Girard sees mimesis operating is in SCAPEGOATING. Here, the form of imitation observed is that of members of a crowd or populace converging around a victim or group of victims. Girard has dubbed this a “mimesis of accusation” or a “mimesis of antagonism” (une mimésis d’antagonisme). Girard’s conception of mimesis can be traced back to his very first work, Deceit Desire, and the Novel, where he posits a distinction between novelistic (romanesque) versus romantic (romantique) works; where the former reveal and demythologize the mimetic nature of social relations, the latter continue to propagate delusions about absolute human spontaneity and originality. Myth: Myth is one of the three institutions of the SACRED—along with PROHIBITION and RITUAL. It is preeminently concerned with narrating the sacred. Myth is characterized by stories that possess a radically incomplete recollection of cultural degeneration and SURROGATE VICTIMAGE. Like rituals, myths represent stereotypically distorted accounts of both the cultural chaos associated with the sacrificial crisis and the cessation of this crisis through collective violence. They typically encode such mis-knowing (meconnaissance) by representing a primordial chaos—through, for example, “natural” and cultural calamities that signify the dissolution of difference, such as plagues or the appearance of warring



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twins or brothers (such as we see, for instance, in the mythical narrative of Romulus and Remus). Prohibition: Prohibition is one of the three institutions of the SACRED—along with MYTH and RITUAL. For Girard, the main function of prohibition is to control mimetic contagion and thereby proscribe interpersonal conflict. Religious taboos/ prohibitions commonly target mimetic behavior and the mythical transpositions of that behavior through representation. For instance, taboos are often focused on things such as behavioral mirroring, “imitative magic,” representational art, and the problematic of “twins.” By targeting these domains, prohibition is best seen as a sacred prophylactic that, although manifesting only dim self-awareness, is preoccupied with the forestalling of rivalry and the dissolution of differences that conflictual reciprocity engenders. Pseudomasochism and pseudosadism: Represent two of the primary poles of psychopathology in Girard’s understanding. The prefix “pseudo” in both cases indicates what deconstructionists would call terms “under erasure”: terms that are considered necessary but problematic because of their traditional constructions. Here, Girard wants to distance himself from the Freudian conceptions under which the notions of masochism and sadism have been developed while wanting to retain something of their ambience or semantic field.  From one perspective, pseudomasochism can be seen as a kind of METAPHYSICAL DESIRE in extremis. In MIMETIC DESIRE, the prestige of the model is sometimes boosted by his or her seeming indifference toward others. The pseudomasochist concludes that their rejection by the mediator confirms the mediator’s supremacy and the absolute desirability of what the mediator desires. The pseudomasochist looks for objects whose value is conferred and confirmed by the resistance encountered in attempts to attain them. Where a model serves initially as an obstacle to the consummation of a desire, the pseudomasochist eventually will seek the obstacle itself—the model is valued because of the obstruction that he or she can provide.  Pseudosadism involves what Girard calls a “dialectical reversal” of pseudomasochism: where the masochist will seek a mediator who will oppose him or her, the pseudosadist seeks masochists for the same end, of turning him or her into a demigod. The sadist seeks to be a mediator for imitators for whom he or she will provide violent opposition and, in so doing, hopes to turn this role of human divinity into a reality. For Freud such social pathologies are externalizations of internal disquiet; for Girard, these psychopathologies represent the internalization of external social dynamics. Religion: See the SACRED. Ritual: Ritual is one of the three institutions of the SACRED—along with PROHIBITION and MYTH. Ritual, along with prohibition, functions to control mimetic behavior. Both freeze into institutional form an imperfect

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comprehension of SURROGATE VICTIMAGE; they are distorted recollections of both the cultural chaos associated with a sacrificial crisis and its abatement through SCAPEGOATING. The primary form of ritual is sacrifice, which usually begins with carnivalesque features (masks, intoxication, the theatrical erasure or suspension of normal cultural codes, and so on) and concludes with the killing of an animal (or, in the past, a human or group of humans). Ritual is the institution of the sacred that is preeminently constituted by a performative restaging of a cultural crisis and its resolution through surrogate victimage, usually by means of a sacrifice. Sacred, the: Girard continually emphasizes the connections between religion, social structure, and culture, which he sees as holding firm in so-called “primitive” (or pre-state) cultures, in ancient cultures, and even in “modern” (so-called) “secular” cultures—although the way these features interconnect and function in each case is importantly different. There are two senses of the sacred (le sacré) in Girard’s work. The first, evinced in early works such as Violence and the Sacred, is that the sacred is the anthropological correlate of the social; further, that violence lies at the basis of the sacred and that the institutions of the sacred—MYTH, RITUAL, and PROHIBITION—give institutional form and religious underwriting to the cultureforming power, transcendence and ambit of human violence.  However, beginning with Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Girard develops a new conception of the sacred that doesn’t so much overturn as supplement his earlier view. He develops this view by posing the question of how it is we came to know about the (violent) sacred and its effects. His answer is that this knowledge is the product of the radically desacralizing effect of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, beginning with the psalms, the Joseph story, Job, and the Servant Songs of Isaiah, and culminating in the gospel narratives of Jesus’ passion.  Girard posits a fundamental distinction between myth and biblical narrative; where the former narrates events structured by SURROGATE VICTIMAGE in a way that legitimizes violence, the latter takes the point of view of the victims of that violence—thematizes violence—in a way that undermines its legitimacy. In this sense at least, Girard acknowledges the breakthrough insight of nineteenth-century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), whose antithesis between “Dionysus” and “the Crucified” anticipates Girard’s thesis in many respects— anthropologically, if not ethically, since Nietzsche repudiates Christian regard for victims in favor of Dionysian excess. Scapegoating: Girard’s use of the term “scapegoating” (scapegoat: bouc émissaire) is consistent in many ways with the commonsense uses of that term: the violent and arbitrary convergence around a victim or group of victims who are seen as uniquely responsible for a particular group’s misfortunes. Although scapegoats need not be innocent in any strong sense of that word—that is, morally blameless—they bear the structural blame for the social disorder surrounding them out of all proportion to their responsibility. In The Scapegoat, Girard argues that scapegoats are (mis)



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represented in remarkably similar ways—with what Girard calls “victimary signs”— and so we can see scapegoating in certain texts, even when authors do not see this themselves. Scapegoating is a central feature of SURROGATE VICTIMAGE. Surrogate victimage: In Girard’s thought, “surrogate victimage” (mécanisme de la victim émissaire/le mécanisme victimaire) names the principal mechanism by which cultures constitute themselves sacrificially. Where MIMETIC DESIRE denotes those dimensions of imitative behavior oriented by reference to acts of appropriation, surrogate victimage has its basis in an increasingly envious and rivalrous MIMESIS of accusation. Surrogate victimage is best encapsulated by reference to a hypothetical scenario where a contagion of rivalrous mimesis has swept through a protohuman milieu and leveled the identities of individuals, so that mutual suspicion and enmity become pandemic. In such a situation of pervasive DOUBLING, Girard proposes that what invariably occurs is that an individual or group will emerge that is seen to be different enough by the crowd to polarize it in an escalating mimesis of accusation. In other words, the SCAPEGOAT functions in a sociopsychological sense by reintroducing difference when all other differences or markers of identity are collapsing. The mob polarizes around the scapegoat, who is lynched or banished. (Of course, the persecuting community does not see their victim as a scapegoat. Rather they see themselves as scapegoats of those they are accusing.) The esprit de corps produced by the lynching or banishment then ends up justifying or legitimating the lynching to the mob, post hoc. This accounts for the origin of the SACRED, according to Girard, as the victim—formerly thought to be the malign source of violent contagion threatening the community—is experienced post mortem as the bringer of a seemingly miraculous order and stability by virtue of his or her murder, which spontaneously quenched the mob’s mimetic violence.  Thus, religions begin with the deification of victims. Surrogate victimage is the mechanism that lies behind the primitive religiocultural nexus, giving rise to MYTH, RITUAL, and PROHIBITION—the three institutions of the sacred. Girard thus proposes that conflict rooted in rivalry better explains human violence and conflict than either “aggression” (the biological/zoological explanation) or “scarcity” (the economistic explanation).

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Further Reading Books by René Girard (by year of original publication) Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (1961). Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. Proust: A Collection of Critical Essays. Edited by René Girard. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky (1963). Translated by James G. Williams. New York: Crossroad, 1997. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012. Violence and the Sacred (1972). Translated by Patrick Gregory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. “To Double Business Bound”: Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, 1978). Translated by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987. The Scapegoat (1982). Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. Job, the Victim of His People (1985). Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987. A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer (1994). Translated by Trevor Cribben Merrill. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. The Girard Reader. Edited by James G. Williams. New York: Crossroad, 1996. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (1999). Translated by James G. Williams. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001. The One by Whom Scandal Comes (2001). Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Sacrifice (2003). Translated by Matthew Pattillo and David Dawson. Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011. Oedipus Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire. Edited with an introduction by Mark R. Anspach. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue (with Gianni Vattimo, 2006). Edited by Pierpaolo Antonello and translated by William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

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Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre (2007). Translated by Mary Baker. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010. Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha). London and New York: Continuum, 2007. La conversion de l’art: Textes rassemblés par Benoît Chantre et Trevor Cribben Merrill. Paris: Carnets Nord, 2008; Flammarion, 2010. Mimesis and Theory: Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005. Edited with an introduction by Robert Doran. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. Anoxeria and Mimetic Desire. Translated by Mark R. Anspach. Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Reading the Bible with René Girard: Conversations with Steven E. Berry. Edited by Michael Hardin. Lancaster, PA: JDL Press, 2015. René Girard and Raymund Schwager: Correspondence 1974–1991. Translated by Chris Fleming and Sheelah Treflé Hidden. Edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, Joel Hodge, and Mathias Moosbrugger. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, Vol. 4. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Selected articles and shorter publications by René Girard (alphabetically by title) “Apocalyptic Thinking after 9/11: An Interview with René Girard” (with Robert Doran). SubStance 37, no. 1 (2008): 20–32. “Are the Gospels Mythical?” First Things: The Journal of Religion and Public Life 62 (April 1996). Available online: www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9604/girard.html. “The Bloody Skin of the Victim” (with Wolfgang Palaver). In The New Visibility of Religion. Edited by Graham Ward and Michael Hoelzl, 59–67. London and New York: Continuum, 2008. “A Conversation with René Girard (August 2006/May 2007)” (with Phil Rose). Contagion 18 (2011): 23–38. “Disorder and Order in Mythology.” In Disorder and Order. Edited by Paisley Livingston, 80–97. Special issue of Stanford Literature Studies 1 (1984). “Eating Disorders and Mimetic Desire.” Contagion 3 (1996): 1–20. “The Founding Murder in the Philosophy of Nietzsche.” In Violence and Truth. Edited by Paul Dumouchel, 227–46. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. “From Literature to Science.” In Mapping Michael Serres (2005). Edited by Niran Abbas, 10–23. Studies in Literature and Science. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.



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“Generative Scapegoating.” In Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Edited by Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, 73–145. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987. “Intellectuals as Castrators of Meaning: An Interview with René Girard” (with Giulio Meotti). Il Foglio (March 20, 2007). Translated by Paul N. Faraone and Christopher S. Morrissey. First Principles (August 28, 2008). Available online: www. firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1086&theme=home&loc=b. “Interview with René Girard” (with Marcus Müller). Anthropoetics 2, no. 1 (June 1996): 1–13. “Literature and Christianity: A Personal View.” Philosophy and Literature 23 (1999): 32–43. “The Logic of the Undecidable: An Interview with René Girard” (with Thomas Bertonneau). Paroles Gelées—UCLA French Studies 5 (1987): 1–24. “Nietzsche and Contradiction.” Stanford Italian Review 1, nos 1–2 (1986): 53–65. “Origins: A View from the Literature.” In Understanding Origins. Edited by Jean-Pierre Dupuy and Francisco J. Varela, 27–42. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992. “Ratzinger Is Right” (with Nathan Gardels). New Perspectives Quarterly 22, no. 3 (Summer 2005). Available online: www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2005_summer/10_ girard.html. “Violence and Religion: Cause or Effect?” Hedgehog Review 6, no. 1 (22 March 2004): 8–13. “Violence, Difference, Sacrifice: A Conversation with René Girard” (with Rebecca Adams). Religion and Literature 25, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 11–33. “Violence in Biblical Narrative.” Philosophy and Literature 23, no. 2 (1999): 387–92. “‘What Is Occurring Today Is Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale’: René Girard on September 11” (with Henri Tincq). Le Monde, November 6, 2011. Translated by the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Available online: www.morphizm.com/ politix/girard911.html.

Further reading Aglietta, Michel, and André Orléan. La Violence de la monnaie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1982. Alberg, Jeremiah L. Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Alberg, Jeremiah L. A Reinterpretation of Rousseau: A Religious System (with a Foreword by René Girard). New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. Alison, James. Broken Hearts and New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal. London and New York: Continuum, 2010.

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Alison, James. Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001. Alison, James. Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice. 4 vols. Glenview: Doers, 2013. Alison, James. The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes. New York: Herder and Herder, 1998. Alison, James. Knowing Jesus (1993). 2nd ed. London: SPCK, 1998. Alison, James. On Being Liked. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003. Alison, James. Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination. 2nd ed. London: SPCK, 2010. Alison, James. Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2006. Anspach, Mark R., ed. René Girard. Les cahiers de l’Herne. Paris: Éditions de L’Herne, 2008. Astell, Ann W. and Sandor Goodhart, eds. Sacrifice, Scripture, and Substitution: Readings in Ancient Judaism and Christianity. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1985. Bailie, Gil. “Raising the Ante: Recovering an Alpha and Omega Christology,” Communio: International Catholic Review 35, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 83–106. Bailie, Gil. “René Girard’s Contribution to the Church of the 21st Century,” Communio: International Catholic Review 26, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 134–53. Bailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995. Bandera, Cesáreo. The Humble Story of Don Quixote: Reflections on the Birth of the Modern Novel (2005). Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Bandera, Cesáreo. Mímesis conflictiva: ficción literaria y violencia en Cervantes y Calderón. Madrid: Gredos, 1975. Bandera, Cesáreo. A Refuge of Lies: Reflections on Faith and Fiction. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Bandera, Cesáreo. The Sacred Game: The Role of the Sacred in the Genesis of Modern Literary Fiction. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994. Bartlett, Anthony W. Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement. Harrisburg: Trinity, 2001. Baudler, Georg. Töten oder Lieben: Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum. Munich: Kösel, 1991. Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. Le Lien affectif. Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1991. Bubbio, Paolo D. Il Sacrificio: a Ragione e il suo Altrove. Rome: Città Nuova, 2004. Bubbio, Paolo D. Il Sacrificio Intellettuale: René Girard e la Filosofia della Religione. Turin: Il Quadrante, 1999.



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Chilton, Bruce. The Temple of Jesus. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Ciuba, Gary M. Desire, Violence, and Divinity in Modern Southern Fiction: Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy. Southern Literary Studies. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Collins, Brian. The Head Beneath the Altar: Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Cowdell, Scott. Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety, and Violence. Eugene: Cascade, 2009; Lutterworth: James Clark, 2010. Cowdell, Scott. René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013. Cowdell, Scott, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge, eds. Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, vol. 1. London and New York: Continuum, 2012. Cowdell, Scott, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge, eds. René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love, and Literature. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, vol. 2. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Cowdell, Scott, Chris Fleming, and Joel Hodge, eds. Mimesis, Movies, and Media. Violence, Desire and the Sacred, vol. 3. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Daly, Robert J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2009. Dawson, David. Flesh Becomes Word: A Lexicography of the Scapegoat or, the History of an Idea. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Deguy, Michel and Jean-Pierre Dupuy, eds. René Girard et le problème du mal. Paris: Grasset, 1982. Dieckmann, Bernhard. Judas als Sündenbock: eine verhängnisvolle Geschichte von Angst und Vergeltung. Munich: Kösel, 1991. Dizdar, Draško. Sheer Grace: Living the Mystery of God. New York: Paulist, 2008. Dumouchel, Paul. The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Dumouchel, Paul. Economia dell’invidia. Massa: Transeuropa, 2011. Dumouchel, Paul. Emotions essai sur le corps et le social. Paris: Les Empêcheurs de Penser en rond, 1999. Dumouchel, Paul. Le sacrifice inutile: essai sur la violence politique. Paris: Flammarion, 2011. Dumouchel, Paul, ed. Violence and Truth: On the Work of René Girard. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. Dumouchel, Paul and Jean-Pierre Dupuy, eds. Colloque de Cerisy: L’Auto-organisation de la physique au politique. Paris: Seuil, 1983.

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Dumouchel, Paul and Jean-Pierre Dupuy, eds. L’Enfer des choses: René Girard et la logique de l’économie. Paris: Seuil, 1979. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. Le Sacrifice et l’envie: le libéralisme aux prises avec la justice sociale. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1992. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. Ordres et desordres: enquête sur un nouveau paradigme. Paris: Seuil, 1982. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre and Francisco J. Varela, eds. Understanding Origins: Contemporary Views on the Origin of Life, Mind, and Society. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992. Finamore, Stephen. God, Order, and Chaos: René Girard and the Apocalypse. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2009. Fleming, Chris. René Girard: Violence and Mimesis. Cambridge: Polity, 2004. Fornari, Giuseppe. “Figures of Antichrist: The Apocalypse and Its Restraints in Contemporary Political Thought.” Innsbrucker Discussionspapiere zu Weltordnung, Religion und Gewalt 31 (2009): 1–39. (Appearing also in Contagion 17 [2010]: 53–85). Fornari, Giuseppe. A God Torn to Pieces: The Nietzsche Case. Translated by Keith Buck in collaboration with the author. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Gallese, Vittorio. “The Two Sides of Mimesis: Girard’s Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 16, no. 4 (2009): 21–44. Gans, Eric. The End of Culture: Toward a Generative Anthropology. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985. Gans, Eric. The Origin of Language: A Formal Theory of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. Gans, Eric. Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. Gans, Eric. Science and Faith: The Anthropology of Revelation. Savage: Rowman and Littlefield, 1991. Gans, Eric. Signs of Paradox: Irony, Resentment, and Other Mimetic Structures. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997. Gardner, Stephen L. “Democracy and Desire in The Great Gatsby.” In Passions in Economy, Politics and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. Edited by Wolfgang Palaver and Petra Steinmair-Pösel. Beiträge zur mimeticshen Theorie 17, 273–94. Wien: Lit Verlag, 2005. Gardner, Stephen L. Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought, and Philosophical Radicalism. Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 1998. Gardner, Stephen L. “René Girard’s Apocalyptic Critique of Historical Reason: Limiting Politics to Make Way for Faith.” Contagion 18 (2011): 1–22.



Further Reading

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Garrels, Scott R. “Imitation, Mirror Neurons, and Mimetic Desire: Convergence Between the Mimetic Theory of René Girard and Empirical Research on Imitation.” Contagion 12–13 (2006): 47–86. Garrels, Scott R., ed. Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011. Golsan, Richard J. René Girard and Myth: An Introduction. Theorists of Myth. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Goodhart, Sandor. The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Goodhart, Sandor. Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Goodhart, Sandor, Jørgen Jørgensen, Tom Ryba, and James G. Williams, eds. For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009. Grote, Jim. “The Imitation of Christ as Double-Bind: Toward a Girardian Spirituality.” Cistercian Studies 29, no. 4 (1994): 485–98. Grote, Jim, and John McGeeney. Clever as Serpents: Business Ethics and Office Politics. Collegeville: Liturgical, 1997. Hamerton-Kelly, Robert. G. The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994. Hamerton-Kelly, Robert. G., ed. Politics and Apocalypse. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2007. Hamerton-Kelly, Robert. G., ed. Sacred Violence: Paul’s Hermeneutic of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992. Hamerton-Kelly, Robert. G, ed. Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987. Hardin, Michael. The Jesus Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity With Jesus. Lancaster: JDL, 2010. Hedley, Douglas. Sacrifice Imagined: Violence, Atonement, and the Sacred. New York and London: Continuum, 2011. Hodge, Joel. Resisting Violence and Victimisation: Christian Faith and Solidarity in East Timor. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012. Jane, Emma A., and Chris Fleming. Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Jersak, Brad, and Michael Hardin, eds. Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. Johnsen, William A. Violence and Modernism: Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

246

Further Reading

Juilland, Alphonse, ed. To Honor René Girard. Special issue of Stanford French and Italian Studies 34 (1986). Kaplan, Grant. René Girard, Unlikely Apologist: Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016. Kaplan, Grant. “Widening the Dialectic: Secularity and Christianity in Conversation.” In New Voices in Catholic Theology. Edited by Anna Bonta Moreland and Joseph Curran, 23–50, 245–50. New York: Crossroad, 2012. Kirwan, Michael. Discovering Girard. Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2005. Kirwan, Michael. Girard and Theology. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2009. Kirwan, Michael and Sheelah Treflé Hidden, eds. Mimesis and Atonement: René Girard and the Doctrine of Salvation. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, Vol. 5. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Lagrange, François. René Girard ou la christianisation des sciences humaines. New York: Peter Lang, 1994. Lawtoo, Nidesh. The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Livingston, Paisley, ed. Disorder and Order: Proceedings of the Stanford International Symposium (September 14–16, 1981). Special issue of Stanford Literature Studies 1 (1984). Livingston, Paisley., Models of Desire: René Girard and the Psychology of Mimesis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Marr, Andrew. Tools for Peace: The Spiritual Craft of St. Benedict and René Girard. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2007. McCracken, David. The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. McKenna, Andrew. Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Merrill, Trevor C. The Book of Imitation and Desire: Reading Milan Kundera with René Girard. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Mongrain, Kevin. “Theologians of Spiritual Transformation: A Proposal for Reading René Girard Through the Lenses of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and John Cassian.” Modern Theology 28, no. 1 (January 2012): 81–111. Moore, Sebastian. The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as If It Mattered. Edited by Stephen McCarthy. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2007. O’Regan, Cyril. “Girard and the Spaces of Apocalyptic.” Modern Theology 28, no. 1 (January 2012): 112–40. O’Shea, Andrew. Selfhood and Sacrifice: René Girard and Charles Taylor on the Crisis of Modernity. New York and London: Continuum, 2010. Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Genesis of Desire (2007). Translated by Eugene Webb.



Further Reading

247

Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010. Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Mimetic Brain (2013). Translated by Trevor Cribben Merrill. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016. Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. Psychopolitics: Conversations with Trevor Cribben Merrill. (Foreword by René Girard.) Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis. Translated by Eugene Webb. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991. Palaver, Wolfgang. “The Ambiguous Cachet of Victimhood: On Violence and Monotheism.” In The New Visibility of Religion. Edited by Graham Ward and Michael Hoelzl, 68–87. London and New York: Continuum, 2008. Palaver, Wolfgang. “Carl Schmitt’s ‘Apocalyptic’ Resistance against Global Civil War.” In Politics and Apocalypse. Edited by Robert Hamerton-Kelly, 69–94. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2007. Palaver, Wolfgang. “Envy or Emulation: A Christian Understanding of Economic Passions.” In Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media. Edited by Wolfgang Palaver and Petra Steinmair-Pösel, 139–62. Wien: Lit Verlag, 2005. Palaver, Wolfgang. “Essay on Islam and the Return of the Archaic.” The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion 37 (October 2010): 6–10. Palaver, Wolfgang. “A Girardian Reading of Schmitt’s Political Theology.” Telos 93 (Fall 1992): 43–68. Palaver, Wolfgang. “Hobbes and the Katéchon: The Secularization of Sacrificial Christianity.” Contagion 2 (1995): 57–74. Palaver, Wolfgang. “Mimetic Theories of Religion and Violence.” In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence. Edited by Mark Juergensmeyer, Margo Kitts, and Michael Jerryson, 533–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Palaver, Wolfgang. “On Violence: A Mimetic Perspective.” Der Innsbrucker Theologische Leseraum (February 23, 2002). Available online: www.uibk.ac.at/theol/leseraum/ texte/137.html. Palaver, Wolfgang. Politik und Religion bei Thomas Hobbes: eine Kritik aus der Sicht der Theorie Girards. Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 1991. Palaver, Wolfgang. René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (2011). Translated by Gabriel Borrud. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. Palaver, Wolfgang, and Petra Steinmair-Pösel, eds. Passions in Economy, Politics and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. Beiträge zur mimeticshen Theorie, 17. Wien: Lit Verlag, 2005. Pfeil, Margaret R., and Tobias L. Winright, eds. Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: “They Shall Be Called Children of God.” Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2012.

248

Further Reading

Redekop, Vern Neufeld, and Thomas Ryba, ed. René Girard and Creative Mimesis: The Emergence of Caring, Consciousness, and Creativity. Lanham: Lexington, 2014. Redekop, Vern Neufeld and Thomas Ryba, ed. René Girard and Creative Reconciliation. Lanham: Lexington, 2014. Reineke, Martha J. Intimate Domain: Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Roustang, François. Un destin si funeste. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1976. Schwager, Raymund. Banished From Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation (1997). Translated by James Williams. Inigo Text Series 9. Leominster: Gracewing; New Malden: Inigo Enterprises, 2006. Schwager, Raymund. Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption, Translated by James G. Williams. New York: Herder and Herder, 1999. Schwager, Raymund. Jesus of Nazareth: How He Understood His Life. Translated by J. G. Williams. New York: Crossroad, 1998. Schwager, Raymund. Must There Be Scapegoats? Violence and Redemption in the Bible. Translated by Maria L. Assad. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987. Serres, Michel. Genesis. Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995. Serres, Michel. Hermés III: La traduction. Paris: Minuit, 1974. Serres, Michel. La Naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucréce: fleuves et turbulences. Paris: Minuit, 1977, esp. 127–66. Serres, Michel. The Parasite. Translated by Lawrence R. Schehr. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982. Serres, Michel. Rome: The Book of Foundations. Translated by Felicia McCarren. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991, esp. 89–136. Simonse, Simon. Kings of Disaster: Dualism, Centralism and the Scapegoat King in the Southeastern Sudan. Leiden and New York: E. J. Brill, 1992. Smith, Theophus and Mark Wallace, eds. Curing Violence. Sonoma: Polebridge, 1994. Swartley, Willard M., ed. Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking. Telford: Pandora, 2000. Tyrrell, Wm. Blake. The Sacrifice of Socrates: Athens, Plato, Girard. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012. Vanheeswijck, Guy. “The Place of René Girard in Contemporary Philosophy.” Contagion 10 (2003): 95–110. Vattimo, Gianni. Belief. Translated by David Webb and Luca D’Isanto. Cambridge: Polity, 1999. Ward, Graham, and Michael Hoelzl, eds. The New Visibility of Religion: Studies in Religion and Cultural Hermeneutics. Continuum Resources in Religion and Political Culture. London and New York: Continuum, 2008.



Further Reading

249

Warren, James. Compassion or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of René Girard (Foreword by Brian McLaren). Lanham: John Hunt, 2013. Webb, Eugene. The Self Between: From Freud to the New Social Psychology of France. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1993. Williams, James G. The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred: Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence. Valley Forge: Trinity, 1991. Wilson, Bruce W. “What Do We Want and Why Do We Want It? Chasing After the Wind: Coquetry, Metaphysical Desire and God.” St. Mark’s Review 202 (2007): 3–9. Readers are also directed to Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, which from 1994 has published articles exploring, developing, and critiquing the mimetic theory of René Girard.

250

Index ‘Abd al-Qadir b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz 160 ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj 196 al-Farida al-gha’iba 159–60 ‘Abduh, Muhammad 155–6 Abrahamic faiths/traditions 42, 43, 50 Islam 191–3 myths and 193 abrogation of Qur’an passages 154–9, 196 Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri 222 n.4 “Intellectual-Programmatic Gap, The” 209–13, 218 Accuser, the 43 see also Satan acquisitive mimesis 29 Afsaruddin, Asmar 196–7 Ahmed, Sara 133, 137 Cultural Politics of Emotion, The 131 Akhtar, Shabbir Islam as Political Religion 221 al-Farida al-gha’iba (‘Abd al-Salam Faraj) 159–60 Alison, James 32, 111, 112 al-Jihad fi al-islam (al-Buti) 156–8 al-Qa‘ida (AQ) 109, 160 IS and 173 ancient civilizations 12 annihilation, threat of 101–3, 110, 124 Anselm, St., proofs for existence of God 85 Anspach, Mark 9 anthropologies 28–9 “Antithesis of Christ and the Pope, The” 134 apocalypse 70, 75, 233 apocalypticism 198–9 apocalyptic violence 42 apostates 212 Aquinas, St. Thomas 87 archaic, meaning of term 53 n.7 archaic sacred, collapse of 109 archaic/sacrificial religions 26, 30–1, 191–2 Judeo-Christian revelation and 31–3

‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah 151, 152 Atlantic 198 Augustine, St. City of God 12 Girard and 28–9 peace and 27 backlash 183–4 Badiou, Alain 122–3 Battling to the End (Girard) 14, 17, 21, 29, 31, 32, 74–9, 90, 162, 191, 200 Baumeister, Roy 197 Beckett, Samuel 86 Bible, abuse of 194 biblical traditions 50–1 bin Laden, Osama 77, 193–4 Declaration of War 195 Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence (ed. Murphy) 7 Blanchot, Maurice 86 body/bodies of collective/community 131 emotions and 131–41 violence and 136–41 Buti, Sa‘id Ramadan al-: al-Jihad fi al-islam 156–8 Camus, Albert 86–7 Cartesian cogito 84–5 Catholic violence 131–3, 137–41 causes and reason 98–9 Cavanaugh, William 25, 44, 45, 47 Cayrol, Jean 86 Chantre, Benoît 17 Charlie Hebdo 89 Chesterton, G. K. 94 Chidester, David 13 Christ, Jesus 29, 43, 51, 61–2, 201 command to love 59–61 imitation of 42 passion 107, 111–12 Christian conversion 61

252 Index Christianity 31–2, 43, 51, 75 Islam and 161–2 sacrificial 32 uniqueness 23 n.20 violence and 169–70 City of God (Augustine) 12 Clausewitz, Carl von 68, 70 Coakley, Sarah 114 cogitos 84–5 Cold War and 9/11 79–80 Cold War politics On the Beach (book by Shute; movie dir. by Kramer) and 80–1, 83–4 Gallipoli (movie dir. by Weir) and 82–4 collective/community as body 130, 131 Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COVR) 7, 21 n.1, 25 community backlash 183–4 community resilience. See societal resilience Companions of the Prophet Muhammad 151 competition 77 compromise 122 conceptual frameworks 207–8 conspiracy theory 127 n.13 constructivism 12 contamination/pollution 129–30, 132–6 contemplative prayer 114 conversion, Christian 61 cosmic war against evil 159, 165 n.32 countering violent extremism (CVE) 177–8 community-focused 177–8 counterterrorism and 177–8 deradicalization and 181–2 societal resilience and 183–4 counternarratives and societal resilience 184–5 counterterrorism and CVE 177–8 Cowdell, Scott, et al.: Rene Girard and Sacrifice in Live, Love, and Literature 14 Crick, Bernard: In Defence of Politics 123 crime and sacrifice 97, 108 crisis current 77 sacrificial 69, 73, 75–6 crowds 95

crusaders 212 Crusades 22 n.10, 165 n.37 Cultural Politics of Emotion, The (Ahmed) 131 culture origin 73 religion and 41, 214–16 Cuypers, Michel 192 Dabiq 176, 198 Davis, Natalie 136, 137, 140, 141 “Rites of Violence, The” 130 Dawkins, Richard 118 death/dying 84–9 Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (Girard) 31, 72, 130 Declaration of War (bin Laden) 195 Delbo, Charlotte 85 Delecroix, Vincent 171–2 demonization 197–8 demystification 17, 18, 31, 43–4, 73–4 demythologization 21 deradicalization 181–2 Derrida, Jacques 124 desacralization 107–9, 125, 127 n.13 Descartes, René, cogito 84–5 desire 72, 233 metaphysical 45–7, 49, 112–13, 234 mimetic 28, 40 desistance 182, 184–5 deterrence 101–4 Diefendorf, Barbara 134, 136 difference/s 75, 77 violence and 73 disengagement from violence 182 Doran, Robert 78, 79 Dostoyevsky, Feodor 88 double transference 41 doubling 233 Dumouchel, Paul 20 Dupuy, Jean-Pierre 30 “Enlightened Doomsaying” 105 n.15 Durkheim, Emile 12, 95 social facts 126 n.3 dying/death 84–9 egoism 87 emotion/s, bodies and 131–41

Index enemies love of 57–62 meaning of term 60 present-day 57–9 “Enlightened Doomsaying” 105 n.15, 124–5 Enlightenment, the 13, 17 epistemologies, moral 117–21, 126 n.4 escalation to extremes 42, 67–90 ethics 123, 127 n.9, 161 Eucharist (Host) 134–7 Evangelii Gaudium (Pope Francis) 191 evil cosmic war against evil 159, 165 n.32 myth of pure evil 197–8 executions 137–41 existential depth/density 40–1 see also metaphysical desire existential deterrence 102–4 existentialism 86 expulsion 129–41 extremes, escalation to 42, 67–90 extremism 39–52, 163 see also violent extremism extremist narratives 176–7 Finkielkraut, Alain 122–3 fitra 163 Fitzgerald, Timothy 12 forgiveness 62 victims and 193 Foucault, Michel 67–8, 75, 89 France 129–41 Francis, Pope: Evangelii Gaudium 191 Freud, Sigmund 27 Fukuyama, Francis 27, 35 n.16 fulfillment 45–6 see also metaphysical desire functionalism 11–12, 33 fundamentalism 76, 123 Gallipoli (movie dir. Weir) 82–4 Girard, René anthropology and 26 apocalypticism and 199 Augustine and 28–9 Battling to the End 14, 17, 21, 29, 31, 32, 74–9, 90, 162, 191, 200

253

biblical abuse and 194 biblical traditions and 50–1 on Christianity 75 Deceit, Desire, and the Novel 31, 72, 130 desire and 72 Hobbes and 27–8 I See Satan Fall Like Lightning 29 Islam and 161–3, 191–2 katechon and 99–104 Le Monde interview 77 misuses of 8–10 myth of religious violence and 7–21 new paradigm and 84 One by Whom Scandal Comes, The 77–8 overview of thought of 229–31 persecution and 129–30 on politics 124 on reconciliation 70 religion and 44–5, 72–3 religion and culture and 215–16 religion and violence and 7–21, 30, 40–4 religious/secular distinction and 14–18 on religious terrorism 197 Resurrection from the Underground 29 the sacred and 72–4, 107 sacrifice and 33 Scapegoat, The 73–4 on scapegoat mechanism 100 on Second World War 70 state and 88 on terrorism 215–16 Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World 73–4, 101 Violence and the Sacred 16, 25, 72–3, 94, 170 on war 68–9, 71 Girard Reader, The (ed. Williams) 14–15 Girl before a Mirror (Picasso) 98 God 43, 45–7 Christian view of 57–62 desire for 47 jihadism and 48–9 love from 42, 61–2 mercy of 194–6 mimetic desire and 46

254 Index nonviolence of 32 peace of 111–14 proofs for existence of 85 violence and 39–52 see also metaphysical desire; sacred, the gospels 42–3, 57–62, 75 grace 29 power and 200–1 Harris, Sam 21 Heaven on Earth (Kadri) 196 Hegel, G. W. F. 70 Hegghammer, Thomas: “Jihadi-Salafi or Revolutionaries?” 217–20 Heidegger, Martin 87 heretics 129–41 Hitchens, Christopher 10–11 Hobbes, Thomas 28–9, 172 Girard and 27–8 Hölderlin, Friedrich 36 n.30 Holocaust, the 85–6 Holt, Mack 134 holy, the, the sacred and 199–201 holy war 161, 165 n.37 hope and the sacred 107–15 hopefulness 88–9 Huguenots 133 see also Protestant violence human condition (fallen) 27–8, 29 human nature (redeemed) 28 Huntington, Samuel P. 27, 35 n.16 hypocrites 212 I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (Girard) 29 Ibn ‘Abbas 150 Ibn Arabi 194 Ibn ‘Umar 151, 152 iconoclasm 136 identity formation 112–13 ideology 117–18 theology and 217–20 idolatry 46, 49, 50 immanence and transcendence 51 immanentism 28–9 In Defence of Politics (Crick) 123 individualism 94, 118 Inspire 176

“Intellectual-Programmatic Gap, The” (al-Suri) 209–13, 218 “intelligence of the victim” 32 internal mediation 76 Irish Republican Army 194 Islam 9–10, 20–1, 32, 51, 94, 126 n.5, 213 Christianity and 161–2, 191–3 Girard and 161–3 IS and 174 Judaism and 191–3 non-Muslims and 156, 157 scapegoating and 163 theological conceptuality of 215–16 violence and 167–72, 191 Islam as Political Religion (Akhtar) 221 Islamic Awakening 210 Islamic empire-building 152–5 Islamic State (IS or ISIS) 94, 109, 160, 198 AQ and 173 Islam and 174 lone-individual attacks and 174 narratives 177 nationalism and 199–200 Islamism 76, 89–90 Islamist activism 217–20 Islamist terror 93, 108–9 see also jihadist current Islamophobia 93 Jehovah’s Witnesses 20 jihad greater or lesser 147–8 military 148–55, 159–61 peace and 194 popular perceptions about 147, 168 realpolitik and 152–5 violence and 195–7 “Jihadi-Salafi or Revolutionaries?” (Hegghammer) 217–20 jihadism 39, 76 God and 48–9 normative claims of 221 jihadist current activities 210–11 conceptual frameworks and 207–8, 217 goal 211 jihadist literature and 208–9 origins 210

Index phases 211–12 theological conceptuality of 213 the West and 207–22 Western conceptuality and 207–9 see also sacred terror; terrorism; violent extremism jihadists conflict with 222 n.1 violence of 215–16 Joseph story (in Bible or Qur’an) 192–3 Judeo-Christian revelation 31–3 Judeo-Christian Scriptures 73–4 judicial systems 15–16 Juergensmeyer, Mark 8–9, 11, 165 n.32 Jum‘a, ‘Ali 158 justice and violence 162–3

255

Lawrence, Bruce 9–10 Le Monde 77 Levi, Primo 86 Levinas, Emmanuel 67, 68, 86, 87, 89 Lévi-Strauss, Claude 72 liberty 127 n.14 Lindt café siege 119, 174, 184 lone-individual/“lone-wolf ” attacks 173–4, 177, 185 IS and 174 love 43, 51–2 command to 59–61 of enemies 57–62 meaning 60 Luther, Martin 199

Mauriac, François 86 Mauss, Marcel 72 McNamara, Robert: Memoirs 103 Meaux, slaughter at 141 méconnaissance 7, 25–6 the sacred and 101–4 mediation 234 internal 76 meditation 114 Memoirs (McNamara) 103 mercy 194–6 metaphysical desire 45–7, 49, 112–13, 234 militancy 159–61 military jihad defensive 148–52 offensive 152–5 terrorism and 159–61 mimesis 29, 234 mimetic crisis 97 mimetic desire 28, 40, 234 God and 46 mimetic rivalry 77–8 misrecognition see méconnaissance mobs 95 modernity 41–2, 45, 53 n.7, 125 moral epistemologies 117–21, 126 n.4 moral outrage 180 mounting to extremes see escalation to extremes Muhammad 76, 148, 150, 158, 199 Mujahid b. Jabr 149 Muqatil b. Sulayman 149 murder and sacrifice 94–8 Murphy, Andrew: Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence 7 Mutually Assured Destruction 101–2 myth of religious violence 32 falsity of 10–14 Girard and 7–21 myth/s 7, 17, 34 n.2, 45, 234–5 Abrahamic faiths/traditions and 193 Bible or Qur’an and 192–3 of pure evil 197–8

Main, John 114 Manent, Pierre 171–2 Marty, Martin 20 martyrdom operations 160

nationalism 20 IS and 199–200 nation-states 12–13, 20, 47, 68 new paradigm (post-9/11) 86–9

Kadri, Sadakat: Heaven on Earth 196 katechon 109–11 Girard and 99–104 kenosis 29, 31 King, Jr., Martin Luther 11 Kirwan, Michael 34 n.3 Kojève, Alexandre 27 Kosovo, violent incident in 95–6 Kramer, Stanley: On the Beach (movie) 80–1, 83–4

256 Index New Testament 57–62, 75 new world order 211–12 Nicholls, David 138, 140 Nietzsche, Friedrich 43 nihilism 88–9 nine eleven see September 11, 2001 Nolte, Ernst 70 nonviolence 31, 43 nonviolent mimesis 29 nuclear deterrence 101–4 nuclear peace 101 Nuechterlein, Paul 94–5

pollution/contamination 129–30 language of 132–6 post-9/11 paradigm 86–9 posthumous cogito 84, 86–9 power 14 grace and 200–1 pride 29 prohibition 235 Protestant violence 131–7 pseudomasochism 235 pseudosadism 235 purification 136–41

Oedipus myth 192 On the Beach (book by Shute) Cold War politics and 80 On the Beach (movie dir. Kramer) Cold War politics and 80–1, 83–4 One by Whom Scandal Comes, The (Girard) 77–8 ontological depth/density 40–1 see also metaphysical desire original sin 28 Other, the see God 111, 112, 114 other, the 58 outrage, moral 180

Qadri, Muhammad Tahir-ul- 160–1 Qatada b. Di‘ama 155 qital 148 Qur’an abrogation of passages of 154–5 abuse of 194–7 peacemaking and 152, 155–9

Palaver, Wolfgang 27–9 Pape, Robert 199 paradigm, new (post-9/11) 86–9 Paris attacks 93, 99 peace of God 111–14 nuclear 101 war and 71 peacemaking and Qur’an 152, 155–9 persecution 129–30 Peterson, Derek 13 pharmakos 44 Picasso, Pablo: Girl before a Mirror 98 Pieper, Josef 199 Political Liberalism (Rawls) 94 politics end of 121–5 religion/s and 171–2, 217–21 violence and 118, 172 war and 67–8 politics/religion distinction 10, 12–13

radicalization process 180 religion and 179, 185 violent extremism and 179–80 Western jihadists and 208–9 youth culture and 180 Rahman, Fazlur 197 Ramallah crowd attack 95 Rantisi, Abdul Aziz 193 Rapoport, David 9 rationalism 17 Rawls, John Political Liberalism 94 Theory of Justice, A 94 Razi, al- 149–50, 151, 152, 154 realpolitik and jihad 152–5 reason causes and 98–9 violence and 20 reciprocity 69 recognition 70 reconciliation 70 Reformation, the 19 religion/s culture and 41, 214–16 meaning of 12–16, 19–20, 33, 44–5, 72–3, 174, 200

Index politics and 10, 12–13, 171–2, 182, 185, 217–21 radicalization and 179, 185 the sacred and 170–1 true or false 201 violence and 16, 18–19, 25–33, 40–7, 95–8, 171, 174–6, 199–201 religious/secular dichotomy 10–14, 25–6 Girard and 14–18 religious violence 30–1, 48–9 explanations for 117–19 myth of 7–21 scandal and 172 secular violence and 9–10 Rene Girard and Sacrifice in Live, Love, and Literature (Cowdell et al.) 14 Resurrection from the Underground (Girard) 29 rhetoric and violence 132–6 Richardson, Louise 193 rights 58 riots 139–41 “Rites of Violence, The” (Davis) 130 ritual/s 73, 235–6 romanticism 85 Ryba, Thomas 87 sacralization of human beings 125–6 sacred, the 39, 41, 45–7, 236 forms of 108–9, 114–15 the holy and 199–201 hope and 107–15 as katechon 109–11 méconnaissance and 101–4 religions and 170–1 as simulacrum 93–104, 107–9 violence and 73, 170 see also God sacred terror 93, 95–6, 98, 99, 108–9 see also jihadist current; terrorism; violent extremism sacred violence 44 sacrifice 16, 18, 30–1, 33 crime and 97, 108 mechanisms of 100 murder and 94–8 violence and 170 sacrificial/archaic religions 26, 30–1

257

Judeo-Christian revelation and 31–3 sacrificial Christianity 32, 37 n.45 sacrificial crisis 69, 73, 75–6, 97 sacrificial substitutions 96 Sartre, Jean-Paul 98 Satan 43, 99–100, 101 scandal 40, 42–3, 172 Scapegoat, The (Girard) 73–4 scapegoating 18–19, 32, 36 n.39, 236–7 Islam and 163 logic of 98–9 mechanism of 26, 28, 30–1, 41, 46–7, 97, 129–30 Schell, Jonathan 102 Schmitt, Carl 27, 35 n.18 Schwager, Raymund 33, 197 sectarianism 177 secularism 8–10, 16–21, 52, 123, 213 Judeo-Christian revelation and 32–3 secular/religious distinction 10–14 secular violence 9–10, 12, 32 secularity 45, 52 secularization 171, 172 self-dispossession/self-possession 113–14 self-giving 43 self-identity 61 self-sacrifice 99 Sens massacre 140–1 September 11, 2001 76, 77, 78–9 Cold War and 79–80 Serres, Michel 200 Shafi‘i, al- 153, 154 Shah-Kazemi, Reza 194 Shakespeare, William 87–8 Shami, Makhul al- 152 sharia 211 Shoah, the 85–6 Shute, Nevil: On the Beach 80 sin, original 28 Singer, Peter 123 sleeper cells 76–7, 88, 89 Sloterdijk, Peter 28 Smith, Wilfred Cantwell 12 social contract 28 social sciences 221 societal resilience 178, 182–5 counternarratives and 184–5 CVE programs and 183–4

258 Index St. Anselm, proofs for existence of God 85 St. Thomas Aquinas 87 state and religion 182, 185 stereotypes of persecution 129–30 Stern, Abraham 9 substantivism 11–12, 33 substitutions, sacrificial 96 suicide bombing/s 88, 89, 110, 160, 161 surrogate victimage 237 sword verse 154–9, 195–6 Tabari, al- 151, 152, 153, 154–5 taqwa 149 Taylor, Charles 126 n.4 tendency to extremes see escalation to extremes terrorism 21, 42, 48, 76–7, 210–11, 215–16 military jihad and 159–61 see also jihadist current; sacred terror; violent extremism textual abrogation (concerning Qur’an) 154–9 theocracy 171 theodicy 87 theologization of war 197–8 theology ideology and 217–20 Islam and 215 social sciences and 221 Theory of Justice, A (Rawls) 94 Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (Girard) 73–4, 101 Thomas Aquinas, St. 87 Tocqueville, Alexis de 172 torture 138 totalitarianism 10–11 transcendence 47 divine, pacific 49–52 immanence and 51 transference, double 41 triangular desire 40 undifferentiation 69, 98–9 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN) 58, 125 Vassy massacre 139

victimage mechanism 100 see also scapegoating: mechanism of victim/s attitudes toward 117–18, 120, 180 cults of 197–9 dehumanization of 130 forgiveness and 43–4, 193 God and 46–7 innocence of 50 intelligence of 32 surrogate 237 violent extremism and 93, 193–4 violence addiction to 47 apocalyptic 42 bodies and 136–41 Catholic 131–3, 137–41 Christianity and 169–70 desacralisation/resacralisation of 48–9, 50–1 difference and 73 God and 39–52 gratuitous nature of 98–9 Islam and 167–72, 191 jihadist 215–16 justice and 162–3 justification for 39, 45, 47, 48–9 logic/reason and 98–9 metaphysical desire and 112–13 origin 26–30 political 118, 172 Protestant 131–7 reason and 20 religion and 7–21, 25–33, 40, 47, 95–8, 171, 199–201 rhetoric and 132–6 the sacred and 44, 73, 170 sacrifice and 170 secular 9–10, 12 self-externalization of 103 transformation of 110–14 unpredictability 71, 90 see also violent extremism Violence and the Sacred (Girard) 16, 25, 72–3, 94, 170 violent extremism 175–8, 197–9 forms 176 motivations 177

Index radicalization and 179–80 religion and 174–6 victims and 193–4 see also jihadist current; sacred terror; terrorism violent extremists 179 Voegelin, Eric 28 Wahidi, al- 151 Waiting for God (Weil) 201 war 67–90 against evil 159, 165 n.32 end of 71 global 79 holy 161, 165 n.37 peace and 71 politics and 67–8 terror and 210 theologization of 197–8 “Wars of Religion” 19 Weber, Max 27, 127 n.9

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Weil, Simone 50, 200–1 Waiting for God 201 Weir, Peter: Gallipoli (movie) 82–3 Wentz, Richard 12 Why People Do Bad Things in the Name of Religion 11 West, the, jihadist current and 207–22 Western jihadists, radicalization and 208–9 “What ISIS Really Wants” (Wood) 198, 199 Why People Do Bad Things in the Name of Religion (Wentz) 11 Wiesel, Elie 86 Williams, James: Girard Reader, The 14–15 Williams, Rowan 113 Wood, Graeme: “What ISIS Really Wants” 198, 199 World War, Second 70 youth culture and radicalization 180