The Religion & Culture Web Forum
War as Worship, Worship as War
John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature
University of Chicago Divinity School
Ahmed M. Rehab, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago)
In the December issue, Michael Sells considers the case of Ali al-Timimi, an American, Virginia-based Islamic speaker and activist. Sells explores the role of text and interpretation, personal experience and cultural influence, in transforming Timimi from a youth who attended the bar mitzvahs of his Jewish classmates into a proponent of apocalyptic war.
The text forms a draft of the first chapter of a book with the working title: Jihad and Crusade: Religion and Violence after the Cold War. It presents an example illustrating both the fixity and fluidity of militant paradigms. The purpose of the book is to examine how major paradigms within religions (including iconoclastic monotheism, purity, sacral war, sacrifice, martyrdom, sacred space, heaven and hell, and messianic apocalypticism) operate in the creation and hardening of conflict. During the formation of militancies, these paradigms collapse time around eternized polarities, based upon fixed, homogenous identities. The common factor in militant ideologies is the certitude and lack of ambiguity as to the contemporary identity of the protagonists and antagonists in the eternalized conflict.