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01 September 2011

Terrorism & Religion - An Analysis

The devastating terrorist attack in Norway by a demented Christian fanatic on the 23rd of July this year sent a wave of shock and surprise across the western world. That’s understandable, because after all, nations and governments, both western and otherwise, had been nervously looking out for modern terrorism’s best friends of the past decade, the Islamic extremists.Thus, a shocking act of carnage in Norway undertaken by an extremist from some other creed stunned a number of people. But should one really be all that surprised by what happened in Norway? What makes people slaughter men, women and children in the name of God? Of course, one expects the usual answers: Economic frustrations, social misplacement, the supposedly insulting deeds of the modern secular ways towards the believers, the cultural, political and economic hegemony of powerful military states, et al. All these at once are understood to be the main reasons behind making certain sensitive souls go bonkers. The question however arises, why now?

Violence by vengeful religious groups and individuals on the scale we are witnessing today is quite clearly a recent phenomenon. The above-mentioned reasons that are said to give birth to such violence were there thirty years ago as well. Why weren’t they producing religious nut-jobs that go on blind killing sprees in markets, mosques, schools and streets?

Till even the early 1970s, politicians, psychologists, philosophers and the press weren’t psychoanalysing such nuts the way they started to do once the whole hogwash notion of ‘post-modernism’ began to kick in from the late 1970s onwards.

Post-modernism began as a philosophical trend in Europe that rejected the attitude of conventional science, ideology, politics and economics, replacing it with a sympathetic look at what conventional modernism would denounce as irrational.

As post-modernism began placing a new-found respect to trendy ‘New Age’ lifestyles (pseudo-sciences, ‘alternative medicine,’ ‘eastern spiritualism,’ kitsch pop cultural trash, etc.), its ‘alternative’ mantra soon entered the ways of modern economics, sociology and politics as well.

Since the whole concept of irony was so vital to the post-modernist literati, it was indeed ironic (unwittingly, though) to see this trend eventually facilitating the death of old-school social democracy and the left (attacked for being anti-individualistic and based on outdated meta-narratives).

It perpetrated the rise of a new kind of individualism, the sort best represented by transcendental corporate yuppies of the 1980s, rich New Age gurus and an almost spiritual belief in the power of greed and laissez faire economics – all upheld by the ‘anything goes’ conservatives like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

The trend didn’t quite fold with their departure. Despite the obvious economic gaps emerging from post-modernist capitalism, that spiritual aura around corporate capitalism and individual greed continued well into the 1990s.

One look or a visit to any corporate ‘team building session’ may be enough to fully absorb the herd-like nonsense (in the name of individualism) and the clichéd self-improvement silliness that pours out from the mouths of corporate gurus at such events.

But what has all this got to do with violent religious crazies? A lot. Because one should remember post-modernist economics and politics were convinced that limitless capitalism signified by spiritually attuned yuppies, shopping malls, hackneyed ‘self-help’ books and an unhinged desire to get rich quick will produce a hard-working, tolerant and conflict-free trading society. A society where no-one would judge the other person’s motives because they’ll all have the same motive: To get rich and at the same time keep in touch with their spiritual ‘inner self.’

However, anyone going against this tide of thinking was judged and pronounced as a sour loser. Before those who have sympathies for violent religious nut-jobs get all too excited, they must know that such faith-driven idiots too are a part and parcel of the post-modernist whiplash.

It’s nonsense to believe that religious fundamentalists who go bonkers are symbols of defiance against the kind of economic, political and cultural hegemony post-modernist thought generated from the 1980s onwards.

They are very much part of it simply because their madness is/was not judged to be a mental condition (that would have been ‘politically incorrect,’ in the post-modernist lingo).

Their madness was sympathised with and given convoluted reasons. ‘Western imperialism,’ ‘the rational coldness of secularism,’ ‘Orientalism,’ ‘death of spiritualism,’ and, in Pakistan’s context, all this plus, of course, the drone attacks.

You see, it is politically incorrect to call faith-driven violence despicable without first cursing the awful things that makes a nut a nut. It is ironic that most of these awful things may as well be exactly the things that a politically correct person is also indulging in.

For example, in Pakistan, on the eve of a terrorist attack by a Muslim fanatic, the politically-correct, progressive and conscientious person is obliged to first blame western imperialism, then the drone attacks. Then he goes to have a Big Mac. Of course, by then he usually forgets to also issue at least a token condemnation of the death and destruction caused by the religious nuts.

The bottom-line is there are now more religious fanatics willing to go on murderous killing sprees in the world because they are more tolerated in the society than ever.

Nations are just too busy navel gazing about airy-fairy abstract concepts about spirituality and political-correctness that have nothing to do with the twisted images that pollute a religious fanatic’s head. Such spineless post-modernist behaviour actually ends up (indirectly) justifying a fanatic’s mad existence.
By Nadeem F. ParachaSmokers’ "Corner: Mad men’s banquet": http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/31/smokers-corner-mad-mens-banquet.html

Shah says: Nadeem Paracha, when will you start doing some research? Your knowledge is very very limited! The person in question did what he did because of his hate against Muslim people and immigration policy of Norway. since 9/11 the media and especially the Progress Party has been very cirtical to immigration in general and Muslims and Islam in particular. Breivik’s actions can (partially) be accredited to this one sided media storm against the Muslim minorities of Norway.
Regards, Shah, Oslo/Norway

First of all,you should have drawn a more clear line between the strictly philosophical post-modernism and the other stuff that you are talking about.
Secondly, ‘tolerated more’, you seem to think that this lip-service paid by some writers/politicians(abt Orientalism, post-modernism, drone etc), somehow helps in not-dealing-with-terrorism. I think this uses an inverted logic.
You are missing something, ‘their madness was sympathized’, by whom (the same authors and commentators, and not policy-makers) and in what way? Are most of these guys even aware of the sympathy they are receiving?

Surprised that NFP didn’t do basic research in this story by reading the terrorist’s manifesto. It is not an open/shut case of religious extremism – this guy’s action were not motivated by trying to please God/religion.

Asim Mehmud:
NFP…i think Alan commented very well that research was not done in this topic by writer much on this topic. There can be many explanations for this event and many past events of this kind but i think religion should not be made every time the excuse for some personal psychological and social problems of human beings. What was the problem of Hitler. what were the reason of massacre of millions of people during world war I and world war II..vietnam and so many .. we should rethink our stereo type analysis of involving religion into every such matter. why some people in west mostly start open fire in public places..like hotels..universities and many such events happened before. so we need to step up and need to analyse things more scientifically. i think concept of safe heavens of terrorism should also be revised, such fanatic creed breeding place can be west not always east.