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Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong

July 29, 2018

FOBFor the first time in American history, religious self-identification is on the decline. Some have cited a perception that began to grow after September 11, 2001-that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness, something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? And does it apply equally to all faiths? In these troubled times, we risk basing decisions of real and dangerous consequence on mistaken understandings of the faiths around us, in our immediate community as well as globally. And so, with her deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong examines the impulse toward violence in each of the world’s great religions. The comparative approach is new: while there have been plenty of books on jihad or the Crusades, for example this one lays the Christian and the Islamic way of war side by side, along with those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism. Each of these faiths arose in an agrarian society with plenty of motivation for violence: landowners had to lord it over peasants, and warfare was essential to increase one’s landholdings, the only real source of wealth before the great age of trade and commerce. In each context, it fell to the priestly class to legitimate the actions of the state. And so the martial ethos became bound up with the sacred. At the same time, however, the faiths developed ideologies that ran counter to the warrior code: around sages, prophets, and mystics within each tradition there grew up communities that represented a protest against the injustice and violence endemic to agrarian society. This book explores the symbiosis of these two impulses and its development as these confessional faiths came of age. But modernity has also been spectacularly violent, and so Armstrong goes on to show how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence-and what hope there might be for peace among believers in our time.

Throughout most of human history, people have chosen to intertwine religion with all their other activities, including, notably, how they are governed. This was “not because ambitious churchmen had ‘mixed up’ two essentially distinct activities,” she says, “but because people wanted to endow everything they did with significance.”

This involvement with politics means that religions have often been tied up with violence: Crusaders, conquistadors, jihadists and many more. But — a point Armstrong cares about so much that she makes it dozens of times — the violence almost always originates with the state and spills over to religion, rather than vice versa. This, she says, is because any governing body, democratic or tyrannical, peace-loving or expansionist, “was obliged to maintain at its heart an institution committed to treachery and violence,” and because “violence and coercion . . . lay at the heart of social existence.” The earliest states required force to maintain systems of agricultural production; mature ones found that the threat of violence — by police within their borders, by armies between them — was, sadly, the best way to keep the peace.

Citizens thus face the duty of confronting and trying to control violence carried out in their name by the state, without blaming religion for it or imagining that the solution lies in a cleaner separation of church and state. This extends to understanding the roots of violence or terrorism directed against them: “As an inspiration for terrorism . . . nationalism has been far more productive than religion.” And religions face the dilemma of whether to accept the protection of a state, and the threat of violence that necessarily entails, or to live in hermetic isolation.

Her critics disdain her popular style as not being academic but there are footnotes galore in this book.

I had to look up ‘Corvée’ = a day’s unpaid labour owed by a vassal to his feudal lord; forced labour exacted in lieu of taxes, in particular that on public roads in France before 1776.

Alao ‘jahili’ = in modern times various Islamic thinkers have used the term to criticize what they saw as un-Islamic nature of public and private life in the Muslim world. In current use, Jahiliyyah refers to secular modernity.

FOB 2Quotations:

“system of obligatory beliefs, institutions and rituals, centring on a supernatural God, whose practice is essentially private and hermetically sealed off from all ‘secular’ activities”

“In the West, the idea that religion is inherently violent is now taken for granted and seems self-evident,”

‘shows that the true reasons for war and violence in our history often had very
little to do with religion.’

“a ruthless warrior who would defeat Rome with massive slaughter”

‘warfare requires large armies, sustained leadership and economlc resources’.

“From all accounts, the Crusaders seemed half-crazed. For three years, they had had no normal dealings with the world around them, and prolonged terror and malnutrition made them susceptible to abnormal states of mind.”

“Once colonized, a people often depends heavily on their religious practices, over which they still have some control and which recall a time when they had the dignity of freedom.”

“Their horrified recoil from the violence of the First World War also led American fundamentalists to veto modern science”

“Muslims and Hindus would both fall prey to the besetting sin of secular nationalism: its inability to tolerate minorities. And because their outlook was still permeated by spirituality, this nationalist bias distorted their traditional religious vision.”

“Despite the widespread assumption in the West that . . . the violence was ineradicable because of its strong ‘religious’ element, this communal intolerance was relatively new”

Every major faith tradition has tracked the political entity in which it arose; none has become a ‘world religion’ without the patronage of a militarily powerful empire and every tradition would have to develop an imperial ideology.

I think the enemies of civilisation should be beaten and killed and defeated, and I don’t make any apology for it… We can’t live on the same planet as them, and I’m glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murderers… It’s them or me. I’m very happy about this because I know it will be them.

“We have seen that, like the weather, religion “does lots of different things.” To claim that it has a single, unchanging, and inherently violent essence is not accurate. Identical religious beliefs and practices have inspired diametrically opposed courses of action.”

FOB 3“We routinely and rightly condemn the terrorism that kills civilians in the name of God but we cannot claim the high moral ground if we dismiss the suffering and death of the many thousands of civilians who die in our wars as ‘collateral damage’. Ancient religious mythologies helped people to face up to the dilemma of state violence, but our current nationalist ideologies seem by contrast to promote a retreat into denial or hardening of our hearts. Nothing shows this more clearly than a remark of Madeleine Albright when she was still Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations. Later she retracted it, but among people around the world it has never been forgotten. In 1996, in CBS’s 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked her whether the cost of international sanctions against Iraq was justified: ‘We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean that’s more children than died in Hiroshima … Is the price worth it?’ ‘I think this is a very hard choice,’ Albright replied ‘but the price, we think the price is worth it.”

“As an inspiration for terrorism, however, nationalism has been far more productive than religion. Terrorism experts agree that the denial of a people’s right to national self-determination and the occupation of its homeland by foreign forces has historically been the most powerful recruiting agent of terrorist organizations, whether their ideology is religious (the Lebanese Shii) or secular (the PLO).”

“One of the characteristics of early modern thought was a tendency to assume binary contrasts. In an attempt to define phenomena more exactly, categories of experience that had once co-inhered were now set off against each other: faith and reason, intellect and emotion, and church and state.”

“In a conservative society, stability and order were far more important than freedom of expression.”

“Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior,’ says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. ‘Why dying with your victim should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.’The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of ‘The Rest’. The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in pursuit of national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against accusations of maintaining an ‘arrogant silence’ in the face of others’ pain and of creating a world order in which some people’s lives are deemed more valuable than others”

“Skeletal remains show that plant-fed humans were a head shorter than meat-eating hunters, prone to anemia, infectious diseases, rotten teeth, and bone disorders.”

“Moses explained, “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into a desert place.”1 In his classic study of religion and violence, René Girard argued that the scapegoat ritual defused rivalries among groups within the community.2”

“people derived their faith in Jesus from the experience of living together in a close-knit, minority community that challenged the unequal distribution of wealth and power”

“Ancient philosophies were entranced by the order of the cosmos; they marveled at the mysterious power that kept the heavenly bodies in their orbits and the seas within bounds and that ensured that the earth regularly came to life again after the dearth of winter, and they longed to participate in this richer and more permanent existence. They expressed this yearning in terms of what is known as the perennial philosophy, so called because it was present, in some form, in most premodern cultures.11 Every single person, object, or experience was seen as a replica, a pale shadow, of a reality that was stronger and more enduring than anything in their ordinary experience but that they only glimpsed in visionary moments or in dreams. By ritually imitating what they understood to be the gestures and actions of their celestial alter egos—whether gods, ancestors, or culture heroes—premodern folk felt themselves to be caught up in their larger dimension of being.”

“the Taliban travesty, a noxious combination of Deobandi rigidity, tribal chauvinism, and the aggression of the traumatized war orphan.”

“even the presidents of Harvard and Yale saw the War of Independence as part of God’s design for the overthrow of Catholicism.”

“Fighting and obtaining wealth were inseparable and interconnected: freed from the need to engage in productive work, the nobility had the leisure to cultivate their martial skills.84 They certainly fought for honor, glory, and the sheer pleasure of battle, but warfare was, “perhaps above all, a source of profit, the nobleman’s chief industry.”85 It needed no justification, because its necessity seemed self-evident.”

“Am I my brother’s guardian?” Cain asked after he had killed his brother, Abel. We are now living in such an interconnected world that we are all implicated in one another’s history and one another’s tragedies. As we—quite rightly—condemn those terrorists who kill innocent people, we also have to find a way to acknowledge our relationship with and responsibility for Mamana Bibi, her family, and the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have died or been mutilated in our modern wars simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: “No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English ‘religion’ or ‘religious.’ ”6 The idea of religion as an essentially personal and systematic pursuit was entirely absent from classical Greece, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China, and India.7 Nor does the Hebrew Bible have any abstract concept of religion; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to express what they meant by faith in a single word or even in a formula, since the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred.8”

“A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.”

“After Iyman Faris’s foiled plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, however, most of the al-Qaeda central command had either been killed or captured, and there were no more major incidents.85 But just as the situation seemed to be improving, in March 2003, the United States, Britain, and their allies invaded Iraq, despite considerable opposition from the international community and strong protests throughout the Muslim world. The reasons for this invasion were allegations that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had furnished support for al-Qaeda, both of which eventually proved to be groundless.”

“When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they probably did not fall into a state of original sin, as Saint Augustine believed, but into an agrarian economy.”

“Since all premodern state ideology was inseparable from religion, warfare inevitably acquired a sacral element.”

“In the inscriptions of Darius I, who came to the Persian throne after the death of Cyrus’s son Cambyses in 522 BCE, we find a combination of three themes that would recur in the ideology of all successful empires: a dualistic worldview that pits the good of empire against evildoers who oppose it; a doctrine of election that sees the ruler as a divine agent; and a mission to save the world.”

“Ashoka’s dilemma is the dilemma of civilization itself. As society developed and weaponry became more deadly, the empire, founded on and maintained by violence, would paradoxically become the most effective means of keeping the peace.”

FOB 4“But the state had no jurisdiction over the conscience of the individual and no right, therefore, to fight heresy or lead a holy war. While it could have nothing to do with the spiritual realm, the state must have unqualified and absolute authority in temporal affairs. Even if the state were cruel, tyrannical, and forbade the teaching of God’s word, Christians must not resist its power.37 For its part, the true church, the Kingdom of God, must hold aloof from the inherently corrupt and depraved policies of the Kingdom of the World, dealing only with spiritual affairs. Protestants believed that the Roman Church had failed in its true mission because it had dallied with the sinful Kingdom of the World.”

“Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior,’ says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. ‘Why dying with your victim* should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.’The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of ‘The Rest’. The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in pursuit of national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against accusations of maintaining an ‘arrogant silence’ in the face of others’ pain and of creating a world order in which some people’s lives are deemed more valuable than others”

“It is simply not true that “religion” is always aggressive. Sometimes it has actually put a brake on violence. In the ninth century BCE, Indian ritualists extracted all violence from the liturgy and created the ideal of ahimsa, “nonviolence.” The medieval Peace and Truce of God forced knights to stop terrorizing the poor and outlawed violence from Wednesday to Sunday each week. Most dramatically, after the Bar Kokhba war, the rabbis reinterpreted the scriptures so effectively that Jews refrained from political aggression for a millennium. Such successes have been rare. Because of the inherent violence of the states in which we live, the best that prophets and sages have been able to do is provide an alternative.”

“the Council of Constantinople that made Nicene orthodoxy the official religion of the empire in 381.”

“pre-Islamic period jahiliyyah, which is usually translated as “the time of ignorance.” But the primary meaning of the root JHL is “irascibility”—an acute sensitivity to honor and prestige, excessive arrogance, and, above all, a chronic tendency to violence and retaliation.4”

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”

“Their monstrous forms represent the perverse defiance of normal categories and the confusion of identity associated with social and cosmic disorder.”

“The dispassion of paedeia also informed the doctrine of the Trinity, which these three men, often known as the Cappadocian Fathers,”

“the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars were “the crucible in which some of the competing forces from an earlier age were consumed in the fire and others blended and transmuted into new compounds … the matrix of all that came after.”109”

“The great genius of the Shiah was its tragic perception that it is impossible fully to implement the ideals of religion in the inescapably violent realm of politics.”

“Jefferson the deist was accused of being an atheist and even a Muslim.”

“But during the nineteenth century, Europe was reconfigured into clearly defined states ruled by a central government.”

“In the eleventh century, a Jerusalem rabbi still recalled with gratitude the mercy God had shown his people when he allowed the “Kingdom of Ishmael” to conquer Palestine.”

“The conviction that religion must be rigorously excluded from political life has been called the charter myth of the sovereign nation-state.”

“They were weary of the chaos inflicted by the Roman-Persian wars and longed for the peace that only an autocratic empire seemed able to provide.”

“as the philosopher Walter Benjamin put it: “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”24”

“Krishna explains. “When enemies become too numerous and powerful, they should be slain by deceit and stratagems. This was the path formerly trodden by the devas to slay the asuras; and a path trodden by the virtuous may be trodden by all.”

“Christian spirituality had been strongly influenced by Platonism, which sought to liberate the soul from the body, but in some circles in the early fourth century, people were beginning to hope that their hitherto despised bodies could bring men and women to the divine—or at least that it was not a reality separate from the physical, as the Platonists held.”

“The Roman clergy thus adopted the old aristocracy’s ideal of libertas, which had little to do with freedom; rather, it referred to the maintenance of the privileged position of the ruling class, lest society lapse into barbarism.”

“Every year in ancient Israel the high priest brought two goats into the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement. He sacrificed one to expiate the sins of the community and then laid his hands on the other, transferring all the people’s misdeeds onto its head, and sent the sin-laden animal out of the city, literally placing the blame elsewhere. In this way, Moses explained, “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into a desert place.”1 In his classic study of religion and violence, René Girard argued that the scapegoat ritual defused rivalries among groups within the community.2 In a similar way, I believe, modern society has made a scapegoat of faith.”

“Surely, argued the British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–73), it was better for a Breton to accept French citizenship “than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage remnant of past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world.”

“The Rhineland cities were developing the market economy that would eventually replace agrarian civilization; they were therefore in the very early stages of modernization, a transition that always strains social relations.”

“we find a combination of three themes that would recur in the ideology of all successful empires: a dualistic worldview that pits the good of empire against evildoers who oppose it; a doctrine of election that sees the ruler as a divine agent; and a mission to save the world.128”

“There is always a moment in warfare when the horrifying reality breaks through the glamour.”

“philosopher Walter Benjamin put it: “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”

“Christmas Day 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne “Holy Roman Emperor” in the Basilica of St. Peter. The congregation acclaimed him as “Augustus,” and Leo prostrated himself at Charlemagne’s feet.”

“Even our contemporary cult of celebrity can be understood as an expression of our reverence for and yearning to emulate models of “superhumanity.” Feeling ourselves connected to such extraordinary”

“Petty theft, murder, forgery, arson, and the abduction of women were all capital offenses, so the death penalty for heresy was neither unusual nor extreme.50”

“Roman coins, inscriptions, and temples extolled Augustus, who had brought peace to the world after a century of brutal warfare, as “Son of God,” “lord,” and “savior” and announced the “good news” (euaggelia) of his birth. Thus when the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, he proclaimed: “Listen, I bring you euaggelion of great joy! Today a Savior has been born to you.” Yet this “son of God” was born homeless and would soon become a refugee.37”

“Sumer had devised the system of structural violence that would prevail in every single agrarian state until the modern period, when agriculture ceased to be the economic basis of civilization.”

“all who benefit from the inherent violence of the state are implicated in its cruelty.”

“One might well wonder how much more unanimously opposed to terror the Muslim world might have become, but for the course the United States and its allies took in the wake of 9/11. At a time when even in Tehran there were demonstrations of solidarity with America, the Bush and Blair coalition lashed out with its own violent rejoinder, a drive that would culminate in the tragically misbegotten Iraq invasion of 2003. Its”

“Instead of seeing the French Revolution as a failure, therefore, we should perhaps see it as the explosive start of a lengthy process. Such massive social and political change overturning millennia of autocracy cannot be achieved overnight. Revolutions take a long time. But unlike several other European countries, where aristocratic regimes were so deeply entrenched that they managed to hang on, albeit in limited form, France eventually achieved its secular republic. We should bear this long-drawn-out and painful process in mind before dismissing as failures revolutions that have taken place in our own time in Iran, Egypt, and Tunisia, for example.”

“Like most Middle Eastern kings, the king of Judah was raised to a semidivine “state of exception” during the coronation ritual, when he became Yahweh’s adopted son and a member of the Divine Assembly of gods.”

“men and women were naturally prone to lie, steal, and murder, and these evil impulses could be forcibly held in check only by a strong, authoritative government.”

“People still dreamed of going on Crusade and liberating Jerusalem, but in an important development, holy warfare was beginning to merge with the patriotism of national war.”

“Muslim fundamentalism, by contrast, has often-though again, not always-segued into physical aggression. This is not because Islam is constitutionally more prone to violence than Protestant Christianity but rather because Muslims had a much harsher introduction to modernity.”

“We are meaning-seeking creatures and, unlike other animals, fall very easily into despair if we fail to make sense of our lives. We find the prospect of our inevitable extinction hard to bear. We are troubled by natural disasters and human cruelty and are acutely aware of our”

“In any previous empire the religion of the ruling class had always been distinct from the faith of the subjugated masses, so the Christian emperors’ attempt to impose their theology on their subjects was a shocking break with precedent and was experienced as an outrage.”

“Their revered minister John Cotton had instructed them that they could attack the natives “without provocation”—a procedure normally unlawful—because they had not only a natural right to their territory, but “a special Commission from God” to take their land. Already there were signs of the exceptionalist thinking that would in the future often characterize American politics.”

In the West we tend to read the mid-third-century treatise known as  the Daodejini (“Classic of the Way and Its Potency”) as a devotional text for a personal spirituality, but it was actually a manual of statecraft, written for the prince of one of the vulnerable principalities.’ Its anon­ymous author wrote under the pseudonym Laozi, or Lao-Tzu—”Old Master.” Rulers should imitate Heaven, he taught, which did not inter­fere with the Ways of men; so if they abandoned their meddlesome poli­cies, political “potency” (de) would emerge spontaneously: “If I cease to desire and remain still, the empire will be at peace of its own accord.”” The Daoist king should practice meditative techniques that rid his mind of busy theorizing so that it became “empty” and “still.” Then the Dao of Heaven could act through him, and “to the end of one’s days one will meet with no danger.”‘ Laozi offered the beleaguered principalities a stratagem for survival. Statesmen usually preferred frenzied activity and shows of strength when they should be doing the exact opposite. Instead of posturing aggressively, they should present themselves as weak and small. Like the military strategists, Laozi used the analogy of water, which seemed “submissive and weak” yet could be far more powerful than “that which is hard and strong.”‘ The Daoist ruler should aban­don masculine self-assertion and embrace the softness of the “mysterious female.”‘ What goes up must come down, so when you strengthened your enemy by appearing to submit, you were actually hastening his decline. Laozi agreed with the strategists that military action should always be the last resort: weapons were “ill-omened instruments,” he argued, which a sage king used only “when he cannot do otherwise.”

The good leader is not warlike

The good fighter is not impetuous

The best conqueror of the enemy- is he who never takes the offensive.

The wise leader should not even retaliate to an atrocity because this would simply provoke a counterattack. By practicing wu wei instead, he would acquire the potency of Heaven itself: “Because he does not con­tend, there is no one in the world who can contend with him.”

This, alas, proved not to be the case. The victor in the long struggle of the Warring States was not a Daoist sage king but the ruler of Qin, who was successful simply because he had the most territory, manpower, and resources. Instead of relying on ritual, as previous Chinese states had done, Qin had developed a materialistic ideology based solely on the eco­nomic realities of warfare and agriculture, shaped by a new philosophy known as Fajia (“School of the Law”) or Legalism.101 Fa did not mean “law” in the modern sense; rather, it was a “standard” like the carpenter’s square that made raw materials conform to a fixed pattern.102 It was the Legalist reforms of Lord Shang (c. 390-338) that had put Qin ahead of its rivals.’ Shang believed that the people must be forced by strict pun­ishments to submit to their subordinate role in a state designed solely to enhance the ruler’s power.” He eliminated the aristocracy and replaced it with a hand-picked administration wholly dependent on the king. The country was now divided into thirty-one districts, each ruled by a magistrate who answered directly to the capital and conscripted recruits for the army. To boost productivity and free enterprise, peasants were encouraged to buy their land. The nobility of the junzi was irrelevant: honor was achieved only by a brilliant performance on the battlefield. Anyone who commanded a victorious unit was given land, houses, and slaves.

and expectations.’ Many of the Crusaders had never left their villages; now they were thousands of miles from home, shut off from everything they had known, and surrounded by fearsome enemies in alarming terrain. When they arrived at the Ante-Taurus range, many were paralyzed by terror, gazing at these precipitous mountains “in a great state of gloom, wringing their hands because they were so frightened and miserable.”‘ The Turks operated a scorched-earth policy, so there was no food, and the poorer noncombatants and soldiers died like flies. Chroniclers report that during the siege of Antioch:

The starving people devoured the stalks of beans still growing in the fields, many kinds of herbs unseasoned with salt, and even thistles which because of the lack of firewood were not well cooked and therefore irritated the tongues of those eating them. They also ate horses, camels, dogs, and even rats. The poorer people even ate the hides of animals and the seeds of grain found in manure.”

The Crusaders soon realized that they were badly led and inadequately provisioned. They also knew that they were massively outnumbered. “Where we have a count, the enemy has forty kings; where we have a regiment, the enemy has a legion,” wrote the bishops who accompanied the expedition in their joint letter home; “where we have a castle, they have a kingdom.”‘

Far from being maniacally pro­grammed for holy war by their religion, the Muslims had little appetite for jihad and were preoccupied by new forms of spirituality. In particu­lar, some of the Sufi mystics would develop an outstanding appreciation of other faith traditions. The learned and highly influential Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240) would claim that a man of God was at home equally in a synagogue, mosque, temple, or church, since all provided a valid apprehension of God:

My heart is capable of every form.

A cloister for the monk, a fane for idols,

A pasture for gazelles, the votary’s Kabah,

The tables of the Torah, the Quran.

Love is the faith I hold. Wherever turn

His camels, still the one true faith is mine.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the period of the Crusades, Sufism ceased to be a fringe movement and in many parts of the Muslim world became the dominant Islamic mood. Few were capable of achiev­ing the higher mystical states, but Sufi disciplines of concentration, which included music and dancing, helped people to abandon simplistic and narrow notions of God and chauvinist attitudes toward other traditions.

Jews, of course, were not the only scapegoats of Christian anxiety. Since the Crusades, Mus­lims, once regarded with vague indifference in Europe, had now come to be regarded as fit only for extermination. In the mid-twelfth century Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, depicted Islam as a bloodthirsty religion that had been propagated entirely by the sword—a fantasy that may have reflected hidden guilt about Christian behavior during the First Crusade.’ (M. Montgomery Watt, The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe)

The one thing on which Catholics and Protestants could agree was their hatred of the Spanish Inquisition. But despite its gruesome reputation, the crimes of the Inquisition were exaggerated. Even the auto-da-P (“declaration of faith”), with its solemn processions, sinister costumes,and burning of heretics, which to foreigners seemed the epitome of Spanish fanaticism, was not all it was cracked up to be. The auto-da-fe had

no deep roots in Spanish culture. Originally a simple service of reconciliation, it took on this spectacular form only in the mid-sixteenth century and after its brief heyday (1559-70) was held very rarely. Moreover, the burning of the recalcitrant was not the centerpiece of the ritual: the accused were usually put to death unceremoniously outside the city, and scores of autos were held without a single execution. After the InquisiLion’s first twenty years, less than z percent of those who were accused were convicted, and of these most were burned in effigy in absentia.

Between 1559 and 1566, when the auto was at the peak of its popularity, about a hundred people died, whereas three hundred Protestants were put to death under Mary Tudor; twice that number were executed under Henry II of France (r. 1547-59), and ten times as many were killed in the Netherlands.’

Spain was heavily involved in the Wars of Religion that culminated in the horror of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). These conflicts gave rise to what has been called the “creation myth” of the modern West, because it explains how our distinctively secular mode of governance came into being.’ The theological quarrels of the Reformation, it is said, so inflamed Catholics and Protestants that they slaughtered one another in senseless wars, until the violence was finally contained by the creation of the liberal state that separated religion from politics. Europe had learned the hard way that once a conflict becomes “holy,” violence will know no bounds and compromise becomes impossible because all combatants are convinced that God is on their side. Consequently, religion should never again be allowed to influence political life.

But nothing is ever quite that simple. After the Reformation, north­eastern Germany and Scandinavia were, roughly speaking, Lutheran; England, Scotland, the northern Netherlands, the Rhineland, and south­ern France were predominantly Calvinist; and the rest of the continent remained mostly Catholic. This naturally affected international rela­tions, but European rulers had other concerns. Many, especially those trying to create absolutist states, were alarmed by the extraordinary suc­cess of the Habsburgs, who now ruled the German territories, Spain, and the southern Netherlands. Charles V’s aspiration to achieve trans-European hegemony on the Ottoman model was opposed by the more pluralistic dynamics in Europe that inclined toward the sovereign nation-state.’ The German princes naturally struggled to resist Charles’s ambi­tions and retain their local power and traditional privileges.

To many it seemed that the French Revolution had failed. The sys­temic violence of Napoleon’s empire betrayed revolutionary principles, and Napoleon also reinstated the Catholic Church. For decades the hopes of 1789 were dashed by one disillusioning event after another. The glory days of the fall of the Bastille were followed by the September Mas­sacres, the Reign of Terror, the Vendee genocide, and a military dictator­ship. After Napoleon’s fall from power in 1814, Louis XVIII (the brother of Louis XVI) was returned to the throne. But the republican dream refused to die. The republic was revived for two brief periods, during the Hundred Days before Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 and for a brief period between 1848 and 1852. In 1870 it was restored yet again, this time lasting until it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940. Instead of seeing the French Revolution as a failure, therefore, we should perhaps see it as the explosive start of a lengthy process. Such massive social and political change overturning millennia of autocracy cannot be achieved overnight. Revolutions take a long time. But unlike several other European countries, where aristocratic regimes were so deeply entrenched that they managed to hang on, albeit in limited form, France eventually achieved its secular republic. We should bear this long-drawn-out and painful process in mind before dismissing as failures revolutions that have taken place in our own time in Iran, Egypt, and Tunisia, for example.

Some Western analysts have argued that suicide killing is deeply embedded in the Islamic tradition.” But if that were so, why was revolutionary suicide” unknown in Sunni Islam before the late twentieth century? Why have not more militant Islamist movements adopted the tactic? And why have both Hamas and Hizbollah abandoned it?” certainly true that Hamas drew upon the Quran and ahadith to motivate the bombers with fantasies of paradise. But the suicide attack  in fact invented by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, a nationalist separatist group with no time for religion, who have claimed responsibility for over z6o suicide operations in two decades.’ Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has investigated every suicide attack worldwide between 1980 and 2004 and concluded that “there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter.” For instance, of 38 suicide attacks in Lebanon during the 1980s, 8 were committed by Muslims, 3 by Christians, and 27 by secularists and social­ists.” What all suicide operations do have in common, however, is a stra­tegic goal: “to compel liberal democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” Suicide bombing is therefore essentially a political response to military occupa­tion.” IDF statistics show that of all Hamas’s suicide attacks, only 4 per­cent targeted civilians in Israel proper, the rest being directed against West Bank settlers and the Israeli army.

 

Madeleine Albright’s when she was still Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations. She later retracted it, but among people all around the world, it has never been forgotten. In 1996, on CBS’s 6o Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked her whether the cost of international sanctions against Iraq was justified: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more than died in Hiroshima. . . . Is the price worth it?” “I think this is a very hard choice,” Albright replied, “but the price, we think the price is worth it”‘

On October 24, 2012, Mamana Bibi, a sixty-five-year-old woman picking vegetables in her family’s large open land in northern Waziristan, Pakistan, was killed by a U.S. drone aircraft. She was not a terrorist but a midwife married to a retired schoolteacher, yet she was blown to pieces in front of her nine young grandchildren. Some of the children have had multiple surgeries that the family could ill afford because they lost all their livestock; the smaller children still scream in terror all night long. We do not know who the real targets were. Yet even though the U.S. gov­ernment claims to carry out thorough poststrike assessments, it has never apologized, never offered compensation to the family, nor even admitted what happened to the American people. CIA director John 0. Brennan had previously claimed that drone strikes caused absolutely no civilian casualties; more recently he has admitted otherwise while maintaining that such deaths are extremely rare. Since then, Amnesty International reviewed some forty-five strikes in the region, finding evidence of unlaw­ful civilian deaths, and has reported several strikes that appear to have killed civilians outside the bounds of law.’ “Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breed more terror­ism,” said Bibi’s son. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.”‘

“Am I my brother’s guardian?” Cain asked after he had killed his brother, Abel. We are now living in such an interconnected world that we are all implicated in one another’s history and one another’s tragedies. As we—quite rightly—condemn those terrorists who kill innocent people, we also have to find a way to acknowledge our relationship with and responsibility for Mamana Bibi, her family, and the hundreds of thou­sands of civilians who have died or been mutilated in our modern wars simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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