learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...


learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

Religion has effectively filled a void and united populations of several states, over state

territorial boundaries, and provided social cohesiveness not explainable by any other factor.

The emerging cultural fault lines have clear religious boundaries. (Both Samuel Huntington

and Robert Kaplan were correct i.e. global ideas and identities have emerged at

the same time as fragmented political-security systems.)

For the United States, the writing is on the wall: the U.S., although commonly

acknowledged as “the world’s dominant superpower,” may be hegemonic only in terms of

sheer catastrophic military capabilities. Human security and state power have been redefined

in the new global environment. 505

As religion, as a social institution has become more important, it has also become less

“institutionalized. Decision-making authority is now devolving to the individual or small

group. Individuals and groups contest the role of formal religion in favor of a more “democratic”

religion. In this context, the individual is directly responsible to God rather than

“man-made” traditional institutions. Individual transcendence and responsibility takes the

place of group worship and community involvement. Individuals are no longer responsible

to a traditional church (mosque, synagogue, temple, church) but encouraged to think

and behave for themselves. This is a global phenomenon and examples abound in Africa,

North and South America, Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East. The rules that govern

warfare, although based in theological premii and codified over centuries, are now challenged

by individuals who see themselves responsible only to God. 506

At the same time that the state lost centrality due to globalization of economics, politics,

and social factors, both the state and institutionalized religion lost authority and legitimacy

in the eyes of the world because they were not able to solve problems of social and

economic justice, and individuals and groups on all continents and in all social stratum

began constructing a new world religion(s) based on the relationship between a transcendent

being and themselves — bypassing or redefining traditional forms of state/ church

authority. The new reality is the emergence of particularistic do-it-yourself religion(s),

where individuals see themselves as responsible only to God and use a peculiar form of

logic to perpetuate violence in order to fulfill what they believe is God’s will. Thus, the

structure of violence and warfare in the modern world is not that of state against state:

rather, it is violence perpetuated by individuals on the global stage in pursuit of transcendent

goals — albeit by earthly means. 507

As Mark Juergensmeyer points out in his book, Terror in the Mind of God, the religious

terrorist believes that there is a grave social injustice that offends God, that there is

505 The Commission on Human Security (UNHCR, 2003) has published an important global overview of

“human” security. The authors take a “human” security approach defining security in terms of people, rather

than states. The assumption is that “human beings” are the essential element of any real definition of security.

506 S. N. Eisenstadt provides an insightful perspective on this topic in Fundamentalism, Sectarianism, and

Revolution: the Jacobin Dimension of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

507 For a superb treatment of this subject as it relates to Africa, see Kwame Bediako’s “Africa and Christianity

on the Threshold of the Third Millennium: the Religious Dimension,” African Affairs 99, no. 395 (April

2002): 303 - 323.


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