The reason I picked this book is because I have always been curious about terrorism. Truthfully, I really didnt expect the book to take the stance it did, which focused mainly on the religious implications of what influences people to commits acts of terror.
I liked the fact that the book takes new angles in approaching the search for truth, by focusing on case studies and performing interviews with the people who have committed terrorist acts. This is like getting the insiders view of the inner workings and frame of mind people have before, during, and after they have unswervingly performed the acts of violence. In the first chapter, Juergensmeyer states, This book is about religious terrorism I have tried to get inside the mindset of those who perpetrated and supported such acts.
(pg.7). By doing this type of analysis he is able to figure out whether religious terrorism distinguishes itself out from other forms of terrorism. This is what I have interpreted as his thesis statement, because this is essentially what is being portrayed throughout the book. Since this book is filled with tons of information, I have chosen to focus on a couple of case studies he presents to analyze instead of briefly covering all six cases he has presented. The cases I have chosen are named the Soldiers of Christ and Islams Neglected Duty.
Before we get to the cases, I want to provide some background on our author, Mark Juergensmeyer. He currently is a professor of sociology and the Director of Global and International Studies at the University of California. He is also accountable for writing several other books such as The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State, and Radhasoami Reality: The Logic of a Modern Faith.
Juergensmeyer has earned a Ph.D. in the field of political science from U.
C. Berkeley with an emphasis on South Asia and comparative politics. He has also taken the liberty to study the following languages, Hindi, Panjabi, Urdu, German, and Latin. Because of this mastery of multiple languages I feel it has provided him an advantage on getting insight on the different cultures he has studied since knows the language.
The reason I say this is due to the fact that all languages have different meanings and innuendoes built that none speakers might not pick up. One example of this in the English language is sarcasm. Also, it has always been said that little things get missed through translation, because not all languages translate verbatim with each other. For this book, he elected the help from several sources. He spent a page and a half listing out people such as Ehud Sprinzak (Israel), Zaid Abu-Amr (Hamas movement), Warden David Rardin (prison interviews), and many more to that could be listed. The basic argument that Juergensmeyer makes is that religious terrorism differs from other kinds of terrorism, and does religion plays the justification role in introducing terrorism to the evils of the world.
At first glance, the wealth of information, and sources that are presented, such as the one-on-one interview with Mike Bray and Rev. Paul Hill. Throughout the book he makes different points differentiating between political terrorism and religious terrorism.
For instance, while discussing the case about Mike Bray, Mark states, according to Bray, Christianity gives him the right to defend innocent unborn children (pg. 23). The next chapter, it was stated that, Yigal Amir acted alone and on orders from God. This was after he assassinated Israels Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The reason he was assassinated (along with it being morally justified) is because of the peace talks between Rabin and Arafat about the control of the sacred city. Next comes Islam, in which it was stated, by Mahumud Abouhalima, the one thing humans can do in response to great injustice is to send a message and that real change is in Gods hands. (pg. 64). In the section, Sword of Sikhism, it is stated by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Sikh traditionordinarily applauds nonviolenceit is a great sin to keep weapons and kill anyone.
(pg.99). It is the next part that affirms the theme, which is, it is even a greater sin to have weapons and not seek justice.(pg.99). With Buddhism, the teachings require that five conditions be satisfied in order to certify that an act of violence indeed took placethe killer must intended to kill(pg.113).
Because of this third rule, there is so called room to play with in terms of whether the act of violence has taken place. The way someone could get around this third rule is to take the position of defense. This means that the intention was to defend oneself, and the outcome of this defense would be the death of the other party involved.
All these examples prove that these groups have used, in one way or another, their religious beliefs to justify the actions they have taken whether it be blowing up abortion clinics, government buildings, or assassinating political leaders that do not support the righteousness of the religion. He goes on to say, religion has supplied not only the ideology but also the motivation and the organizational structure for the perpetrators. (pg.5). By doing this in the first chapter he is setting up the way the case studies should be perceived and also tries to help us understand the way others are influenced by religion. Juergensmeyer makes a very clear and distinctive point in which the reader has to keep in mind the while reading this book. The point being that people around the world grow up in different environments.
A person who grows up in Bosnia will have a different view on what a terrorist act is considered as opposed to someone who grew up in Westlake of Austin. Bombings, shootings, stealing, is all a part of daily life for some people, so in a way it could be said by western standards, they are desensitized by their surroundings. The research strategy Juergensmeyer has taken is a multi-angled approach. Not only has he personally gone to do research and interviews, he has hired or made contacts in the various areas of his research. For example, He thanks Cynthia Mahmood for helping him contact Sikh activists and help him understand their politics.
He also thanks several other people that has helped him out in different areas of his research, some of which were mentioned in the fourth paragraph. In some books and other journalistic readings, the author puts out ideas, facts, and opinions in which it is up to the reader to decipher the information and sort out what is which. US newspapers and broadcasts do a very good job conveying information to the readers in a way incite a specific reaction. In politics, we call this a loaded statement.
Juergensmeyer did not make me have to decipher the information he provided throughout the book. In the beginning, he made several strong statements on what the book is going to try to prove. To prove his points, Mark used mass quantities of research and facts to express the ideas he was trying to prove. In this case it was whether religious terrorism is any different than other forms of terrorism. The way he chooses to present the information is in a narrative type way, in which he used both researched information and quotes from the interviews he conducted. As I was reading this book, I imagined I was watching a documentary on the History Channel, Juergensmeyer being the narrator. His descriptions helped me picture in my mind what was going on and made me feel as I was getting an insiders view of the action.
I felt that he accomplished the goals he set for the book, and by the time I got done reading it I took the stance that religious terrorism is in fact different than other terrorist activities.Bibliography: