The Postmodern Interpretation of Religious Terrorism
By Paul Cliteur - Free Inquiry Magazine - March 2007
Terrorism, the use of force by private actors or organizations to intimidate others to achieve political and ideological goals, is a significant menace to contemporary democracies. In the preceding decades, terrorism was perpetrated for the sake of a piece of land (geographical terrorism) or the realization of political goals (political terrorism). Nowadays, we are confronted with religious terrorism: people commit violent acts and justify their deeds with reference to religious ideas or passages of holy scripture.
There is a difference between religious terrorism as it manifests itself in the United States of America and religious terrorism as it has become known in Europe. First, European religious terrorism is perpetrated by nationals, not by foreign forces or organizations—“home-grown terrorists,” as they are called. Mostly, the aggressors are youngsters estranged from the societies and ideals of their countries. They seek solace in an international religious community with radical ideas, such as that an appropriate punishment for blasphemy is death, as happened in the case of Theo van Gogh, not a small fine or a short prison sentence.
A second characteristic of European religious terrorism is that the aggression of the terrorists is directed at individuals. This is not the only religious terrorism that has manifested itself on European soil: the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004, and the London Metro bombings of July 5, 2005, were indiscriminate in their attacks on large numbers of persons. Nevertheless, it is an important phenomenon in Europe that terrorism sometimes targets specific individuals. The most well-known example is, again, Van Gogh.
Third, terrorist attacks in Europe cannot be explained as a reaction to military intervention in foreign countries that may be motivated by humanitarian concerns. The terrorists themselves point to what they see as the state of decadence in their local and national communities. They do not criticize their own government for becoming involved in Iraq or Afghanistan but for having made legislation that deviates from holy law. An important factor in their discontent is the freedom in Western societies to criticize and even mock religious ideas. So religious terrorism is explicitly directed at the principle of free speech, as the “cartoon crisis” that began in Denmark makes abundantly clear...
Read the whole article at Free Inquiry - March 2007