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Islamic Terrorism And The Attack Of September 11

3194 words - 13 pages

      “I am scared because I don't exactly know and understand the complex world problems that would cause people to direct their hatred toward America"  (Mary Coleman, New York Times News Service 9/14)       Even during the initial shock of September 11 that swelled my patriotism, even amidst the solemn mood of heroism that stirred my respect for the victims, their families, the New York City workers, and in spite of a sudden admiration for the media and for our leaders in government for their strength, resolve and composure, something in me knew that after the dust and debris had settled that this would be the essential question we would be left to wrestle with.

This question posed by Mary Coleman just days after the attack, probably out of a self-proclaimed naïveté regarding world affairs, is the question more sophisticated analysts are feeling obligated to ask after the initial jolt. Lawrence O'Donnell, an MSNBC political analyst, put it this way a few months after the attack: He said that we have come out of what could be described as a national wake and that now we "need to ask the cold hard questions." He suggested we conduct a seminar in this country "to tell us who we are fighting" and to understand "what is their expression of religious belief" and said that if we had known the consequences of some of our foreign policy actions, perhaps we would re-evaluate (MSNBC, September 30, 2001). The issues that are being stirred in our national consciousness are essentially those of the insider/outsider problem, issues first defined in a scholarly way in the field of Religious Studies. It was either William James, the 19th century psychologist, or philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, who said, "I have no wish to obscure the darkness of the matter" regarding clear understanding of religious phenomenon. This comment seems to hang with relevance in the air like that black cloud of debris that emanated from the Twin Towers and is burnt into our bank of remembered national images. This post-modern event, so unprecedented not because of the amount of destruction, but because of the unlikely U.S. target, needs a post-modern lens through which it can be viewed. With this in mind I will discuss various aspects of the current crisis in light of scholarly methods of investigation in the field of religion and myth.

Certain themes have emerged within the warring points of view as this drama unfolds. There is the blurring of the distinction between Islam as a religion and the acts of terrorism that have occurred on the political stage. It is being blurred in both directions. The terrorists are fusing the two realms while the Americans and their allies are trying to make a rigid distinction between actions motivated by hate and what they call envy of U.S. freedom versus Islam as a religion which they would like to view as uncontaminated by cultural and political context. This theme lies within the domain of the scholarly debates on "reductionism."...

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