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Thread: Cultural deterrence?

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    Default Cultural deterrence?

    Hello,

    I am working on a Masters thesis that seeks to analyze the conditions behind provocations to the religion of Islam and the severity of the reaction to them. Both scenarios in which there was an adverse, violent reaction such as those in response to the Danish cartoons or the Qur'an burning by Terry Jones, as well as the complete lack of response such as after France banned Islamic face veils will be considered.

    Essentially the paper will attempt to explain why such disproportionate expressions of rage take place when and where they do, and hopefully offer predictive value on what can be expected in response to future events.

    I view the responses as being primarily incited by Muslim leaders due to the fact that some time passes between the offense and the reaction, as though waiting for the right time to exploit the Muslim community's sensitivities. This begs the question ... Exploiting them to what end?

    While the anger and violence may be a genuine response to what is perceived as insulting Islam, can the whole issue be seen as a sort of cultural deterrence, an attempt to signal to the secular West that the sacrilege we tolerate will not in like manner be tolerated when directed at Islam? Or are there political goals that these agitations play a roll in achieving where religion is the means but not the end?

    Anyway, I have been impressed with the insight folks on this discussion board have had on other topics and was hoping to get some feedback on these questions. Thanks in advance!

    -Mark
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-15-2011 at 10:41 PM. Reason: Moved to RFI from Social Sciences

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default That’s fairly ambitious for a Master’s thesis!

    Quote Originally Posted by marklewis1979 View Post
    Essentially the paper will attempt to explain why such disproportionate expressions of rage take place when and where they do, and hopefully offer predictive value on what can be expected in response to future events.

    While the anger and violence may be a genuine response to what is perceived as insulting Islam, can the whole issue be seen as a sort of cultural deterrence, an attempt to signal to the secular West that the sacrilege we tolerate will not in like manner be tolerated when directed at Islam? Or are there political goals that these agitations play a roll in achieving where religion is the means but not the end?
    The politics of outrage is hardly unique to the Ummah. Whether Islamic outrage has a particular flavor is a fair question. My sense is that aniconism, for example, is an issue for most Muslims in a way that most non-Muslims simply don’t get. But in these public outrage events there are clearly alt of things going on that are not exclusive to Islam (like identity and cultural politics).

    I view the responses as being primarily incited by Muslim leaders due to the fact that some time passes between the offense and the reaction, as though waiting for the right time to exploit the Muslim community's sensitivities. This begs the question ... Exploiting them to what end?
    Take yer pick! But seriously, you should always look at the local context of the responses. I suspect you will I encounter no little variation, though that variation might well be amenable to categorization.

    Deaing with religion you will inevitably run into epistemology issues. May I suggest Clifford Geertz’s article “The pinch of destiny: religion as experience, meaning, identity, power” (available in the:http://press.princeton.edu/TOCs/c6780.htm
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-15-2011 at 12:25 PM. Reason: Size altered to normal and link shown. PM to author.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by marklewis1979 View Post
    Or are there political goals that these agitations play a roll in achieving where religion is the means but not the end?
    Yes, I believe historically speaking there are; however, who knows about nowadays with the way things can go viral.

    One interesting example involves the violent reaction to the book The Satanic Verses, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s issuing of a fatwa against the book’s author Salman Rushdie. Khomeini issued his fatwa in response to a 10,000 person riot over the book that took place in Islamabad, Pakistan two days prior. The Islamabad riot was actually provoked by the Pakistani ISI in an effort to destabilize the government of then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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    Default Danish cartoons

    There was a very good explanation for this furore being manufactured by Iran, the cartoons had already been given media attention in the Arab World, notably in Egypt and no real public reaction let alone violence. So why their re-appearance? Iran was facing an expected diplomatic defeat at the UN Security Council, over nuclear issues and Denmark was chairing the UNSC.
    davidbfpo

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    I think it’s easy, and dangerous, for us to fall into the trap of thinking that a few rabble rousers manipulate people into actions they would not otherwise consider. There have to be a set of predispositions which are triggered. This is a complex issue, and not one which can be examined without fully understanding the Islamic view of the world (or weltanshauung). For instance, it is not enough to state, in the Chinese case, that both the Chinese and NATO countries have a word for deterrence and therefore they both share the same concept (they don’t). Similarly, one must get to grips with the moral concepts that animate Muslims and the role and place they have within that particular practico-ethical universe. For instance, we understand persecution/oppression to mean, in ordinary language usage, physical or structural constraints on the liberty of individuals or groups entailing violence of a structural (physical) or moral (ideological) kind. In the Islamic mind persecution is an all encompassing concept that includes the notion of criticising Islam or Muhammad or even rejecting the Islamic mission (etc.). I would suggest, firstly, you look at situational action theory for a methodological approach which examines social action as dependent upon normative and socially accepted forms of what constitutes legitimate and non-legitimate responses to situations of stress (you could call this a meta-narrative or a tradition, etc.). Secondly, the following books (and article) may be of use;

    Collinson, Rethinking Followership: A Post-structuralist Analysis of Follower Identities (examines the outmoded approach of an unthinking mass manipulated by “instigators” and also provides an overview of the state of the art as well as an argument for social action to be viewed as “dramaturgical”; which he thankfully explains).

    Thiele, The Heart of Judgement

    Akhtar, Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam (a critique of externalist accounts of Islam which states that Islam and Muslims should be understood on their own terms, through their own ethical and political concepts).

    Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad (absolutely essential reading and covers a similar approach to yours via anthropology and social-psychology)

    Mathewes, Understanding Religious Ethics (section on Islam)

    And, two works which have been out of print for some time but which should be essential reading,

    T. Izutsu, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Quran &

    T. Izutsu, God and Man in the Quran: Semantics of the Quranic Weltanschauung

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    This is a complex issue, and not one which can be examined without fully understanding the Islamic view of the world (or weltanshauung).
    I would argue that there isn't an Islamic view of the world, but rather a variety of understandings of Islam that in turn only comprise part of the attitudinal prism of any individual or group.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    I would argue that there isn't an Islamic view of the world, but rather a variety of understandings of Islam that in turn only comprise part of the attitudinal prism of any individual or group.
    I think we might have to agree to disagree on that. I think, from the sources I've read (which are dotted about the SWC), that there is a core cluster of concepts that are mutually reinforcing around which differing practices gravitate and upon whom the pull varies according to situation. The metaphors aren't too helpful I'm afraid but I would argue that there is a "generative" centre (not Chomsky's generative grammar but a similar sort of idea) or an ethico-practical episteme which demarcates the interor and exterior of the Islamic field (as discursive practice) which seesm to gell with what Muslims and various Muslim written texts would argue. I think the Ituzu works above are probably much cleaer than I could ever be (I abonded theory during Uni during my post-structuralist literary phase and regret it now, it's useful if only for furnishing a common vocabulary).

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    Thanks guys,

    These replies are exactly what I was hoping for. I completely agree that local political conditions require examination to help explain reactions, and David, your comments about why Denmark, and why then, perfectly illustrate the issue.

    I also fully agree with Tukhachevskii in that there would not be such on-demand success for violent rioting in the Islamic world, or Islamic cultural pockets in the West, if it were not for a fundamentally receptive audience, and this point will be a foundation to my thesis. Also, thank you for directing me to the paper on situational action theory. This is precisely the subject matter I need to incorporate into the paper.

    I have a mountain of research ahead of me, so these referrals are gold!

    -Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    The metaphors aren't too helpful I'm afraid but I would argue that there is a "generative" centre (not Chomsky's generative grammar but a similar sort of idea) or an ethico-practical episteme which demarcates the interor and exterior of the Islamic field (as discursive practice) which seesm to gell with what Muslims and various Muslim written texts would argue.
    Yeah, but Java ain’t Mali and Mali ain’t Saudi Arabia.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    It's worth asking whether the "predisposition" is entirely a function of Islam.

    You could argue that what we call Islamic radicalism is largely a reaction to the same toxic batch of colonial/neocolonial/postcolonial unpleasantness that drove so much of the world toward leftist radicalism not so long ago. According to that argument the same basic motivations coalesced around a different ideological base in different environments, and we should be paying less attention to the ideological base and more to the driving impulse.

    I'm not saying that argument is 100% right or universally applicable, but there is merit in it and it shouldn't be ignored.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Default Mark,

    If Situational Action Theory seems material to you, a similar construct by Lonnie Athens, Violent Encounters : Violent Engagements, Skirmishes, and Tiffs may also help to float your boat.

    From the author’s study of violent and nonviolent offenders and nonoffenders’ accounts, he drewtwo main conclusions about the interaction that takes place between the perpetrator and victim when violent crimes are committed. First, these crimes are committed during violent encounters that encompass five stages: (1) role claiming, (2) role rejection, (3) role sparring, (4) role enforcement, and (5) role determination. Second, based on how many of these stages are completed, violent encounters can be divided into three subtypes: (1) engagements, (2) skirmishes, and (3) tiffs. Violent dominance encounters that go through all five stages constitute engagements, those that enter only four of the stages constitute skirmishes, and those that enter only three of the stages constitute tiffs. Thus, for any theory to provide a complete explanation of violent crimes, it must be able to account for not only violent engagements but also violent skirmishes and tiffs.
    More refs to Athens' reserach in this post; see especially, his conclusion re: group violence which is quoted in full in that post.

    Athens has a number of examples where the initial "victim" - via provocation of one sort or another - becomes the aggressor who avenges the initial insult and then some. E.g., the case at p.26 (pdf) of Violent Encounters.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by marklewis1979 View Post
    Hello,

    I am working on a Masters thesis that seeks to analyze the conditions behind provocations to the religion of Islam and the severity of the reaction to them. Both scenarios in which there was an adverse, violent reaction such as those in response to the Danish cartoons or the Qur'an burning by Terry Jones, as well as the complete lack of response such as after France banned Islamic face veils will be considered.
    Mark,

    For a good overview of the links between differing interpretations of Islamic law and their (in)compatibility with western secular law see "Western Muslims and the future of Islam By Tariq Ramadan". Tariq Ramadan is Hassan Al-Banna's grandson (Hassan Al-Banna is the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood). He is living in Europe and publishes extensively on legal and societal implications of Muslim immigration in Europe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Yeah, but Java ain’t Mali and Mali ain’t Saudi Arabia.
    True in a geographical sense. But in a richer sense Muslims have things in common which transcend time and place; they pray 3-5 times a day, toward Mecca, go on Hajj, read the Quran, valorise Muhammad as "the walking Quran" i.e., as the perfect example of Muslims man to be emulated - an Islamic Archetype in Jungian terms (A'isha), etc. These and other discursive practies demarcate them from whatever locale they may be in whether its Coventry (UK), Kandhar or Ohio or Buenos Aires. This universal Umma, only a potentiality beofre- limited by time, space and the "netwroks of government (to borrow frm Duetsch) was sundered when the capliphate and its successor systems were sundered. Modernity, especially communications that transcend the political limitations of geographical dispertion have reconnected the elements opf the system reinforcing and revivifying the system (which was always latent). But thats IMO and I'm still struggling with putting that down in a manner acceptable to journal editors of whatever ilk (i.e., in some kind of ordinary language)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    True in a geographical sense.
    I just have a thing about impressing upon non-Muslims that not all Muslims live in the Middle East. In fact, most don’t—there are more Muslims living in Hausaland than in Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia is the country with more Muslim residents than any other. And predominately Muslim societies vary as much or more than predominately Christian societies do. While I have the feeling that most Americans probably imagine all predominately Muslim nations to be as religiously intolerant as Saudi Arabia or Iran (which I understand to be noticeably more tolerant than Saudi Arabia) during the five weeks I spent in Burkina Faso last summer I was not prosthelytized to a single time. This did not fail to make an impression on someone who grew up in Western North Carolina as a Methodist and regularly was told that they don’t preach the Bible in my church.

    But regardless of local variation the Ummah is real. Using this reality as the basis of a new caliphate would seem to be the dream of Al-Qaeda types and the nightmare of John Birch types. My impression is that the vast majority of Muslims living in Metro Detroit and Jakarta are not much interested.
    Last edited by ganulv; 08-17-2011 at 02:24 PM. Reason: typo
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    It's a lot like the old adage, of "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any noise?"

    A similar condition is true for the ideological messages of those seeking to conduct UW abroad or to stir up insurgency at home. Such a leader must employ some type of ideology; but if the message does not speak to the target audience it will fall flat; or equally, if the target audience is satisfied with their governmental situation they will likely not bite even if the message is one they could generally get on board with.

    Ideology just does not 'radicalize' a populace, government does. Ideology is just the nudge to get them moving in a certain direction to do something about it.

    So "radical Islam" falls flat on Muslim populaces that are largely satisfied with their governance situation; and certainly falls flat on non-Muslim populaces even if they are dissatisfied with their governance.

    Governments love to "blame-shift" and blaming ideology is an time honored favorite fall guy.

    Best for those who are attempting to counter such efforts to not agonize over the message so much and instead focus on the target populace, attempt to empathize with that populace as to how they might perceive their governance along certain critical criteria, and then focus efforts on competing more productive messages that are linked to addressing those reasonable concerns about the nature of governance.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Ideology just does not 'radicalize' a populace, government does. Ideology is just the nudge to get them moving in a certain direction to do something about it.
    The problem with this formulation is that most of the rage is not directed at their governments. It's directed at perceived aggression against Muslims, Muslim territory, and Islam in general. It's directed generically at "the West" and at the US as the most visible, powerful symbol of the west. A great deal of it traces back not to frustration with their own governments, but to a culture of what Bernard Lewis calls "aggressive self-pity", to some extent reaching across the Muslim world but strongest in the Arab community. It draws on the deep past of gradual European encroachment and fading Muslim influence, on colonialism and neocolonialism, on the situation with Israel, on recent American actions, and a great deal more. It's a pretty toxic stew and it cannot be reduced solely to misgovernment.

    If Saudi Arabia were transformed tomorrow into a democracy, the people who hate Israel, the US, and the west today would still hate them tomorrow, and Saudis would still fund and join AQ's efforts to drive the infidel out of the land of the faithful.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Quote Originally Posted by marklewis1979 View Post
    I am working on a Masters thesis that seeks to analyze the conditions behind provocations to the religion of Islam and the severity of the reaction to them. Both scenarios in which there was an adverse, violent reaction such as those in response to the Danish cartoons or the Qur'an burning by Terry Jones, as well as the complete lack of response such as after France banned Islamic face veils will be considered.
    If this is a thesis it would help a lot to know what discipline you are focusing on. The question you are really asking depends a lot on whether you are primarily looking from a sociological, political, historical and so on perspective .

    Furthermore, I would identify my assumptions and levels of analysis. Do you believe that all people are the same, and some just happen to be Muslim and others not [an assumption] and you are trying to figure out when communities do this [a level of analysis], or are you trying to discover whether there is something about Muslims that makes them riot more [different assumptions and levels of analysis]. If you don't do that then you will just go around in circles, as people debate what it is that you are actually talking about. Furthermore, you will have an almost endless reading list of various explanations from the influnces of media, to government manipulation of religion and so forth.
    Audentes adiuvat fortuna
    "Abu Suleyman"

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