I am pleased to inform you that my publisher Berg has decided to join the Social Science Open Access Repository and to make my first book, Jihad Beyond Islam(2006) available legally for download with no costs but strictly under the Creative Common License.
In this first work I discussed through an anthropological approach how we can make sense of violent actions perpetrated by a minority of Muslims. I try to show why these Muslims may ‘feel’ the necessity of be part of a violent movements or engage in isolate violent actions. Yet the book is also a strong criticism of how anthropologist have understood Muslims (discourse continued, developed and expanded in The Anthropology of Islam) and even the concept of personal ‘identity’ and culture. In the book, I have observed that in many aspects we, human beings, are still the same. Despite the ‘evolution’ from Homo sapiens to ‘Homo technologicus’, we still depend, as most of our ancient ancestors did, on those bodily changes and reactions that our relationship with the environment provokes. In this book, following Damasio’s observations, I have called such automatic reactions ‘emotions’ and explained how they are perceived in the form of feelings that may affect the human self (Chapter 3).
I have argued that emotions and subsequent feelings are fundamental to an understanding of Muslim interpretations of jihad, because jihad can only exists within a mind and without consciousness the personal mental object we call ‘jihad’ would never have existed.
Today, a minority of individuals feel that to be Muslim allows one to fly planes against buildings, kill children on their first day of school, blow them- selves up among innocent people at a tube station and call it jihad. At the same time a majority who feel they are Muslim reject and condemn these actions and call them mass murder.
In Jihad beyond Islam, I have argued that it is only by focusing on that ‘feeling to be’ rather than the ‘Muslim’, that we can go to the root of these tragic events. Traditionally, social scientists have studied societies. Anthropologists, for instance, have relegated the individual to the far-flung parts of their interpretations. For a long time, any attempt to foreground an individual as part of a composite society would expose the adventurous scholar to the denigrating label of being ethnocentric. In the study of jihad this lack of focus on individual identities has, to use a Batesonian (2002) expression, facilitated the mistake of seeing the map as the actual territory.
Many religious, social, political and economic factors have been suggested for the different understandings of jihad among Muslims. Yet by starting from the viewpoint of individuals, in Jihad beyond Islam I have demonstrated that some radical Muslims do not speak of and act for ‘jihad’ because they are Muslims but rather they feel Muslim because of jihad (see Chapters 4, 5 and 6).
I have suggested that many Muslims today may be subjected to a schismogenetic process that I have called ‘the circle of panic’. Through contacts with different emotional triggers, such as pangs of guilt about the status of Muslims and Islam, rejection from host societies (Chapter 4); shocking images and particularly TV reportage of Muslim tragedies around the world (Chapter 5); challenges of identity and loyalty (Chapter 6); emotional dynamics of gender relationships (Chapter 7); and fear of Westernization (Chapter 8), the idea has arisen that Islam (seen as religion but also as an element of identity) is under attack from ‘the circle of panic’.
The circle of panic, being schismogenetic, changes the relationship between the autobio- graphic self and identity, so that to stop the identity crisis an ‘act of identity’ becomes required. The rumour producing this circle of panic not only sug- gests that Crusaders are attacking Islam but also that the West is spreading jahiliyya among Muslims, weakening Muslims’ Islamic identity. In Chapter 8, I have explained how the fear of jahiliyya plays a role in the anti-Semitic attitudes of some Muslim immigrants and Western-born Muslims. Rejecting essentialistic theories, which tend to scrutinize the Qur’an to collect evi- dence against Muslim anti-Semitism, I have suggested that some Muslims interpret the creation of Israel and the support it receives as the final evi- dence of the endogenous Western incapacity for justice.
So, accepting the distinction between stereotypes and chimeria that Langmuir (1990b) has advanced, in Chapter 8, I have concluded that anti-Semitism is not thereason for Muslims’ jihad. This does not mean that some Muslims in the West, while trapped within the circle of panic, have not used anti-Semitic language.
In conclusion, the rhetoric of jihad, in certain contexts, becomes the most suitable act of identity to break the schismogenetic circle of panic. I have shown in this book that Muslims do not need to know very much about Islam at the theological level to develop their rhetoric of jihad.
Today our global world subjects us (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) to unprece- dented schismogenetic processes.
Every morning, millions of us wake up waiting for the next suicide bomber, war, extradition, kidnapping, Guantanamo bay, Abu Ghraib torture, shoot-to-kill (the wrong man) policies, unjustified arrests, Islamophobic attitudes and terrorist threats. The jihads that are inflaming our cities and countries are beyond Islam but part of one of the many ‘circles of panic’ into which people are sucked.
Please, feel free to leave your comments about the book here. I will try to answer your questions and engage in the debate (traveling allowing).