World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies
Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010< Back to SUMMARY OF PANELS
· Date: TUE 20, 9-11 am
· Language: English
Discussant: Mohey Mowafy (Professor, Northern Michigan University)
Paper presenter: Yousuf Dadoo (Profesor, University of South Africa), “Suicide Bombers or Martyrdom Operatives? The Furious Debate Among Muslims about the Status of these Battle Strategists”
In our times, suicide bombings or martyrdom operations –depending on people’s interpretation of such actions- against adversaries predate the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001 by about twenty-one years. About nineteen countries have thus far provided scenes for this kind of warfare. These tactics are new; thus, they have evoked varied yet passionate responses among Muslim scholars and thinkers which this presentation intends to highlight and critique. Predictably, all parties to the debate rely on foundation texts in the form of the Qur’an and Hadith to underpin their arguments. This paper first presents the views of individuals like the internationally acclaimed Turkish intellectual, Fethullah Gülen, and bodies like the Fight Council of North Africa and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy which condemn these deeds outright. Then, follow verdicts of two Saudi scholars that could most optimistically be regarded as ambivalent. Finally pronouncements favouring these modus operandi are cites which find popular support in the Arab World. The third group appears to have researched its findings more extensively than the other two: It begins by differentiating between martyrdom and suicide, outlines the objectives of martyrdom operations, and then gives a synopsis of precedents in Islamic history reinforcing them. Nevertheless there are disagreements among its members on the legality of tactics like:- Bombers trying explosives to their bodies which could cause their deaths before those of their victims.- Undertaking such missions without the sanction of knowledgeable Islamic authorities; and- Categories that may be spread the effects of bombings. In many questions like these there is a view among some thinkers that prevailing conditions in the region ought to decide appropriate strategies. Finally, there is a fourth group which feels that this entire debate is too restricted. Attention should be devoted to an analysis of the total material conditions of people’s existence. For this purpose, the multivalent concept of terrorism needs unpacking to determine power relations among pertaining to individuals and social entities. This paper briefly attends this venture while not necessarily exonerating individuals affected these circumstances of their responsibilities.
Paper Presenter: Stephanie Dornschneider (PhD Student and Teaching Assistant, Graduate Institute of International Studies), “Belief Systems and Action Inferences as a Source of Violence in the Name of Islam”
Why do some Islamists pick up arms as opposed to others who live under the same conditions? Environmental explanations such as culture, occupation, or poverty cannot differentiate between the two groups. Instead, I draw on the belief system literature and use a cognitive mapping methodology to compare Islamists from the non-violent Muslim Brotherhood and from the formerly violent groups al Jihad and al Jamaa al Islamiyya in Egypt. To ensure that my findings are not specific to individuals who believe in Islam and live in authoritarian countries, I also examine violent and non-violent non-Muslims from a different environment - members of the Baader-Meinhof group who attacked the German state during the 1970s and German political activists who at the same time decided to not pick up arms. Data were gathered from in-depth interviews in Egypt and Germany. I identify eight different kinds of decisions to pick up arms and make two main claims. First, there are at least three chains of reasoning without which decisions to pick up arms are not possible. These chains refer to 1) attacks observed by the individuals, 2) perceptions of their local political structures, and 3) their private and political activities. Second, decisions to use or not use violence must contain combinations of components from different chains. These combinations create both the possibility to take revenge and to identify a target; and exclude alternative means and goals. The paper concludes with an exploration of the action implications of counterfactual initial conditions and the possibilities of non-violent Islamists ‘becoming’ violent and vice-versa.
Paper Presenter: Èlia Susanna i López (Assistant Professor, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Washington State University), “Towards and Understanding of Afghan elections on the Ground through a culture of violence analysis.”
International state-building has become central to policy concerns at the non-domestic state level and has marked a clear neo-Wilsonian shift in global political thinking. Today’s approaches insist on the regulatory role of state institutions (built by international capacity) and downplay the importance of locally-derived political solutions. This privileging of ‘governance’ over ‘government’ is based on the assumption that the political process can be externally influenced through the promotion of institutional changes introduced at the state level and pays less attention to how societal pressures and demands are constitutive of stable and legitimate institutional mechanisms. The objective of this paper is to address and question this approach and analyse the importance and effects of locally-derived political solutions happening within Afghan societal sphere. It considers how this shift in the prioritisation of governance is affecting the democratisation process on the ground through the assessment of ?culture of violence? as being an overlooked meta-narrative central to understanding politics in post-conflict settings. Culture of violence is a concept that addresses those values emerging in societies who have lived in a chronic state of fear. According to Nordstrom and Robben, fear destabilises social relations by driving a wedge of distrust, dividing communities to suspicion and apprehension. It thrives on ambiguities, gossip, and creates a climate of suspicion, and an invisible violence of intimidation through the daily experiences of the peoples in each village. Understanding the role played by this culture of violence, its manifestation, and its effects, is essential to comprehending the context in which politics take place in the Afghan context, as an example of post-conflict settings case-study. Analysing how ‘culture of violence’ is the arbiter of power in Afghan local politics is compulsory. Culture of violence bears in its boundaries an invisible, indeterminate and silent meta-narrative built up through subtle manifestations, affecting the democratisation process and culture of violence becoming an actor. Its effects are essential to comprehending the context in which people are struggling to survive and the situation which they face when an electoral process takes place.