I was recently drawn to an Arab intellectual who was delivering a lecture on violence. During his speech, he acquitted Muslims of any responsibility related to extremist ideas, absolved them of the guilt and alleged that the violence was part of an arrogant colonialist scheme planned by great powers. This rhetoric puts the blame of violence and terrorism in modern history on the narrative of the United States having supported Afghan fighters and the alleged role of US intelligence in the establishment of Al-Qaeda.
According to these ideologues, ISIS was created by the United States to distort Islam and was supported by regional countries to put to douse the flames of the Arab Spring. Robert Dreyfus’ book ‘Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam’ tackles these insane fictional conclusions. The book has been popular among Islamist groups and its conspiracy theories have been adopted by some Arab intellectuals. This book is a work of fantasy par excellence.
It’s an easy approach to just make justifications to evade the responsibility for violent ideas and to relieve yourself of the burden for encouraging extremism and to resuscitate ways for terrorism in the realm of education and practice. However, this attitude is an expression of fear, panic and cowardice from facing reality.
Violence in societies
Violence is not a modern phenomenon but it’s a part of societies’ history. The issue is discussed by the philosopher Rene Girard in his book ‘Violence and The Sacred’ and in the theory of Hammoud Hammoud is his book ‘Looking for the Sacred’ and by Olivier Roy in ‘Holy Ignorance’ or by Paul Dumouchel who is a Professor of philosophy at the Ritsumeikan University at Kyoto in his book ‘The Barren Sacrifice: An Essay on Political Violence.' All of these are based on the common theme of the history of societies and followers regarding violence by extremists in Christianity, Islam and other doctrines, orientations and national or ethnic tendencies.
One of the catastrophic mistakes is to consider violence as a new phenomenon, without going back to human history that is full of violence and murder.Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
One of the catastrophic mistakes is to consider violence as a new phenomenon, without going back to human history that is full of violence and murder. Let us read about the history of sedition and the caliphate, the roles of the tribe, and then the culture of eradicating the other, revenge and assassination mechanisms and principles related to torture. Let’s look at classical books such as ‘Al Mihan’ by Abu al Arab al Tamimi or ‘Encyclopedia of Torment’ by Abboud al Chaliji in all its seven parts. All of this demonstrates the level to which the culture of violence has penetrated human history. The difference is that societies have been able, through great political, philosophical and legal experiences, to overcome this bloody history and enter other paths in which this history is just a story to be told.
The reader can recall dozens of lectures and seminars which blame their flaws on the “other,” the “strange” and the “conspirator.” However this approach worsens the problem and does not help reach any solutions or analyses that can take the cognitive courage above the emotional amnesty. In my opinion, this is due to ignorance in history and not recognizing the role of violence in establishing the lived culture, classifying some Fiqh issues and establishing many social systems. Violence is not always related to religion. Sometimes it comes in the context of tribal and political problems and personal aspirations. I here point out to an important book by Hamit Bozarslan, Professor of Postgraduate Studies in Social Sciences at the University of Paris, entitled ‘A Reading in the History of Violence in the Middle East from the end of the Ottoman Empire to al-Qaeda.’ This book does not overlook political orientations, revolutionary tendencies and leftist patterns and their intersection with Islamic violent organizations in all its forms.
With such methodological books, the intellectual can remove the obscurity of conspiratorial obsession, personal infatuation, and cognitive drought.
A great philosopher such as John Locke contributed to setting the path of salvation for societies from violence because of his political theories, including the ‘Social Contract.’ He wrote his distinguished book ‘A Letter Concerning Toleration’ in the late seventeenth century and discussed violence saying: “It is not enough that ecclesiastical men abstain from violence and rapine and all manner of persecution. He that pretends to be a successor of the apostles, and takes upon him the office of teaching, is obliged also to admonish his hearers of the duties of peace and goodwill towards all men, as well towards the erroneous as the orthodox; towards those that differ from them in faith and worship as well as towards those that agree with them therein. And he ought industriously to exhort all men, whether private persons or magistrates (if any such there be in his church), to charity, meekness, and toleration, and diligently endeavor to ally and temper all that heat and unreasonable averseness of mind which either any man’s fiery zeal for his own sect or the craft of others has kindled against dissenters.”
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.