Rethinking Salvation Mentality and Counterterrorism

Author:Laura Nader
Position:Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. PhD Harvard University 1961
Pages:99-117
 
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Rethinking Salvation Mentality and Counterterrorism
Laura Nader
I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................ 99
II. HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS ............................................................. 102
III. TWO APPROACHES: TYPOLOGICAL VS. ETHNOGRAPHIC ................ 104
IV. AMERICAN PRAGMAT ISM: MONEY AND REPUTATION .................... 112
V. ARE THERE SOLUTION S? ................................................................ 115
The notion that every man however lowly is entitled to a trial
and an impartial hearing is regarded as the co rnerstone of
civilized government . . . this idea l is as old as Western
civilization, and its significance in our culture is tremendous.
Thurman Arnold, Symbols of Government, 19351
It is commonly known that the early forms of legal procedure
were grounded in vengeance . . . the starting-point of the
system . . . an instructive example of the mode in which the
law has grown, without a break, from barbari sm to
civilization.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law, 1881 2
I. INTRODUCTION
We have been asked “[t]o consider how the United States and other
Western countries receive Islamic culture in their society and how they
export their Western culture to the Islamic world . . . to examine which
behaviors mitigate or worsen anti-Western terrorism for the Middle East and
Central/South Asia and to recommend solutions if needed. . . .” This is a
difficult task given the short attention span of our times, especially since
Euro-American notions of exceptionalism breed a philosophy of arrogance.
Exceptionalism, when combined with force, is the mother of normative
blindness, false comparisons, orientalism s, and other self-serving notions of
what other cultures lack that we can impose on them.
Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. PhD Harvard University 1961.
1 THURMAN W. ARNOLD, THE SYMBOLS OF GOVERNMENT 13435 (1935).
2 OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR., THE COMMON LAW 2–5 (1881).
100 TRANSNATIONAL LAW & CONTEMPORARY PR OBLEMS [Vol. 21:99
There is a long history of cross-cultural contact between Europe and the
Arab East, most notably since the Crusades, later followed by decades of
European colonialism, and now Amer ican occupation and imperialism. A
recent British three-day drama on the British, then Soviet, then American
occupations of Afghanistan3 revealed a shared arrogance of power
accompanied by a salvation rationale of “we ’re here to help you, to help
civilize you.” All such European and American rationales have been followed
by widespread events of death, destruction, and failure at least since
Napoleon articulated the same salvation rationa le when he conquered Egypt
in 1798.
Prior to World War II and before the blossoming of the U.S. Empire,
Americans used another, less belligerent app roach to extend their influence
they opened missionizing universities in Cairo , Beirut, and Istanbul,
universities that were not corpo ratized and had educational missions as their
primary purpose.4 These universities, together with diasporic migrations
from the Islamic world, introduced a vision of U.S. democracy and America
became the land of the free for the unfree. In recent times, the United States
has continued to extend its university system, now in the Persian Gulf and
now more corporate and destructive of local language and cu lture.5 In
addition, the United States has adopted militaristic techniques of invasion,
as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to accomplish the other side of its missions. The
United States has also consistently and unwaveringly supported the Israeli
occupation of Palestine as well as Arab dictatorships (for example , Saudi
Arabia). Thus, where there was once admiration for fair play and for
democratic promise, there is now anger.
In addition, the global spread of co rporate capitalism has resulted in a
cultural invasion by new technologies that threaten the structure of primary
family groups, resulting in an unprecedented generation gap in values among
leading families. The younger gener ation may have more schooling now, but
still no employment. In the United States, freedom of religion for practicing
Islam poses special problems. When asked, man y practicing American
3 THE GREAT GAME: AFGHANISTAN (Nicholas Kent & Indhu Rubasingham directors, 2009). This
collection of twelve short scripts by twelve playwrights was divided into three parts: Part One:
Invasions & Independence (18421929), Part Two: Communism, the Mujahideen and the Taliban
(19801996), and Part Three: Enduring Freedom (19962009).
4 The American University of Beirut was founded in 1866. About Us: Overview, AM. UNIV.
BEIRUT, http://www.aub.edu.lb/main/about/Pages/index.aspx (last visited May 30, 2012),
American University in Cairo was founded in 1919. About AUC, AM. UNIV. IN CAIRO,
http://www.aucegypt.edu/about/Pages/default.aspx (last visited May 30, 2012). Robert College
(Istanbul) was founded in 1863. About RC, ROBERT COLL., http://portal.robcol.k12.tr/Default.
aspx?pgID=18&ST=1 (last visited May 30, 2012).
5 See generally Philip G. Altbach & Jane Knight, The Internationalization of Higher Education:
Motivations and Realities, 11 J. STUD. INTL EDUC. 290 (2007); Aihwa Ong, Ecologies of
Eexpertise: Assembling Flows, Managing Citizensh ip, in GLOBAL ASSEMBLAGES: TECHNOLOGY,
POLITICS, AND ETHICS AS ANTHROPOLOGICAL PROBLEMS 337, 33753 (Aihwa Ong & Stephen J.
Collier eds., 2005).

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