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41. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Kjersti Hellesøy Civil War and the Radicalization of Islam in Chechnya
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In this article I will focus on the recent developments in Islam in Chechnya in terms of the question, “How do we understand the radicalization of Islam in Chechnya in terms of the conflicts in the 1990s?” As a way of sorting this out, I will be making reference to Monica Duffy Toft’s discussion of the conditionsthat increase the probability of a civil war becoming a religious war, and her analysis of the role religion can play in such conflicts. There are elements of her analysis that I do not use, and in the latter part of this article I will argue that one component of her approach – namely her essentialization of religion and itsconnection with violence – is misconceived.
42. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Maria Leppäkari Apocalyptic Scapegoats
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This article highlights the impact of endtime representations in relation to concepts of an apocalyptic enemy. Apocalyptic violence, as related here, involves three parties: Jewish Temple activists, Christian Zionists and their common apocalyptic enemy, Islam. Violence is always present in endtime representations, but it does not necessarily involve physical confrontation. Violence has a double nature. René Girard calls it a two-edged sword, which can be used to oppress as well as to liberate. The role prescribed by Christian Zionists (CZ) to the Jewish Third Temple activists and vice versa is here addressed in light of Girard’s theory of the scapegoat as presented in Violence and the Sacred [1977] (2005) and in Leppäkari’s previous studies, such as, Apocalyptic Representations of Jerusalem (2006) and Hungry for Heaven (2008). Here the double nature of violence accounts for the point that violence can stain or cleanse, contaminate or purify, drive humans to fury and murder or appease their anger and restore them to life. When set in an apocalyptic context the double nature of violence enables dissemination of images of threat and xenophobia, yielding physical confrontation.
43. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis Sects and Violence: The “Standard Model” of New Religions Violence
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In contrast with other subfields within religion-and-violence studies, the study of violence and new religious movements (NRMs) has tended to focus on a small set of incidents involving the mass deaths of members of controversial NRMs. Beginning with the suicide-murders of hundreds of members of the People’sTemple in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, various explanations of such incidents have been offered – some focusing on the psychological make-up of the leaders; others on the near approach of the new millennium. Scholars of violent new religions eventually settled on what might be called the ‘Standard Model’ of NRM violence, a model that takes into account internal factors, external factors and the dynamic polarization between these two sets of influences. Unfortunately, this model is not predictive. However, if the various factors within the standard model are reshuffled, several new factors added and the focus shifted to violent incidents involving group suicide, a modified model emergences that appears to be able to predict mass suicide in NRMs.
44. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Gustavo Morello, S.J. Christianity and Revolution: Catholicism and Guerrilla Warfare in Argentina’s Seventies
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Through an analysis of the journal Cristianismo y Revolución (Buenos Aires, 1966-1971), this paper highlights the conditions that made the link between certain Catholic groups and revolutionary movements possible during the Sixties in Argentina. The changes in Christian conscience characterized by the attempts the Catholic Church made during the twentieth century to face the Modern era, and by developing a concern for structural social problems, were the primary influences that led some Catholics to the Left. Moral concern with the poor, the success of the Cuban Revolution and the political situation in Argentina and throughout Latin America laid the foundation for revolutionary activity.
45. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Michael J. Walsh States of Exception: The Violence of Territoriality, Sacrality, and Religion in China-Tibet Relations
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The relationship between sovereign violence, constitutional language, territorial claims, and certain human rights such as the freedom of religion plays out in complex ways in China-Tibet relations with broad ramifications for other nation-states. This essay begins to explore some of these ramifications. In terms ofChinese sovereignty, Tibet is part of what China’s constitution refers to as “sacred territory” and as such is exclusively beholden to the Chinese state. To claim constitutionally that one’s sovereign territory is sacred, as in a space to be set apart precisely so as to be able to control it through a politicized inclusivity, is tantamount to the process of territorialization becoming a type of sacralization, a rendering of social and geographical space as inviolate. I argue that territorialization by the nation-state, in this case China, is in fact a form of sacralization bolstered by mythos and sovereign violence. Implicated in claims of sacrality is the language of human rights, and for the purposes of this paper, China’s constitutional claim of freedom of religion. To employ the term religion, however, is to unwittingly bind oneself to a European Protestant narrative and all the complications thereof. Both claims have deep implications for juridical constructions, the containment of populace, freedom of religion, and human rights in general.
46. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 3
Massimo Introvigne Gatekeeping and Narratives about “Cult” Violence: The McDonald’s Murder of 2014 in China
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The sociological concept of “gatekeeping,” i.e., of filtering news for several purposes, allowing only some to reach the public, is useful to explain how often only negative news about “cults” are published by mainline media. This theory is illustrated through a case study of the murder of a young woman in a McDonald’s diner in Zhaoyuan, Shandong, China in 2014. The Chinese authorities, who were pursuing a campaign of repression against The Church of Almighty God, successfully allowed only information connecting the murder with that Church to reach the international media. When Western scholars studied the documents of the case, however, they concluded that the homicide had been perpetrated by a different Chinese new religious movement. They also realized that gatekeeping had the perverse effect of focusing the attention on the alleged connection with The Church of Almighty God, leaving outside of the gate essential information that would have allowed a serious study of the small group responsible for the murder, and a comparison with other crimes committed by new religious movements.
47. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 3
Chas S. Clifton A Texas Witch On Trial
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Although Wicca, or contemporary Pagan witchcraft, is by all definitions a new religious movement, it lacks many of the characteristics the NRMs often display, such as a charismatic founder(s), millenarian prophecies, or new forms of social order. Nor have Wiccans been identified with commonly studied forms of violence with NRMs, such as mass suicides, violence against former members, or attacks on surrounding populations. In 1980, however, as Wicca was on the verge of both a growth spurt and increased media attention, Loy Stone, a leader of one organization, the Church of Wicca, was tried for murder in Texas. The victim, a fifteen-year-old girl, was one of a large group of teenagers who had been committing acts of harassment and vandalism during October 1977 at the farm inhabited by Stone, his wife, and his elderly mother, actions I would categorize as falling into the folkloric definition of “legend trips.” The Stone case makes clear the persistence of abusive stereotypes of “devil-worshipers” in America. Finally, it challenged members of the Wiccan community to decide whether the Stones should be supported or rhetorically cast out.
48. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 3
Liselotte Frisk “Spiritual Shunning”: Its Significance for the Murder in Knutby Filadelfia
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This paper argues that the practice of “spiritual shunning,” defined as deliberate isolation of one person from a religious group for alleged spiritual reasons, may have been a significant factor in a murder case which happened in Sweden in 2004 in a small religious group with a Pentecostal background. The material consists of interviews with four former members, who describe the process of spiritual shunning as it existed in the group before it started to fall apart in the autumn of 2016. The four interviewees describe the process of spiritual shunning in roughly five stages: how they began to fall out of grace; when the door to Jesus definitely closed; the process of working their way back; being back in grace; and finally having the mission to help others move back to grace again. The informants describe very clearly the desperation they felt when they faced the possibility that they would not belong to the chosen ones when Jesus would soon come back, but would instead be burning in hell. Many sources document that the perpetrator of the crime in 2004 was spiritually shunned by the core group at the time of the murder. The murder was presented to her by the pastor who was later convicted for instigating the crime, as a way to pay off her spiritual debts.
49. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Kelly Denton-Borhaug Sacrificial U.S. War-Culture: Cognitive Dissonance and the Absence of Self-Awareness
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This article explores the potent sacrificial sacred canopy that shrouds rhetoric, practices, and institutions of post-9/11 war-culture in the United States. Analyzing examples from popular culture, presidential rhetoric, and military history, especially Andrew Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, I show how the depth and breadth of sacrificial rhetoric and logic result in a highly disciplined practice of framing and decision-making about militarism and war in the United States. Sacrificial linguistic patterns profoundly ignite and transcendentalize militarization and war, even while simultaneously mitigating conscious awareness, concern, and protest.
50. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Iselin Frydenlund Buddhist Militarism Beyond Texts: The Importance of Ritual During the Sri Lankan Civil War
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This article addresses Buddhist militarism by exploring monastic-military ritual interactions during the Sri Lankan civil war, lasting from 1983 to 2009. Much has been written on the importance of Buddhism to Sinhala nationalism, the redefinition of the Buddhist monastic role in response to colonialism and the modernization process, as well as the development of a Buddhist just-war ideology. While these perspectives in various ways emphasize the importance of the Buddhist monastic order in pushing forward a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist agenda, little attention has been paid to the performative aspects of Buddhist militarism. Based on ethnographic data gathered during the Norwegian-facilitated peace talks (2000–2008), this article shows how rituals became crucial in conveying support to the state’s military efforts without compromising religious authority. By looking at Buddhist monastic ritual interaction in military institutions, this paper argues that the acceptance of the use of warfare is less anchored in systematized just-war thinking than the term “Buddhist just-war ideology” seems to suggest. Rather, through an anthropological approach to Buddhism and violence, this article shows that the term “Buddhist implicit militarism” better captures the rationale behind the broad monastic engagement with military institutions beyond minority positions of radical Buddhist militancy during a given “exception” in history. The essay concludes that monastic-military ritual interaction is a social field in which this “implicit militarism” is most clearly articulated.
51. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Ankur Barua Encountering Violence in Hindu Universes: Situating the Other on Vedic Horizons
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A study of Hindu engagements with violence which have been structured by scriptural themes reveals that violence has been regulated, enacted, resisted, negated or denied in complex ways. Disputes based on Vedic orthodoxy were channeled, in classical India, through the mythical frameworks of gods clashing with demons, and later in the medieval centuries this template was extended to the Muslim foreigners who threatened the Brahmanical socio-religious orders. In the modern period, the electoral mechanisms of colonial modernity spurred Hindu anxieties about a weakened nation which would die out in the face of Muslim solidarity, and various Hindu organizations began to increasingly draw on motifs from the Vedas, Bhagavad-gītā, and other texts to speak of a martial Hindu nation. These two moments—the articulation of the boundaries of the robust Hindu nation and the projection of the Muslim as the enemy lurking at the gates—have been integral to the shaping of Hindu cultural nationalism by several key thinkers and political activists. Thus, the forms of violence associated with Hindu universes should be placed within their dynamic socio-historical contexts where Hindus have interpreted, engaged with, and acted on a range of scriptural texts both to generate violent solidarities and to speak of peace. A study of these phenomena alongside some Christian theological attempts to legitimize, valorize or transcend violence from within scriptural horizons points to the complex conceptual terrain encompassed by the conjunction in “religion and violence.”
52. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
James Ponniah Communal Violence in India: Exploring Strategies of its Nurture and Negation in Contemporary Times
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This article, based on the fieldwork done at two places in India, namely Kandhamal in Odisha and Mangalore in Karnataka, not only investigates different forms of anti-Christian narratives produced by the Hindu extremists to legitimize and perpetuate communal violence but also draws one’s attention to the Christian response that delegitimizes such narratives and arrests its reception by the common public. The anti-Christian and anti-minority narrative of the Hindutva camp is founded upon a single meta-narrative that India is a Hindu nation. This narrative—which is constructed by the right-wing Hindu groups for the last three decades in Independent India—not only denies, by default, equal citizenship to Christians, but also portrays them as anti-national, and thus legitimizes violence against them. To this challenge, Christians in India respond by reinventing their national citizenship through political activism and socio-economic engagements to build a more mature secular Indian state, which would become less and less vulnerable to religious violence in India. The essay is divided into two parts. While the first part deals with multiple ways through which communal violence is provoked in these two states, the second part focuses on how Christians of India respond to this new reality of polarization and repression.
53. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 7 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis Monolithic Inferences: Misinterpreting AUM Shinrikyo
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In the study of religion and terrorism, one of the most familiar incidents is the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. With the execution of Shoko Asahara and his close associates in the summer of 2018, it would appear that the last chapter in this tragic tale has finally been written. I would argue, however, that there are still lessons to be learned from this event. In the present article, I describe the complexity of the epistemic situation in which I found myself when I finally met AUM Shinrikyo in the spring of 1995. In addition to misunderstandings arising from monolithic inferences regarding AUM’s membership, I came to feel that certain anomalous items of information were swept under the rug—information that hinted at a more complex array of factors influencing AUM Shinrikyo and the subway attack.
54. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 7 > Issue: 1
Per-Erik Nilsson Burka Songs 2.0: The Discourse on Islamic Terrorism and the Politics of Extremization in Sweden
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This article analyzes a minor event in the city of Gothenburg in Sweden that rose from being a local scandal to become a national mediatized political affair. It is argued that local articulations of the discourse on Islamic terrorism function as a way of regulating access to the public sphere by the politics of extremization, i.e., the performative identification of certain Muslim subjects as threats to the established order by their very presence in the public sphere. It is also argued that the polarization of political debate brought about by the mediatization of politics, coupled with the dichotomous logic of the discourse on Islamic terrorism, poses serious challenges to any sound and deliberate political debate.
55. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 7 > Issue: 1
Heather S. Gregg Understanding the “Trinamic”: A Net Assessment of ISIS
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Violent non-state actors are of particular security concern today and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This article uses a net assessment approach to analyze the threat posed by religiously motivated, violent non-state actors and how governments can better understand these threats, their popular support, and how to minimize their effects. It proposes that the goal of governments should be to “win” critical populations away from non-state actors that require their support to survive. Using ISIS as an example, the article demonstrates that a purely enemy-centric approach to countering violent non-state actors that use religion is likely to alienate critical populations whose support is necessary to defeating these threats.
56. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 3
Benjamin J. Lappenga “Formerly a Blasphemer and a Man of Violence”: First Timothy and the Othering of Jews
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In 1 Timothy 1:13, the author frames Paul’s former life in Judaism as that of a “blasphemer, persecutor, and man of violence,” but then proceeds to urge Timothy to “fight the good fight” (1:18) by following Paul’s example of turning opponents over to Satan “so that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1:20). Although this discourse is regularly perceived as promoting nonviolence, this paper traces the legacies of violence in which the passage has participated. First, it considers the letter’s first audiences, for whom the charge of blasphemy appears as one of a larger set of cultural stereotypes the author uses to bolster prejudice against the rivals. Second, it situates this discourse about blasphemy within the (false) portrayal of Paul vis-à-vis Judaism that was perpetuated during the struggles between the church and the synagogue in the early centuries of the common era. Third, the paper briefly traces the ways that Christian rhetoric against Jews as blasphemers participated in acts of violence against Jews from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. The paper concludes with a constructive critique of some readings of Pauline texts today, even those that overtly set out to understand these texts in a nonviolent manner.
57. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 3
James Petitfils Apparently Other: Appearance and Blasphemy in the Ancient Christian Martyr Texts
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In conversation with recent scholarship on Roman physiognomy, dress, and imperial prose fictions, this article traces the way in which ancient Christian martyr texts participate in broader Roman discourses of appearance and status in their construction of the Christian and the non-believing, apostate, or blaspheming other. After introducing the nexus between appearance, status, and identity in Roman society and culture more generally, this article considers the way in which these physiognomic and sartorial conventions function in two imperial prose fictions—Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe and Apuleius’s Metamorphoses—before turning to a similar consideration of two Christian martyr texts, namely, the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity and the Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons. The article contends that the martyr texts, like the imperial fictions, construct the other, in part by appealing to long-standing Roman physiognomic and sartorial expectations. The non-believers, apostates, and blasphemers are visibly conspicuous for their non-elite deportment and slave-like physical features—features which, in a Roman context, mark their bodies as legitimate objects of violence. The Christians, in contrast, showcase a posture befitting the elite (those safeguarded from licit violence), not that of slaves or low-status damnati/noxii (those condemned to violent death in the Roman arena). In so doing, these martyr texts literarily reimagine Roman social strategies of violent humiliation as celebrations of honorable Christian identity, while they simultaneously deploy characteristically Roman discursive strategies to construct a humiliated, blaspheming other.
58. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 3
Abby Kulisz Trauma Unending: Shīʿī Islam and the Experience of Trauma
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This paper explores the ways communities reexperience traumatic events. Previous studies have made important contributions by observing that communities, in contrast to individuals, often use a traumatic event to construct their identity; and trauma is not always painful but sometimes desired. To further investigate these dimensions of traumatization, I focus on the performance of mātam or self-flagellation, which is practiced by a small minority of the world’s Shīʿī Muslim population on the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ. For many Shīʿa, particularly Twelvers, Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī’s death at the battle of Karbala in 680 C.E. is a collectively traumatic event. Not only does Karbala embody a collective tragedy for Shīʿī Muslims, it defines and shapes their interpretation of history. During the practice of mātam, the mourner enacts the trauma of Karbala on one’s body, thus reliving and preserving the collective trauma.
59. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 3
Marte Nilsen, Shintaro Hara Religious Motivation In Political Struggles: The Case Of Thailand’s Patani Conflict
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The collective term “jihadist conflict” is used widely in academia, policy, and the media to describe a range of different political and religious conflicts. While all these conflicts are fought by Muslim groups who in one way or another regard their struggle as a jihad, the goals, motivation, and interpretation of jihad differ significantly from one conflict to another. The branding of movements as jihadist is driven by analysts, governments, and the media on the one hand, and by violent extremist groups with a transnational agenda on the other. While this branding is often embraced by those who pursue violent means, be they militant groups engaged in intrastate conflicts or disenfranchised individuals carrying out terrorist acts, the brand itself does not help us understand the fundamental conflict dynamics. Using the example of the Patani conflict in southern Thailand, this article illuminates how a political conflict may be misinterpreted if the religious motivation of militants is generalized rather than analyzed in its own terms.
60. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Richard Payne Lethal Fire: The Shingon Yamāntaka Abhicāra Homa
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An important element in the ritual corpus of Shingon Buddhism, a tantric tradition in Japan, is the homa (goma, 護摩). This is a votive ritual in which offerings are made into a fire, and has roots that trace to the Vedic ritual tradition. One of the five ritual functions that the homa can fulfill is destruction, abhicāra. A destructive ritual with Yamāntaka as the chief deity is one such ritual in the contemporary Shingon ritual corpus. Consideration of this ritual provides entrée into the history of destructive practices, including violent subjugation, that date from very early in the Buddhist tradition. Exploration of this theme is offered as a balancing corrective to the modern representation of Buddhism as an exception to the violent character of other religions. However, despite the history of destructive ritual practices, the contemporary homa examined in the latter part of the essay shows very few of the characteristics found historically. This indicates an ambiguity in the tradition between a historical understanding of such rituals as literally destructive of one’s enemies, and the contemporary understanding that the enemies to be destroyed are simply personifications of one’s own obscurations.