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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 1, Issue 2, 2013

Special Issue on René Girard's Mimetic Theory

Wolfgang Palaver
Pages 192-215

Terrorism versus Non-Violent Resistance

The following article starts with the horror and terror that have been caused be recent terrorist attacks like the mass murder of 9/11 or the Norway massacre from 2011. From a Western perspective suicide terrorism is especially terrifying. In a first part of his article Palaver tries to show that suicide terrorism, despite our first reaction to it, is a rational phenomenon that has to be understood precisely in order to respond to this challenge properly. Drawing on the work of Louise Richardson and other experts on terrorism he shows that traditional forms of military sacrifices that have forced people to die for their country is much closer to suicide terrorism than we think at first sight. By using René Girard’s mimetic theory, Palaver’s second part focuses on the complex relationship between religion and violence. He especially emphasizes the danger that follows the Abrahamic overcoming of the scapegoat mechanism – the Abrahamic revolution parting from the world of human sacrifice – if the solidarity with the victims is disconnected from forgiveness. In the third part Palaver turns to an alternative model of how we can respond to injustice and oppression by emphasizing a still often overlooked legacy of the Abrahamic tradition that avoids the dangers that characterize contemporary terrorism. From this perspective, non-violence, forgiveness, and the love of enemies become important criteria for martyrdom and resistance.

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