It’s All About Us

A heart and The deadly attacks in Paris last Friday have generated sincere expressions of shock, solidarity, mourning, and anger from around the world, yet that response also generated critical hashtags such as #selectivemourning. As many have discussed in social media and articles, bombings in Beirut the previous evening received only limited coverage in the US media and few mentions on social media. We can blame the media, but that is a little simplistic, as the media not only directs our interests but also reflects them. If sufficient numbers in the audience clamored for more information about the attacks in Beirut or previous attacks on civilians over the past twelve months in Nigeria, Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, perpetrated by a range of forces, then the media coverage would increase. In fact, most who have pointed out the imbalance in the coverage are only doing so in the light of the Paris attacks. Few changed their Facebook profile photos for solidarity with Lebanon, despite it appearing in the news. Continue reading “It’s All About Us”

Is Your Group Oppressed?

Ten Commandments in Austin State Capitol“A war against Christianity,” a friend on Facebook asserted, as he pointed to examples in the United States and around the world. The shooting at Umpqua Community College recently and the various occasions when ISIS has executed people identified as Christians provided prime examples. Others making similar claims point to shifts in US policy, including the removal of the Ten Commandments from schools and courthouses, restrictions on official prayer at public schools, and movements to remove “God” from the Pledge and US money. Continue reading “Is Your Group Oppressed?”

Who Supports Al-Qaeda and ISIS?

An explosion in the middle of a populated areaLet’s start with Ben Carson, Republican candidate for President of the United States. After his statements on Sunday saying that he would not support a Muslim as President of the United States and that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the US Constitution, his further explanations have compounded the problem. According to a Politico article, Carson reportedly clarified that someone with a Muslim heritage could win his support if that person is “willing to reject the tenets [of Islam] and accept the way of life that we have and clearly will swear to place the Constitution above their religion.” In case his meaning is not perfectly clear, he continued, “Then, of course, they will be considered infidels and heretics.” His campaign manager similarly clarified that there was no problem with someone who followed “Islam-lite.” Continue reading “Who Supports Al-Qaeda and ISIS?”

Move Along Folks, Nothing to Explain Here

A black and white photo of two men in navy uniformThe fear over what is now regularly termed Islamic radicalization is much in the news these days, what with so-called Jihadi John‘s identity being determined and yet more stories appearing in the news concerning young people apparently leaving North America or Europe to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS’s fight against what I guess we might as well just call the West.

So the problem that we’re all preoccupied with is trying to understand why anyone would willingly wish to join such groups — there must be an explanation to account for it.

What kind of person would do such a thing? Continue reading “Move Along Folks, Nothing to Explain Here”

When the Sledgehammers Come Out

Statue on a wall of a man and a horseI keep seeing laments online for what the members of the Islamic State are doing in museums — laments that easily slide into virulent critiques of their humanity since they obviously have no civilized respect for our collective human past.

I’ve written about this before, but what I wish to highlight here is how quickly otherwise nuanced people forget their own understanding of such things as the ideology of the museum, the politics of world history and discourse on civilization/barbarity, as well as the constructed nature of the past — quickly, that is, when their own taken-for-granted narratives of progressive development, value, cultural authority, and historical interconnection/lineage are called into question by those who, presumably, subscribe to a rather different narrative. Continue reading “When the Sledgehammers Come Out”

Speaking Strategically About Religion

A large chess set outdoorsOver the last week, many have written about the labeling of ISIS as religious or not, as Islamic or not, both in response to last week’s summit on violent extremism and the recent Atlantic article on ISIS. Defending his administration’s refusal to label ISIS/ISIL as Islamic radicalism or extremism or a religious terrorist group, Obama asserted that he wanted to avoid connecting Islam with groups such as ISIS for strategic reasons, because he does not want to reinforce their self-descriptions that frame the conflict as religious and their ideology as true Islam. Rather than rehashing arguments about ISIS, the question that interests me is the role of strategic notions embedded in all discussions employing labels (really any words) to describe oneself or some other. In many respects, any description reflects particular moves in the chess game that is human society. Continue reading “Speaking Strategically About Religion”

Whose (and Who) Rules?

an article titled Gains in Iraq, over the past several weeks, made by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have resulted in some news stories concerning their desecration and/or destruction of a variety of historic artifacts (click the above graphic for one example or here or even here and here for the latest). These stories bring to mind the outrage in the media in Europe and North America over the Taliban destroying the large statues of the Buddha carved into the mountains of the Bamiyan province of central Afghanistan, back in March of 2001 (see the below before/after photo, or click the image below for more information).

Bamiyan before and after Continue reading “Whose (and Who) Rules?”