Slumber Cells - Roosters Crowing
In the raucous aftermath of Benedict XVI's speech at Regensburg and subsequent visit to Turkey -- not to mention too vociferously the British foiling of terrorist plots -- it certainly is no time to fall into a fitful sleep regarding the world of Islam, Christianity and what the Pope considers a primary foe, relativistic secularism.
A host of commentators try to mesh what we are coming to know about all three collective actors on the world stage. For example, Uriya Shavit asks, Why have Latin American republics, Japan and Germany, former Soviet bloc lands, and tigers of Asia chosen democracy -- why not the Arabs? He does so almost without a single reference to the importance of religion, which from the point of view of mimetic theory, is a naive example of chasing the wrong rabbit into the brier patch of secularist and fruitless social science.
On the other hand, Rolf Potts makes some extraordinary connections all the way back to a Islamic commentator on the Koran -- the right direction to inquire -- who received a bad haircut in Greeley, Colorado in 1949 (!) and traces events and thought processes all the way to the events of 9/11/01 here.
Using the template of the mimetic theory of René Girard, however, a derivative of the spirit at work in the biblical narrative -- is that too great a leap? Take my word for it. -- it is essential to see the invariable likelihood of violence as a group phenomenon, even if only one or two -- or 19 with box cutters -- carry it out.
The increasing volatility, violence and sheer volume of Wahhabi / "radical Islamist" behavior is NOT an indicator of a new storm surge of Islam world-wide. First of all, nearly all will say that Islam is not monolithic -- indeed, it couldn't come to an adequate agreement on the hierarchy of a caliphate (leaving off talk of funding, accountability and other matters of statecraft) if the world or the entire fate of Islam depended on it.
Secondly, mimetic theory via the exposition of the New Testament's explication of the satanic (the "Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism" of Hamerton-Kelly) gives an instrument to understand the violent portions of Wahhab, etc. It is this: the extreme self-righteousness with concomitant license to administer corporal violence is quite simply the sacred. When a practitioner feels "pushed" by encroachments of the pagan (the secular West) or a radically oppositional alternative (the Gospel in all its hydra-headed forms from its purest, the Catholic truth, to its basest, a journalist digging around mass graves), such a practitioner experiences the sacred's permission to use violence.
Dawn Perlmutter's work at The Institute for the Research of Organized & Ritual Violence is the best at applying this insight (though not so thematized).
What we are seeing is evidence of tumult -- social and psychological -- within Islam, yes, but not just within that religion.
The similarity between the American phenomenon of the Ku Klux Klan's righteousness and ease of slipping into the sacrificial is a local expression of the same sacrificial crisis we see nearly world wide.
The problem is not Islamic "sleeper cells," conscious or unconcious, in the midst of declining Western societies (if you want to use nation-state delineations, fine). The problem is a failure to live up to the only -- yes, the only -- alternative to the sacred ever visited upon this planet: the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount.
All of us are in "sleeper cells." The only question is, will we be awakened to the nightmare of violence and the sacred, or to the crowing of the rooster of the Gospel?
All of us are asleep in a Trojan horse. Conversion, as our friend Aramis reminds us, is the only answer.