Do not mutilate; do not kill little children or old men or women; do not cut off the heads of palm trees or burn them; do not cut down the fruit trees; do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel except for food, and if you pass by the monasteries of believers who devoted themselves to worship… leave them to what they chose to do.
Abu Bakr, the First Caliph
Pan Islamism is dormant – yet we have to reckon with the possibility that the sleeper may awake if ever the cosmopolitan proletariat of the ‘Westernized’ world revolts against Western domination and cries out for anti-Western leadership … If the present situation of mankind were to precipitate a ‘race war’, Islam might be moved to play her historic role once again … Look at history in terms of civilizations, and not in terms of states, and think of states as rather subordinate and ephemeral political phenomena in the lives of the civilizations in whose bosoms they appear and disappear.
Arnold Toynbee, Civilization on Trial
It is symbolic of this all-pervading unpredictability, which we encounter the moment we enter the realm of violence, that those engaged in the perfection of the means of destruction have finally brought about a level of technical development where the aim, namely warfare, is on the point of disappearing altogether.
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence
On 12 July 2006 Hizbollah militants crossed the border into Israel and ambushed a group of Israeli soldiers; eight were killed and two were taken hostage. Israel responded by imposing an air and sea blockade of Lebanon. In the following days, hundreds of civilians, including children, were killed by air strikes; Lebanese civilian infrastructure was destroyed; and hundreds of thousands of ‘non-combatants’ were displaced. Hizbollah retaliated against Israeli targets and also killed civilians. For Israel, this attack by Hizbollah is defined as an act of aggression and the Lebanese government is held responsible; civilian casualties are regrettable but are ‘collateral damage’ – the Israeli government claims to be destroying the ‘infrastructure of terror’. In fact, Human Rights Watch (2006a) has suggested the pattern of attacks indicate deliberate targeting of civilians; the Israelis seem to regard everyone as a potential combatant. For Hizbollah, attacks on Israeli civilians are considered a way to attack the state of Israel (see Human Rights Watch 2006b). For a full month both sides were engaged in what they saw as war.
But Hizbollah is an autonomous non-state actor. It is true that many people in Lebanon recognise the militias of Hizbollah as legitimate defence forces, given the weakness of the Lebanese armed forces. It is also the case that the Lebanese government has been requested by the UN Security Council to disarm Hizbollah. But, even before the Israeli attacks, this would have been difficult to achieve except through a long drawn-out process involving the full political integration of the Shi’ia population of Lebanon, the establishment of effective security forces, and robust security guarantees from the international community in relation to Israeli military threats. Any attempt to disarm Hizbollah forcefully could lead to renewed civil war. (It was, after all, extremely difficult for the British government to disarm the IRA in Northern Ireland – how much more difficult to disarm Hizbollah?) Suppose a similar attack had been carried out by Palestinian citizens of Israel: would Israel have bombed itself? The attacks by Hizbollah were a crime, a violation of human rights, but they should not be treated as an act of aggression by a foreign state. These kinds of attack have actually been going on for several years, and there have been many deals for the exchange of prisoners and hostages, often arranged by European mediators over the years.
Those who make the case for justifying Israel’s response do so within a discourse of war, in which Hizbollah’s attacks are treated as foreign aggression. In fact, even within the discourse of war, the response can be criticised on grounds of disproportionality, although the Israelis can argue that this is a case of ‘military necessity’; indeed, international lawyers have asserted that the attacks violate the principle of proportionality in international humanitarian law (the ‘laws of war’). But no justification of Israel’s response is possible within the discourse of human rights; such attacks are completely unacceptable by the standards of human rights. And this exposes the shortcomings of the language of war in today’s world: the human rights regime (human rights law underpinned by global norms) is increasingly coming into conflict with the rules that govern what is called ‘war’. In a global era, when the lives of individual human beings are considered to have equal value whatever their nationality or religion, violent actions such as that carried out by Hizbollah should be dealt with through recourse to international law, which addresses individual responsibility for crimes, not by launching a war against a whole population.
There is a striking parallel with the arguments used to justify terror and the ‘war on terror’. The Bush administration defined the attacks of 9/11 as an act of aggression. The ‘war on terror’ is thus defined as a war of self-defence. Because terrorists do not fight by the rules, because they can attack anywhere and everywhere using every conceivable technique, because they are not swayed by deterrence, ‘the only way to deal with the terrorist network is to take the battle to them. That is in fact what we are doing. That is in effect self-defense of a preemptive nature’ (US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, quoted in Crawford 2003: 12). Moreover, because the terrorists began the war, they are responsible ‘for every single casualty’. The terrorists also justify their actions in terms of self-defence. They are defending Muslims against occupation whether in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan or Chechnya. Because they do not have access to sophisticated weapons and because they do not have the capacity to defend themselves against American, Israeli or Russian attacks, they also have to take the battle to the enemy. The technique of suicide bombing against civilian targets is the only way that this kind of pre-emptive defence can be carried out, they assert. Thus, one of the British suicide bombers, in a video recording made before 7 July 2005, described himself as a ‘soldier’.
Yet, just as the attacks by Hizbollah and by Israel make ordinary people throughout the Middle East less, not more, secure, so the terror and the ‘war on terror’ do not seem to be succeeding in defending American or Muslim citizens. On the contrary, each act of ‘pre-emptive self-defence’ provides the justification for further acts of terror. More violence is unleashed in a vicious circle, and nobody on either side seems to care about how to re-establish peace. So how can citizens in conflict areas protect themselves? Are there ever cases when the use of violence can be justified? (see Box 1.1) And in an age when a ‘clash of civilisations’ between Islam and the West is propagated, what can we learn from both Western and Islamic traditions about the complex relationship between violence, civil society and legitimacy? How relevant are these traditions in a global era?
Our central argument is that war, meaning violence between socially organised groups, normally states, has become morally unjustifiable in the context of the changes we tend to group together under the label of globalisation. These changes include the growing consciousness of humanity as a single global community, the unacceptable destructiveness of war, increased interconnectedness in all fields, the importance of human rights, both as norms and as laws, and above all, new forms of overlapping political authority, often described as global governance, that involves states, international institutions, as well as civil society and, indeed, networks of individuals. There may be cases where the use of force is justifiable to protect individuals against violent crime or human rights violations, but only within a new ethical framework that could underpin the new forms of overlapping political authority. And even in those cases it is necessary to define the limitations of the use of force, the relevant authorisation, and the acceptable justifications. Global civil society seems to us to be the main medium through which such an ethical framework can be developed and sustained.
In developing this argument, we start with some general methodological considerations and we then explore the ways in which Western and Islamic scholars have traditionally approached the issues of war and peace, violence and civility. We have focused on these traditions both because of our own backgrounds and because of the global centrality of the widely debated notion of a clash between the West and Islam. However, we are aware of the need for a fuller investigation of other traditions to develop a complex comparative approach, as well as a global overlapping consensus within global civil society on these questions. In particular, it is important to build on the Gandhian tradition of non-violence (An-Na’im 2002). In the final section, we propose ways of re-conceptualising civility in a global era, building on both Western and Islamic traditions.
Framing the debate: some methodological considerations
There are important methodological and philosophical issues at stake when thinking about the concepts of war and peace, violence and civility. These require extensive elaboration beyond what can be done in this chapter. However, we can at least outline some of the directions of thinking that might be fruitful to develop.
The first issue is the pressing need to assess the historical legacy of the monopoly of the nation state over the use of ‘legitimate’ violence. This was supposed to be a ‘civilising’ process, which would curb violence (civil war and violent crime) within the borders of the nation state. Aggressive and destructive instincts are tamed by restriction and order, and this is what ‘civilisation’ as a historical and sociological process attempted to achieve (Elias 2000; Freud 1961). But it gave rise to new forms of external violence on a scale and of a degree of cruelty that are almost too horrific to grasp – two world wars and the modern practice of genocide. If the nation state with its monopoly over ‘legitimate’ violence was capable of placing its subjects under a permanent cloud of threatened violence, from either real or invented enemies, or from its own apparatus, can we then continue to consider this monopoly ‘civilising’? Should it not instead be considered a new form of barbarity? (Keane 1996: 35–44; 1998: 124–7; Albrow 1996: 56–64; Zerzan 2005).
There is a powerful case for questioning the state’s monopoly of ‘legitimate’ violence, not so that non-state actors can use violence freely to pursue their goals, but so that the use of force by the state itself can be placed under greater constraints. The strengthening of international law and prohibitions on war during the last half century has paralleled the emergence of global civil society. The rule of law, as Arendt pointed out, depends on legitimacy, and that legitimacy is manufactured by civil society. Whereas international law was previously largely based on a balance of power between states, today a global public opinion involving citizens’ groups, global media and individuals is helping to revise the notion of legitimacy as a phenomenon restricted to the national level. Measures such as the establishment of an International Criminal Court, which hold decision makers accountable for policies that result in genocide, mass destruction of cities and their heritage, and massive casualties and death among civilians are important steps towards holding states accountable, legally as well as morally; and such measures are often the consequence of civic ideas, campaigns and pressures (Glasius 2005). In other words, the question is not only how to challenge the nation state’s monopoly of ‘legitimate’ violence, because this could increase the risk of privatised violence, but also how new agents, such as civil society entities and networks, can monitor the state’s use of this power and take over the ‘civilising’ role at this crucial moment of human history, and how they can deliberate in a democratic manner about the best strategies to achieve this goal. To put it another way, can such agents live up to the promise of ‘civilisation’, which the nation state has failed to fulfil historically?
The second issue has to do with language. The very notion of violence and the various categories used to describe violence are ambiguous. A distinction is drawn between war (legitimate) and terrorism (illegitimate). The word ‘terrorism’ is used to describe any opposition group that uses force to challenge any established authority, be it an authoritarian nation state apparatus in the Third World or forces of occupation such as the Israeli army in the Palestinian Occupied Territory or the Russian army in Chechnya. But it is not used to describe the terrifying consequences of air strikes that kill hundreds of civilians. There are, of course, many different and contradictory definitions of terrorism, and this is why it is so easy for all sides to exploit the term for rhetorical purposes (Tuman 2003: 1–29). We need to explore not only the language describing violence, but also the ways in which language itself is violent, violating and volatile in many contexts (Lecercle 1990).
The fourth issue concerns the actual context of violence. Indeed, any attempt to locate the cultural dimension in a specific context is usually dismissed as ‘justifying’ violence. But efforts to explain are not the same as justification. Much has been written about the modernist urban nature of violence in late capitalism, and this should be integrated into contemporary analyses of political violence. There is a general tendency to link poverty with extremism: poverty creates vulnerable people who may be easy recruits for terrorists. Yet this assumption overlooks the fact that a substantial number of the members of Al-Qaeda come from rich families, including Bin Laden and Al-Zawahri.
Recent literature has noted that the wars in our era are mainly conducted in cosmopolitan spaces. Martin Shaw asserts that modern warfare targets cities, and has used historical evidence to show the existence of a link between ‘urbicide’ and ‘genocide’ (Shaw 2004: 145–53). In the global cities of the North as well as the urban conglomerates overwhelming many poorer countries, rapid migration has created a new population, consisting to a significant extent of people who have fled violence and poverty in their own countries, and who remain attached to their homelands and ill at ease with the politics and society of their new habitat. The tendency for social violence in cities is compounded by the fact that scenes of violence form part of the visual sphere of urban life, whether these are represented in the media or other forms of entertainment.
Urban life has been romanticised ever since the early stages of the Enlightenment and modernity. Today, terms like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘hybrid identities’ are used to describe the global character of cities (Al-Sayyad 2001: 1–18). Yet hybridity does not necessarily mean tolerance and can contain the seeds of ethnic and religious antagonism as much as more positive, syncretic practices. Moreover, hybridity is not only about mixing cultures from different geographical spaces; it is also about mixing cultures over different time periods (Albrow 1996: 10–11). Thus, marginalised religious doctrines from earlier ages that have long been abandoned by the majority of adherents are resurrected and incorporated into contemporary conflicts. Urban informality is celebrated by many as a sphere in which ideas and values are created, and as an opportunity to design and choose individual, self-fulfilling identities. Thus urban informality allows freedom from dominant cultural norms but it can also produce violent and alienated dogmas (Al-Sayyad 2004: 7–30).
War and peace in Islamic and Western traditions.
In her classic essay ‘Reflections on Violence’, Hannah Arendt (1969) argues that power and violence are opposites. Power depends on legitimacy and all governments need legitimacy. Normally legitimacy is based on a rule of law and some sort of consent. ‘Power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert but it derives its legitimacy from the initial getting together rather than from any action that may follow.’ In other words, power derives from a sort of social contract. Even tyrants need some sort of consent, argues Arendt (1969), because they need the army and police to obey them. Reigns of terror, like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, can only succeed through permanently atomising all form of opposition (‘an outrageously pale academic word for the horror it implies’) and destroying any possible nascent form of power. ‘Violence can destroy power’, says Arendt, ‘but it is utterly incapable of creating it.’
This notion that power and violence are opposites echoes similar distinctions that are to be found in both classical Islamic thought and in the ideas of the European Enlightenment. Classical Islamic thought distinguished between the realm of Islam dar al-Islam and the realm of war dar al-harb. The realm of Islam was a community characterised by a political authority, whose authority derived from the rule of law Shari’a and a social contract Bay’a. Islam was a system of values contained in the Qu’ran and the Hadith (the sayings and practises of Prophet Mohammed) and interpreted by scholars Ulama. It was based on a notion of human reason, later taken up in Enlightenment thought, which was derived from individual knowledge or awareness of God’s will that is imprinted on human consciousness. Within the realm of Islam, the use of force was condemned because violence causes instability, challenges the legacy of the elected authority and results in chaos and civil war (Bagh’ii, Fitnah). The towering Shafi’i jurist, Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi (d. 450/1058), includes among the definitions of the realm of Islam (dar al-Islam) not only legal conditions but also human and socio-political security dimensions; thus he defined the realm of Islam as any land in which a Muslim enjoys security and is able to protect himself, even if he is unable to promote the religion (Jackson 2002: 37). This is one of the definitions used by contemporary scholars to explain why Muslims in the West should be loyal to the nation states in which they live, even if those countries are not Muslim majority countries. The realm of war referred to an arena of irrationality and ignorance where there was no single political authority, and tribal conflict was endemic; and it was vis-à-vis foreign political enemies that war was permitted under certain circumstances.
This distinction between the realm of Islam and the realm of war was paralleled by the distinction between civil society and the state of nature in Enlightenment thought. Civil society, like the realm of Islam, was a political community with a single political authority, based on a rule of law and a social contract. Indeed, the Arabic term for civil society, Almujtamaa Almadani, derives both from the word for city and from Medina, the city where Mohammed first established his Islamic society/city state. The state of nature was an arena without any political authority, where man was more or less prone to violence, depending on the assumptions about human nature of different Enlightenment thinkers. For a pessimist like Hobbes, it was ‘war of all against all’ but for Locke violence arose when there was no way of arbitrating differences of interpretation of the law of nature (understood as God’s will imprinted on human consciousness).
It is sometimes argued that civil society is different from this concept of Islamic society because it is a secular notion that can apply to all human beings. But Islam was also a universal creed that claimed global relevance to any human community; hence we find the Qu’ran addressing ‘mankind’ in many verses with ideas related to human nature and principles calling for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and coexistence. In practice, however, both were bounded concepts. Civil society was bounded by territory and Islamic society was bounded by belief and by territory, even if it adopted some measures of religious pluralism. Within these communities, there was a presumption of non-violence, a notion of peace with justice, and this was contrasted with the external world of violence. In both systems of thought, war against the external world was generally justified, although there were thinkers with different ideas, as discussed below.
For Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth century historian, the only legitimate wars were Jihad and wars to suppress internal rebellions. The word Jihad is often referred to as the Islamic doctrine of holy war, yet in the Qur’an it is used to describe the struggle for the ultimate virtues of Islam, in the sense of testimony, as in Christian ethics; and the word used to describe military affairs is Qital, which was governed by strict laws of war. Thus, Jihad is not necessarily a violent act; on the contrary it is first and foremost a peaceful endeavour and struggle. Indeed, Jihad was not understood by the majority of scholars as a military term, and there were very few voices that made the case for war against an enemy for the mere reason of their disbelief (Kufr). The majority, including prominent scholars and established Ulama over centuries, such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Muhammad Al-Hassan Al-Shaybani, Imam Al-Awzaii, Muhammad Ibn Rushd, Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyin Al-Jawziyyah, made judicial rulings against going to war in order to bring about the conversion of non-Muslims (Kalin 2005: 345).
In the Islamic tradition, by contrast, binding regulations applied to wars between Muslims.
If Muslims fight one another, the fugitive and the wounded may not be dispatched. Muslim prisoners may not be executed and women may not be intentionally killed or imprisoned. Imprisoned male Muslims must be released once the fighting, or the danger of continued fighting, ends. Furthermore, the property of Muslims may not be taken as spoils, and any property taken must be returned after the cessation of fighting. Even more, means of mass destruction such as mangonels, flame throwers or flooding may not be used unless absolutely necessary.
(Al-Fadl 1999: 144–5)
These rules applied only if the rebels were considered to have a plausible reason for fighting based on a valid interpretation of the Islamic sources (Ta’wil). Thus, tribal reasons or greed were not plausible. The rebels also had to be sufficiently powerful (Shawka).
As the jurists put it, without the requirement of Shawka, anarchy and lawlessness will spread…They contend that without the requirement of Shawka, every corrupt person will invent or fabricate a Ta’wil and claim to be a Baghii (a legitimate rebel). (Al-Fadl 1999: 148)
Hence, these established rules determined under what conditions the rebels could be considered as a party with whom one could negotiate and reach settlement.
Both the Bush administration and the global jihadists have distorted the injunctions contained in these traditions and indeed reduced them to cosmetic justifications. The ‘war on terror’ is supposed to be a just war. It is justified as a defensive war and, according to Rumsfeld, ‘we are doing everything humanly possible to try to avoid collateral damage’ (Crawford 2003: 13). If we take the just war tradition as the starting point, the ‘war on terror’ fails, on the criteria both of the treatment of prisoners and of proportionality. On the one hand, the administration implies that the word ‘war’ is justified because Al-Qaeda can be treated as an enemy akin to a state. On the other hand, any suspected terrorist is treated like Luther’s peasants with neither the protection of the laws of war nor that of criminal justice. Civilian casualties caused by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if the United States has acted discriminately according to the standards of war, now far exceed the numbers killed in terrorist attacks, with little prospect of victory in sight. But one of the problems of the just war tradition is that it is always possible to argue that military necessity overrides in bello constraints.
Contemporary jihadists also have a very reductionist view of what Jihad means. For them, Jihad is a war for the extension of Muslim identity, with no restrictions or red lines like those observed by early Muslims (cutting people’s throats in front of cameras is clearly un-Islamic for any lay Muslim), whereas for classical thinkers it had much more to do with the values and political system associated with the acceptance of Islam, the ideas rather than the identity of Muslims. Indeed, there is no such thing as a holy war in Islam, because no war is holy, and nothing is more sacred than human life. Likewise, the concept and function of the realm of Islam–realm of war dichotomy, which is mentioned frequently as established doctrine upon which the legacy of war against the opposite abode was legitimate, has been grossly exaggerated and often misrepresented. The notion of Jahilyya, which characterises the pre-Islamic society (realm of war), refers in classical Islam to the ignorant and uncivilised conduct of those who do not know or understand the values of Islam, and who are prone to fighting among themselves and violating the rules of war set later by Muslims. One can even say that it refers to a non-civilised society, on the assumption that Islam laid the basis of a new civility. Just like everyone else, they are born with knowledge of God’s will but have not yet learned how to recognise and use that knowledge. As pointed out above, Jahilyya strongly resembled the Enlightenment notion of the state of nature.
Fundamentalists use the term Jalilyya to describe modern Muslim societies, accusing them of not abiding by Islam; they call for a ‘return to Islam’, but what they mean is an Islam that they have reconstructed to a great extent against many of the civilised notions of early Islamic thought and practice. Moreover, the jihadists argue that each individual has the right to judge what is legitimate and that methods are also justified by necessity.
Such stretching of terms to the extent that they lose their meaning is unacceptable in Islamic jurisprudence, which has developed a very complex and sophisticated glossary, which is subject to strict regulation and management in actual political lifer (Kazemi 2004: 121–39). Even the word Shahid, used to describe a martyr, originally meant in the Koranic language ‘upholding testimony’ in the religious spiritual sense, and this is synonymous with the original meaning of Jihad.
The question that arises is how these concepts came to be distorted by militant Islamic groups in total contradiction to the long-established and authentic traditions of Islamic jurisprudence (Lumbard 2004). This is not just a matter of theology. The Islamic heritage includes not only the religious sciences, as some scholars have rightly observed, but a wealth of rational sciences that are not considered as opposites or mutually exclusive (Nasr 1999: 217–41; 2002: 235–84). Likewise, we also need to ask how the language of the ‘war on terror’ has instrumentalised both Christian and secular traditions of ethical thought about war and peace.
To what extent then can we recover notions of peace and civility that were developed within those traditions? Can we learn from these traditions and use their arguments to criticise the ‘war on terror’ and terror? Or does the distortion of these traditions reflect a new reality – the difficulty of applying these traditions in a global era? And if terrorism in Islamic jurisprudence is defined as ‘publicly directed violence against which the reasonable citizen, Muslim or non-Muslim, is unable to take safe-keeping measures’ (Jackson 2001: 227–51), how is it possible in the case of the modern use of weapons in a nuclear age to differentiate between war and terrorism? And if it is impossible to make the distinction, how can a jurisprudence of disarmament and non-proliferation be developed to save high Islamic virtues and humanity?
Recovering the concepts of peace and civility
The term ‘civil society’ seems to have lost the civilising connotations of ancient and Enlightenment meanings. It tends to be defined as a ‘third sector’, between the market and the state, and is often subsumed into emerging globalising concepts like ‘governance’. Increasingly, it is being judged by criteria of efficiency and competitiveness that match the measures of success in business. And it is often considered desirable to bring civil society into partnership with the state, although it is not clear whether this will help to ‘civilise’ the state, or whether civil society will be co-opted by governmental policies and decisions that are far from being ‘civilised’.
An exploration of the classical Islamic logic of civility might contribute to developing a more critical assessment of globalisation, help to foster civility in its original meaning and to curb violence. In Islam, violence and civility, or war and peace, are human social phenomena that are bound by time and context, and are both envisioned as part of the development of human history, though peace is seen as a virtue and a goal. War and the resort to violence are seen as an evil but, because they are expected to occur, pre-emptive measures should be taken to manage and minimise them, with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement. This is a major logic running through many aspects of the Sharia’a, whether ruling over personal disagreements within the family or violence erupting within the community and even in times of military conflict.
This thinking has many parallels with the ideas of civil society developed by Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Ferguson, as well as later thinkers such as Hegel. They understood civil society as a realm of conflict characterised, according to Hegel (1820/1942: 182A), by ‘waves of every passion . . . regulated only by reason glinting through’. They stressed the importance of a constitutional framework for managing conflicts, of the free use of public reason by autonomous groups and individuals, and of intermediate organisations that could channel grievances and voice criticism.
Yet Western notions of civil society applied only within the framework of the Western nation state. External policies ruthlessly turned away from notions of civility and indeed, as both Rousseau and Kant pointed out, constrained the development of civility at home. Moreover, the spread of colonialism and the rise of nation states according to the Western model subjected many of the structures of classical Islam to the straitjacket of colonial, or newly created, national authorities. Later, during the second half of the twentieth century, under the slogans of secularism adopted by despotic regimes, especially in the Middle East, the structures of classical Islam were further deconstructed or put directly under the control of the state.
While in some religious traditions the notion of peace seems to imply passivity, patience and the bearing of suffering, Islam introduces a notion of peace that advocates a moral responsibility to act dynamically against the menace of evil and destruction. Here, spiritual Jihad comes to the forefront as an individual and collective endeavour to protect and safeguard justice (‘Adl), which is the ultimate goal of Sharia’a and its core values (Hanafi 2002: 56–71; Kalin 2005: 327–33). Again, there is a close parallel with Enlightenment thinkers such as Adam Ferguson, who stressed the importance of active citizenship. Muslim scholars and philosophers, such as Al-Farabi who can be compared to Kant in his search for a notion of universal peace, imagined a global notion of humanity and civility. Today, contemporary Muslim thinkers are trying to develop ideas on civility – how to transform the concept of Umma in a global age, and to determine whether it can become a progressive inclusive concept with a wide and pluralistic semantic field and democratic context. These ongoing intellectual struggles could be important contributions to the attempt to build – from below – a sociology of globalisation (Mandaville 2001: 30–8). This might be the only way to avoid a clash of ignorance as described by Edward Said’s response to Huntington, the former being a text that is far less famous than the latter (Said 2001).
These efforts are linked to the sociological critique of modernity. The writings of Bauman (1991) and Taylor (1991) actually resonate with the ideas of Muslim scholars and intellectuals who criticize the social malaise of modernity and the atomistic nature of modern ‘togetherness’. The ‘urbanized lonely crowd’ is characterised by apathy, and an unwillingness or inability to bear the moral responsibility of political decisions; it is easier to go along with authority, even if it leads to violent conflict, than to express dissent or act as a moral agent in challenging the nation state. If the outcome is the ‘end of public man’, then civility itself is at risk. Globalisation can be regarded as an extension of modernity, ever increasing the scale and anonymity of global cities, speeding up the loss of identity, allowing people’s lives to be shaped by market forces, and stretching the distance between the citizen and political authority. But at the same time, by challenging the autonomy of the nation state, generating new overlapping forms of authority (global, national, local) and shifting the balance between the market and the state, globalisation offers new spaces for recovering civility. If global civil society is to play a role in combating violence and fostering civility, it has to be through revitalising public man and woman, through restoring social networks and implementing survival strategies that would allow people to claim moral responsibility and challenge the uncontested monopoly of the nation state over the relations of power, the definition of order and the use of ‘legitimate’ violence.
Any effort to restore the notion of civility necessitates also an understanding of death in its relation to the obligation of citizens, and modernist thinking in a time of terror (Castells 1999). Using the body as a bomb and aspiring to a better life in the hereafter is not only a simple violent act, or a notorious attitude, but the wrong answer to very real questions of alienation, disempowerment and state terrorism. Apart from condemning the killing of civilians, the phenomenon of suicide bombings needs to be understood in its modernist political context rather than a religious context. There is something akin to panic when Muslim religious scholars try to rule on an issue like suicide bombings. They can easily end up legitimising a violent concept of Jihad if they condone such acts of desperate civilian disempowerment against the brutal military arsenal of occupying forces, as in the Palestine case. But, even more importantly, they are caught up in an imagined concept of war that dates back to a society where it was possible to preserve civility while justifying war. In a modern war situation, weapons of mass destruction leave no room to abide by the moral rules that applied during the period of classical Islam, as Arendt pointed out in the quotation at the beginning of this chapter. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, talked about preserving and protecting the seeds of civility even in time of military confrontation; the idea that these seeds can be replanted in times of peace so that human societies, as well as their natural environment, can prosper again is no longer realistic. Consider, for example, the consequences of the physical destruction of Lebanon for Lebanese society.
Perhaps we should then reflect not only on terror and the ‘state of war’ but also on the ‘war of the state’ – namely, the nation state as a source of terror. With its scientific achievements applied to military industries, modernity led to total wars in which the distinction between violence and civility, soldiers and civilians, was increasingly obliterated. The ‘new wars’, including terror and the ‘war on terror’, are conducted by networks of state and non-state actors, and the main victims are civilians (Kaldor 1999). These new forms of violence developed as a way round massive concentrations of conventional military force. Because battles, that is, direct confrontations, even those between ‘asymmetric’ forces like the Israeli state and Hizbollah, or the US armed forces and Iraqi insurgent groups, have become so destructive, and the value placed on individual soldiers’ lives so high that they are rarely risked, warring parties fight either by directly attacking unarmed civilians or by attacking at long distance through terroristic air strikes, which inevitably cause civilian casualties.
It is surely useful to draw on religious classical jurisprudence to understand how it was used or abused by terrorist groups and by the ‘war of the state’, and ask both religious and secular scholars to introduce progressive and civic visions of their respective traditions. In the Islamic context, it is important to grasp the conflict between the authority of the state and the authority of religious scholars, who have no independence in the secular modern state to condemn its terror policies and criticise its wars. Because they no longer enjoy autonomy from the state, they have lost the credibility that could have allowed them to challenge the claim of religious authority by the terrorists, who developed a discourse drawing on religious texts and distorting their meaning to legitimise their political ends (Lumbard 2004: xi–xv).
The late orientalist Joseph Schacht referred to Islamic law as an extreme case of ‘jurists’ law’. Islamic law was neither the creation nor the preserve of the early Muslim state. Rather, it developed to a large extent in conscious opposition to the latter. The introduction of Western political, legal and educational structures would bring about important and far-reaching changes, including granting the state a monopoly over the enactment and interpretation of law, a development that marginalised the traditional role of the religious jurists, and profoundly influenced the content of law in all areas except family law. Not only has modern history displaced the sources and substance of Islamic law, but the religious clerics, heirs of the classical tradition, have also forfeited their monopoly over the interpretation of Islamic law. This is partly a result of the attempt by modern Muslim states to marginalise the traditional Ulama (Jackson 2001).
Thus the dilemma is that Muslim scholars are facing in an era of globalisation the task of ‘de-terrorisation’ (facing militant groups) and ‘de-totalitarianisation’ (facing authoritarian regimes), while struggling with the consequences of ‘de-territorialisation’ of their faith communities that are no longer confined in political boundaries. Moreover, in an age of rising unilateralism and global hegemony, the propaganda of fear and nightmares under the banner of war against terrorism or war against the ‘war on terror’ overwhelms their tasks. And the dilemma for Western scholars lies in the fact that concepts of a territorially bounded civil society are no longer relevant. On the one hand, globalisation has brought about what Ulrich Beck calls the debounding of risk (Beck 1992). On the other hand, it has brought about a greater consciousness of genocide and human rights violations in distant places. And this greater consciousness is expressed in the growing importance of human rights and humanitarian law. Thus Western thinkers share with their Muslim colleagues the task of de-territorisation and de-totalitarianisation, including the need to address the security measures that curb civil liberties in democratic Western countries, while at the same time they also have to foster a global concept of civility that can help to underpin new non-state layers of authority and international legal frameworks.
On pre-emptive civility: the might of the word
Islamic and Western traditions both celebrate the might of the word. In Islam the locus of the belief system is the revealed word of Allah (the Qur’an), in a faith that believes in the transcendental nature of the divine. In Christianity, too, the word is central and, even if the ‘the word became flesh’ because the divine is embodied in the human body of Jesus, the word remains the origin and the beginning. The Western tradition of the Enlightenment further fostered the epistemological centrality of reason, and language was the expression of wisdom, hence philosophy as manifestation of human reason vis-à-vis the dominance of divine reason based on faith was the promised alternative to theology.
It is interesting to see how the word started losing its significance and importance with unfolding modernity (to late capitalism) due to the ascendance of both the body and the authority of science (Segel 1998). One reason, it can be argued, is the emergence of the visual, and the rising culture of television and computers, which give different forms of power precedence over the might of the word. War is a manifestation of silencing dialogue, and the sword is usually used when words lose significance in times of conflict. There is a pressing need to take the ‘s’ away from the sword and hail the power of the word in shaping the wor(l)d.
If global civil society is to have a mission at this historical moment of humanity it would be to recapture the power of language and to regain its ‘civilising’ role, providing a forum for deliberative democracy, re-rooting legitimacy in civil society and highlighting the importance of the politics of presence, not merely representation. The fact that after 9/11, and in the midst of the launch of the war on terrorism, dialogues took place across boundaries, and scholars from the American and the Muslim sides (neo-conservatives and Saudi intellectuals) exchanged statements, even if they were confrontational rather than conciliatory, contributes to the expression of conflicts through words rather than bombs. Intellectuals in Germany and France issued statements against the war in Iraq in which they defended and clarified the concept of Jihad and just war in Islam, and detached it from terrorist acts. There were also many micro and macro inter-cultural and inter-faith debates that emerged and developed rapidly (Blankenhorn et al. 2005; Boase 2005). This circle of global civil society activities was often overlooked because anti-war demonstrations and other marches and campaigns attracted more attention, again due to their visual or even screen-cyber ‘spectacular’ nature.
The fact that individuals in their small circles and in web-chat rooms, and on the screens of local televisions, expressed messages of peace and asserted their values of civility against war and terror (or ‘the war on terror’) counts a great deal and should be celebrated, cherished and documented. This is the civil alternative to fear that can provide ‘preventive democracy’ with the needed energy to survive (Barber 2003: 218–32).
One can also find evidence that in many religious traditions scholars and ordinary citizens are struggling with their understanding of their faith and their world. Muslim scholars have emphasised clearly that any use of weapons of mass destruction would annul the moral commandments of war and the restrictions on killing civilians (IslamOnline.net URL ). They have been more confused about ownership of weapons of mass destruction, arguing that such weapons can be owned for deterrence purposes, although not for use. In the Jewish community, debates on the nature of the Jewish state and the democratic limitations of such an idea are conducted on the theoretical level (Walzer et al. 2000: 463–23). At the political level many Jews have started to question the logic of the use of military power by the Israeli army in the Palestinian Occupied Territory: ‘Jews for Justice for Palestine’ in Britain was among the first group to issue a statement against the massive Israeli military operations against Lebanon taking place in July and August 2006 (Jews for Justice for Palestinians URL). Israeli peace activists and revisionist Israeli voices condemned the deliberate Israeli attacks on civilians (Ynetnews URL) Indeed, many critical voices could be heard throughout the world especially in the West; a ceasefire petition addressed to the United Nations Security Council collected some 200,000 signatures, while many peace organisations and prominent individuals organised demonstrations and other activities. Can these campaigns provide the basis for a global peace movement that encompasses both those who aim to civilise religion and secular ideologies?
One reason for such serious efforts to piece together the puzzle to form a new image is that the old picture seems to have little relevance to the reality of war in our age. In a global world, with the increasing mobility of individuals and groups across the globe, the notion of a territory where an Umma is based and confined to political boundaries, is inconceivable. Whether we talk about the Christian, Muslim or Jewish Umma, or a secular civil society, the imaginary of a community of believers (or fellow citizens according to modern nationalism) is dramatically changing. Whether a nation or a community of believers can still claim monopoly over space (and time), and disregard all forms of diversity within its realm (including for example, a Jewish state in a form of ‘ethnocracy’, or an Islamic state uniting Muslims within a frame of dar-al-Islam) is very doubtful.
This has profound implications for the legitimacy of violence. The outside has become the inside. Dar al-Harb no longer exists. There is no external realm of war. Hence the rules of war no longer apply, only the much more stringent rules that traditionally applied to domestic violence. Here, classical Islam has more to teach us than the just war tradition. Since the whole world is a community, everyone is, in effect, a Muslim. Thus the way force is used against dissenters is subject to severe limitations – the limitations that apply to policing in the Western tradition. In a single community, there is no such thing as foreign aggression – violent attacks are crimes or human rights violations. Force is legitimate, under domestic law, in self-defence or to save a third party. But this refers to direct defence, not the kind of ‘pre-emptive’ or long-distance defence claimed both for air strikes and suicide bombers. Killing of both combatants and non-combatants is wrong. Those who commit violent acts should be arrested and judged in a legal framework. Killing of non-combatants is wrong whether deliberate, as in the case of suicide bombing, or accidental, as the Americans, Israelis and Russians claim.
In general, it is the job of domestic law enforcement to uphold these rules. But even if we live in a global community, there remain separate legal jurisdictions. So what does this argument imply for territories that are occupied or where the state is repressive and acts unlawfully? One answer is that international institutions have a role to play and that, in cases of genocide or other crimes against humanity, there could be a case for an international use of force, if authorised by the United Nations or justifiable in an international court of law, within very strict limitations about how that use of force is exercised – that is, that it must be defensive and minimise all loss of life; long-distance bombing to stop genocide, for example, is unacceptable. The adoption of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine by the United Nations is a step in this direction but the implementation of this responsibility has not yet been specified.
The other answer has to do with domestic resistance. In principle, the argument we have put forward suggests that there may be cases where force can be used in purely defensive ways to save lives – this could count as an acceptable Ta’wil. In practice, however, the use of force is almost always counter-productive. Even the most extreme occupiers or repressors need legitimacy, as Arendt pointed out. Hence the most effective way to oppose occupation and repression is to withdraw legitimacy and construct a parallel legitimacy within the framework of global civil society. Creating civil spaces and safe havens even in the midst of war and occupation is a much more powerful form of resistance than violence. Indeed, the resort to violence and terrorist acts can be in part explained by the failure of networks of scholars and activists to foster a culture of peace and justice, which has allowed nation states to get away with murder and even genocide, by obscuring these crimes within the discourse of war.
One of the most recent attempts to form a global network of citizens against terror aims to encourage the silent majority of people around the world to speak up, overcome their fear and organise their efforts (Citizens Against Terror URL). More networks on many levels, in different regions and by as many different people as possible are the only guarantee of universal peace, a goal to which both religious traditions and the Enlightenment’s great philosophers aspired.
If the postmodern age is described as the age of the end of tradition, where the tradition of endings has become the fashion in intellectual discourses, global civil society can only strive to prevent one of those endings being…the end of civility.
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