Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal

Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal

Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal

Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal

Synopsis

This book places the current wave of religion-based terrorism in a historical perspective, explaining why religion is associated with terrorism, comparing religion-based terrorism to other forms of terrorism, and documenting how religion-based terrorism is a product of powerful political, socioeconomic, and psychological forces.

Excerpt

I have maintained a scholarly interest in religion for more than 25 years. I was first intrigued and frightened by religious Jewish settlers in the West Bank when I spent a year in Israel in 1984–1985 after I graduated college. Being Jewish, I wondered how individuals who shared my religious heritage could view the world in a way that was diametrically opposed to how I did. Consequently, I decided that I wanted to study the politics of Jewish extremism when I entered graduate school at the University of Texas in 1988. My MA thesis supervisor, Dr. Clement Henry, wisely suggested that I compare Israel’s Jewish extremists with Egypt’s Islamic extremists, which stimulated my interest in Islam. While writing my thesis, I discovered that there were profound theological similarities between Islam and Judaism and that Jewish and Islamic extremists had similar worldviews. However, I concluded that it was Israel and Egypt’s very divergent political systems that had the greatest influence on shaping religious extremism in their respective countries.

My doctoral dissertation at Binghamton University examined the empirical relationship between Islam and democracy using comparative case studies and quantitative analysis. There, I concluded that, contrary to common perception, the lack of democracy in the Islamic world was not due to the Islamic religion but rather socioeconomic factors and the historical experiences of Islamic countries. Further research examining the relationship between Islam and human rights and civil liberties produced the same findings. Consequently, I concluded that Islam was not a regressive political force, as was commonly believed to be the case. The campaigns for democracy in the . . .

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