Cover image for Holy terrors : thinking about religion after September 11
Holy terrors : thinking about religion after September 11
Lincoln, Bruce.
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Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 142 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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BL65.T47 L56 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is tempting to regard their perpetrators as evil incarnate. But their motives, as Bruce Lincoln shows in this timely offering, were profoundly and intensely religious. What we need, then, after September 11 is greater clarity about what we take religion to be. With rigor and incisiveness, Holy Terrors examines the implications of September 11 for our understanding of religion and how it interrelates with politics and culture.

Lincoln begins with a gripping dissection of the instruction manual given to each of the hijackers. In their evocation of passages from the Quran, we learn how the terrorists justified acts of destruction and mass murder "in the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate." Lincoln then offers a provocative comparison of President Bush's October 7 speech announcing U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden's videotape released hours later. Each speech, he argues, betrays telling contradictions. Bin Laden, for instance, conceded implicitly that Islam is not unitary, as his religious rhetoric would have it, but is torn by deep political divisions. And Bush, steering clear of religious rhetoric for the sake of political unity, still reassured his constituents through coded allusions that American policy is firmly rooted in faith.

Lincoln ultimately broadens his discussion further to consider the role of religion since September 11 and how it came to be involved with such fervent acts of political revolt. In the postcolonial world, he argues, religion is widely considered the most viable and effective instrument of rebellion against economic and social injustices. It is the institution through which unified communities ensure the integrity and continuity of their culture in the wake of globalization. Brimming with insights such as these, Holy Terrors will become one of the essential books on September 11 and a classic study on the character of religion.

Author Notes

Bruce Lincoln is the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Lincoln (Univ. of Chicago) recognizes that there can be a very close and serious interaction, as well as a distinction, among religion, culture, and politics. The first part of this book involves a close reading of key texts, including the instruction manual that Mohammad Atta and others studied, Bush's address to the nation on October 7, bin Laden's speech released the same day, and Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberts' interpretations of September 11. Following the first three chapters on studying key texts, the author turns to other data related to three movements: (1) the period from the Reformation through the Enlightenment, when religion in Europe took "a much diminished role in culture"; (2) 19th- to 20th-century colonial and neocolonial domination, which "sought to impose [a] minimalist model of religion on the rest of the world"; and (3) post-Cold War reactions, when activists "sought to reassert religion's dominating position in culture." This is an important scholarly work for all seeking to evaluate and understand the complexities of the role that religion plays within sociopolitical revolutionary change. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers and undergraduates. T. M. Pucelik Bradley University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 The Study of Religion in the Current Political Momentp. 1
2 Symmetric Dualisms: Bush and bin Laden on October 7p. 19
3 Jihads, Jeremiads, and the Enemy Withinp. 33
4 On the Relation of Religion and Culturep. 51
5 Religious Conflict and the Postcolonial Statep. 62
6 Religion, Rebellion, Revolutionp. 77
Appendix A Final Instructions to the Hijackers of September 11, Found in the Luggage of Mohamed Atta and Two Other Copiesp. 93
Appendix B George W. Bush, Address to the Nation, October 7, 2001p. 99
Appendix C Osama bin Laden, Videotaped Address, October 7, 2001p. 102
Appendix D Transcript of Pat Robertson's Interview with Jerry Falwell Broadcast on the 700 Club, September 13, 2001p. 104
Notesp. 109
Indexp. 139