Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 3, 2013

Us versus them

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on October 3, 2013

Sunnis continue to target Shia in Iraq.   The reverse is also alleged.  (Deadly suicide bombings.)

In Syria Sunni dominate the insurgency as the regime works to wrap itself in the support of most others. Some even see the US as allied with Assad in anti-Sunni animus.  (Same fight against radical Islam.)

In Kenya Shabaab did what it could to underline the difference between Muslim, Christian, and Hindu.  (Though many insist they failed.)

Buddhists are killing Muslims in Burma (Myanmar). (Sectarian Violence.)

India and Pakistan were founded in sectarian strife.  These differences continue to complicate the relations of two nuclear-armed neighbors. (Hindu-Muslim Clashes)

A Christian and/or animist South confronts a Muslim North in Nigeria and across much of the Sahel. (Extremist killings, tight security.)

Threats against Jews are so common as to be widely neglected. (Global Antisemitism)

In the Philippines the division is between a Christian North and a Muslim South. (New clash raises fears.)  In Thailand a Muslim South contends with a Buddhist North. (Savage escalation threatened.)

Modern notions of self-martyrdom were forged as Buddhist Sinhalas confronted Hindu Tamils.  The tension persists. (Tamil abuses denied.)

The list could easily continue tediously long.  In many cases the religious differences amplified by ethnic, tribal, and class distinctions.  Demography as destiny?

Paul Tillich a German-American-Christian-Protestant-Existentialist scholar wrote:

God is being-itself.  After this has been said nothing else can be said about God as God which is not symbolic… Therefore if anything beyond this bare assertion is said about God it is no longer a direct and proper statement, no longer a concept. It is indirect pointing to something beyond itself: symbolic. (Systematic Theology)

Confusing the symbolic as being-itself is common.

Most of our antagonisms do not arise from any profound discovery of substantive ontological distinction.  Rather we fuss and fight over superficial symbols that, as much as anything else, distract us from the much more taxing task of engaging with being-itself.  This is the case well beyond the religious or spiritual and is especially true of the political.

There are broadly two strategic options: Persist with symbolic arguments (religion vs. religion, faith vs. science, conviction vs. conviction, etc. vs. etc.) or resist symbolism and insist on dealing with being itself.  The first strategy involves arguing between answers.  The second involves asking questions.  Neither is easy.

It may just be my conviction, but I perceive the second option — dealing with being-itself — is more likely to have lasting outcomes.

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 3, 2013 @ 4:14 am

Bill Cumming has asked that posters make explicit the homeland security connection when it may not otherwise be clear: Terrorism is a principal problem of homeland security. Significant aspects of modern terrorism are related to — even said to emerge from — inter-religious antagonisms. A more complete understanding of inter-religious antagonisms should contribute to counter-terrorist and/or anti-terrorist strategy.

Comment by Ace Carter

October 3, 2013 @ 7:44 am

MORE… Understanding of religious true believers or cult followers behavior is needed …

PERHAPS… MORE specialists in same, rather than so many non-believers in any God whatsoever would be helpful..?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 3, 2013 @ 8:13 am


Sounds like you and I share a judgment. Way too often I hear terrorist or proto-terrorist motivation being dismissed in terms of virgins-in-the-afterlife.

A quarter-century ago I was with a college in Japan that included a Western studies curriculum that included a Western religions course. We soon discovered that our Japanese students — largely entirely secular — needed to be provided a substantive introduction to the religious dimension of their own culture before they could meaningfully perceive and analyze the religious dimension of Western culture.

I expect something similar would be helpful for almost every American — secular or believing — who is charged with understanding terrorism. But I tremble to consider the subsequent Congressional hearings.

Comment by Ace Carter

October 7, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

OUR media is still hiding what the Islamic goal of a Caliphate and Sharia law is…

OUR media also hides what happens to Homosexuals in Sharia countries and even support Islamists because they both hate America, Christians and Jews…

Unfortunatly… Way too many people get All their information from TV news…

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