Seyla Benhabib in her article “Unholy Politics” points out a new development in the international politics by analyzing the tragic September 11 incident. Benhabib defines this new political wave as “unholy politics” and puts forward many arguments to substantiate her views.
First of all, according to Benhabib what makes 9/11 and Al Qua’ida unholy is that they attack on civilian population by all means in order to destroy the normalcy of life in the enemy state. Benhabib admits that democracies also failed in the past to prevent attacks on civilian targets during the Second World War when European states initiated “total war” to each other. However, she thinks that even during the Second World War the aim was to occupy the enemy country or to weaken it. Unlike the aerial bombings of totalitarian states which were directed towards civilians in the Second World War, this time the goal of terrorists is just to spoil the “normal life”, disturb and intimidate the enemy state’s citizens and their reactions are not against certain political decisions of the enemy state but rather they aim the extinction of a way of life. “The new unit of totalitarianism is the terrorist cell, not the party or the movement; the goal of this new form of war is not just the destruction of the enemy, but the extinction of a way of life” (Benhabib, pg 3).
Secondly, Benhabib finds very difficult to find a political name for these attacks. September 11 was certainly not the war declaration of
Benhabib asserts that this ambiguity prevents us to do moral/political distinctions. She asks “who is the enemy”; Muslims,
Benhabib also finds this new type of politics unholy because she asserts that by using religious symbols and “eroticizing the death” they abuse religion and distort it. She claims that this new distorted jihad “is not only apocalyptic; but also nihilistic” (Benhabib, pg 4). She shows that there is no theological justification for this kind of suicide bombings as many Koranic scholars mentioned. Benhabib also underlines the problems of Jakobinist modernization in Islamic countries. She provides examples including
Benhabib thinks that a radical revision is needed in
To sum up, Benhabib sees this new type of politics as unholy for several reasons. Firstly, these terrorist groups do no hesitate to attack on civilian population and do no conduct a normal warfare. Secondly, these countries do not represent people and lack legitimacy. They have gained their legitimacy through violence and should be destroyed both for Western and Eastern people’s sake. Thirdly, these extremist groups abuse and distort religious doctrines to take the support of people. Eroticization of death and the misinterpretation of jihad are main examples she used in her article. In order to prevent unholy politics to evolve in the democratic world, she requests for a radical revision in US and NATO policies.
- Benhabib, Seyla, “Unholy Politics”