The 'Madness' of Islamist Terrorism: A Rethinking of the Cognitive Imaginary and Ethics of Locke’s Theory of Toleration

49 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 7 Apr 2011

Date Written: April 5, 2011

Abstract

The alarming conflation between Islamic religiosity and terrorism is a striking element of the discursive conditions of contemporary political life in Euro-Atlantic world. This conflation becomes legible specifically in the depictions of the suicide bomber as the potent symbol of moral aberration and political illegitimacy. It is marshaled in justifications of a wide range of state policies and social practices that span from exclusionary mobilizations against Muslim minorities to "humanitarian" or aggressive military action against other peoples labeled as "security threats". This paper interrogates the discursive frame within which the conflation between (Islamic) religiosity and propensity for violence becomes intelligible. While its historical origins reach back to ethical and epistemological premises of liberal-secular governmentality introduced by John Locke in 17th century Europe, it was elaborated within the context of late 18th and early 19th century European imperial expansion by liberals such as J.S. Mill. To illustrate the contemporary political effects of this discursive conflation, the paper draws upon the framing of Palestinian suicide bombings in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks on the U.S. The overarching aim is to highlight that the utilization of this discursive conflation underwrites the delegimitization of non-secular and non-liberal political formations as well as the unraveling of Muslims' rights to equal status as citizens in Euro-Atlantic countries.

Suggested Citation

Kemerli, Pinar, The 'Madness' of Islamist Terrorism: A Rethinking of the Cognitive Imaginary and Ethics of Locke’s Theory of Toleration (April 5, 2011). Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1767045

Pinar Kemerli (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

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