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CITIES IN THE 21st CENTURY: A Primer

Book Review

John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

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  • Cities: A Guide

    Book Review

    John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

    Read more...

  • The Hurt Locker

    Review

    Eric Randolph reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and notes a shift in film-making sensibilities from the war-as-heroics paradigm of earlier Hollywood, towards the everyman's war-as-hell model that has now lodged itself in Western cultural consciousness.

    Read...

  • Architecture & Biopolitics

    Interview

    Berlin-based writer Daniel Miller's October 2008 interview with Swedish philosopher and SITE Magazine Editor-In-Chief Sven-Olov Wallenstein, on his new book Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).

    Read...

  • Wired For War

    Symposium

    The second symposium in CTlab's 2009 series, focused on Peter Singer's new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009), ran from 30 March to 2 April. Singer and half a dozen scholars from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria debated the use and ethics of robots in war.

    Read...

  • DEFCON 17

    Current Intelligence

    Tim Stevens reports back from the DEFCON 17 conference in Las Vegas: are hackers thinking meat isn't just meat anymore?

    Read...

CONTRIBUTORS

Editor: Michael A. Innes // posts // web
Contributor: Matthew Barlow // posts // web
Contributor: Christopher Albon // posts // web
Contributor: Charli Carpenter // posts // web
Contributor: Bradley Evans // posts // web
Contributor: Eric Randolph // posts // web
Contributor: Tim Stevens // posts // web
Contributor: Marisa Urgo // posts // web
Alumni: Kenneth Anderson // Marc Tyrrell

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Monday
04Jan2010

Why Al-Qaeda Doesn't Care If It Kills Muslims

Over at Kings of War, Patrick Porter responds to a West Point study showing that Al Qaeda have killed eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims. His reaction is to see AQ as “self-defeating”:

One reason why it is struggling, and hated, is that it has failed to confine and limit its war, and therefore failed to inspire and unite the Muslim masses against the great Satan. Its struggle, it seems, is deeper and more existential, a battle against what it sees as heresy, apostasy and impurity, a civil war within Islam as well as a struggle against infidel adversaries.

The idea of a ‘war within Islam’ is popular among those who see the US-led war on terror as grossly misconceived, which it has been. But I would argue that this too easily absolves the West of its part in creating Al Qaeda militancy, shedding the West of its responsibility for terrorist violence and placing the onus on Islam to sort out the problem.

In his recent book, Faisal Devji argues that Al Qaeda militancy is more than a struggle on behalf of Muslims and is actually a war being fought for humanity as a whole. Its explicit focus on the Islamic ummah is based on the idea that Muslims have come, in their eyes, to represent all the victims of the world by virtue of the scale and scope of their spread around the world and the fact that so many of them exist at the wrong end of the global inequality spectrum.

The true aim of AQ militancy is not to defeat America or any other country, or to establish some specific form of Islam. As Devji points out:

Earlier movements of resistance or terror had advanced critiques of existing conditions, such as capitalism or imperialism, and offered alternatives to them. This was the case with communists and anarchists as well as nationalists and fundamentalists. Like the more pacific global movements that are its peers, Al Qaeda offers no real criticism of existing conditions (apart from inveighing against them) and possesses no alternative to take their place.

Devji argues that AQ militancy is effectively a form of protest against the hypocrisy of the West’s claimed humanitarianism, against the victimisation of all those oppressed by the present global system. Despite its grotesque tactics, Its ultimate purpose is a search for redress in the unequal distribution of suffering around the world – not any kind of specific political goal.

Global movements like Al Qaeda’s want not an alternative to America so much as the fulfillment of America’s promise of freedom for all.

In this view, the nature of the victim – whether he is Muslim or not – is immaterial because the act of terrorism seeks to draw attention to oppression in the abstract, not specifically the oppression of Muslims. The violent actions of Al Qaeda militancy are random howls of protest by disparate individuals, who attack wherever the opportunity arises, often close to home. They are driven by a myriad of goals and motivations from their personal lives that have taken them past the point of considering individual lives sacred, Muslim or not. Their choices are not dictated by the long-term designs of Al Qaeda’s high command, but their actions find a wider meaning within the general protest against global injustice that has been developed by Bin Laden and his deputies.

The mistake that Al Qaeda is making is not simply its inability to stop Muslims being killed, since the way that its disparate cells manifest their angry protests against the world cannot be controlled. The mistake is in having chosen and legitimised violence in the first place, whether against Muslims or anyone else. The fact is that suicide bombing, for all the attention lavished upon it by the global media, remains attractive to only a tiny, tiny number of people. It suits Al Qaeda’s needs because it has such a disproportionate effect on the attention of the world.

If the organisation could find a way of making its noble sacrifices without killing thousands of innocent civilians – and still grab the level of attention afforded terrorist attacks – then it would begin to build a far more formidable ethical movement. The mistake they are making is not to kill Muslims – because Al Qaeda is more than an Islamic movement – the mistake they are making is in killing any innocent people at all.

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