I get a bit wearily annoyed when I turn on NPR, hear a story about the ongoing reaction to cartoon representations of Muhammed, and hear a kind of obligatory explanatory closure to the news story that “Muslims oppose iconic or visual representations of the Prophet, believing them to be idolatry”. As if that explains anything. It projects backwards into history a blanket, generic statement about Islam and its relationship to iconic forms of representation that is roughly as simplistic as saying, “Christians believe in the literal truth of the Bible” or “Christians believe in the trinitarian divinity of Jesus”. Either statement describes some or many Christians, but not all, in the present. Either describes a common area of overlapping belief and debate within the history of the religion. They’re useful simple glosses of the religion, but not useful explanations for how Christians as believers manifest as a social or political force within particular contexts. Neither would be a terribly good reason to explain why, for example, some American Christians might have been found angrily protesting outside a showing of “The Last Temptation of Christ”.
Certainly the given religious logic of the attitude toward iconic representations of the Prophet within many Islamic traditions is almost actively contradicted by the riots and protests directed at the cartoons. What is that reaction but idolatry, the mistaking of the human, the temporal, for the divine, the elevation of Muhammed and representations of him to the level of God? Isn’t that one of the clearest and most unambiguous instructions within the Qu’ran and later interpretative traditions, to not mistake the Prophet for God Himself?
That is an argument which will convince no one, because none of this is really about the substance of a belief about iconic representation and idolatry. As is so often the case, those of us observing or following the news only see and worry about the people drawn into furious action, and casually mistake them for the whole. This point is sometimes made as a kind of banal scolding about the dangers or rudeness of stereotyping: I offer it as a much more straightforward and value-neutral sociological observation. You can’t know what people who do not riot or protest or offer furious denunciations might think or feel: this is true for all visible political action. Is it the tip of an iceberg, or is what you see all that there is? I’m part of a group of scholars who recently drafted a petition (on a completely different issue from what I’m writing about here). I declined to sign. It would be a mistake to see that as an opposition to the argument of the petition or even an aggressive opposition to the tactic. It’s more an ambivalence, a feeling of being perpendicular or undescribed by the available public stances taken.
The visible protests are, however, a social fact of serious import, whatever their relation to larger, less visible publics. Juan Cole’s injunction to Westerners to try and understand the extent to which many Muslim publics are working out a deeply historical sense of humiliation and ill-treatment is important. Derisively dismissing that structure of feeling as ill-founded, or suggesting that people just get over history, is about as useful as trying to talk about the actual meaning of “idolatry”. Anybody who has ever seriously participated in processes of negotiation knows that actively humiliating someone in such a process, or failing to take feelings of humiliation seriously, is a recipe for failure. If you’re going to block all avenues that allow a losing party to save face, you’d better be damn sure you’ll never need that person or that interest ever again, in any way. (As Cole observes, most of us figured this out while learning interpersonal dynamics in kindergarten.) If superficial unipower triumphalists haven’t yet grasped that American hegemony, like most hegemonies and empires before it, has serious capacity limits and depends very much on the grudging consent of at least some of its subjects, then they’re stupid enough that they deserve whatever consequences might be coming their way as a result. A pity that the rest of us will suffer as well.
However, the problem is that the story of the “clash of civilizations” is not just a story told by Western intellectuals or political leaders: a parallel version has its intellectual history within some contemporary Islamicist movements as well. We might protest that it is a false story, and in many respects it is. But it is now a persuasive narrative framing of some of the global conflicts we face, and as such, a structure of meaning that will continue to motivate and shape what is to come. Nor is it wrong to say, on some level, that “they” hate “us” for our freedoms, as long as we’re clear about which “they” is being referred to. A rioter in Afghanistan may be settling local scores, acting in local frameworks, and some Danish cartoons merely provide a sort of focal point, as did The Satanic Verses in northern Nigeria some years ago. In that case, it’s a mistake to see what’s happening as having much to do with global issues or “their” hate for “our” freedoms.
In other cases, however, what is being aligned against the publication of the cartoons is a fairly deliberate and in many cases consciously manipulated alliance between states and fractured publics in parts of the Muslim world, where a fundamental proposition is being offered: that states should have authority over cultural representation, that the public sphere and civil society are extensions of the state rather than separate from it, that the realization of a national and religious community can be achieved only with that melding of state, religion and people, and that what is most objectionable about the cartoons, deep down, is not what they represent about the faith of Muslims but their instantiation of a form of state-society relations that both vested interests and popular consciousness within some Muslim nations find ultimately dubious.
The vested interest part is easy to imagine a quick polemical response towards, but the deeper layers are harder to access, harder to see in transformative terms. In a parallel case, I’m perfectly comfortable saying that the deep inclination of some southern African publics to favor an indirect and conspiratorial understanding and framing of political causality and political speech is in my view an undesirable ordering of the political sphere. That takes me no further than having an opinion: deeply nested conceptions of speech, propriety, political power, and everyday understandings of causality are not readily substituted for one another. Habitus is not found in op-ed pieces or the fulminations of bloggers, nor swayed by same.
Factual quibble: did you mean “Last Temptation of Christ” in the first paragraph?
Whoops! Fixed. Thanks.
Tim: “Juan Coleâ€™s injunction to Westerners to try and understand the extent to which many Muslim publics are working out a deeply historical sense of humiliation and ill-treatment is important. Derisively dismissing that structure of feeling as ill-founded, or suggesting that people just get over history, is about as useful as trying to talk about the actual meaning of â€œidolatryâ€.”
The trouble with this widely-offered argument is that the very same thing was said in 1930s by appeasers about Germany: we had to understand their deep sense of “humiliation and ill-treatment” by Versailles. In this way, Western democrats, of both right and left, morally disarmed themselves with disastrous consequences.
I disagree with some of what you say in your first couple of paragraphs because I do believe that contrasting historic attitudes toward artistic representation of the divine and its spokespersons in Christianity, on the one hand, and in Judaism and Islam, on the other, stand in the background of the current controversy. My question _was_ one about a possible relationship between monotheism and iconoclasm; i.e., whether Judaism’s and Islam’s more consistent monotheism was at the root of their greater inclination to iconoclasm. _Of course_, Islam has historically insisted that there be no confusion between Allah and Mohammed, yet that insistence does get fudged whenever Mohammed is deemed to be “holy” or is reverenced or revered. The thoroughgoing iconoclasm of Wahabbist Islam that destroys peripheral historic sites is more consistent with historic Islam. Similarly, because _most_ (not all) contemporary Christians _are_ Trinitarians, that does help to explain why _some_ of them will be found picketing “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Not _this_ trinitarian Christian, who enjoyed reading the novel, but I understand why it offended some of my fellow trinitarian Christians. So, too, I assume it is with Muslims.
Martin, I’d actually say that it was (and is) important in explanatory terms to grasp the sense of humiliation that came out of Versailles in terms of grasping the crafting and power of Nazism’s narratives within some parts of German society. Understanding is not excusing, in this case or that one. We might learn from either example that humiliation is a very bad way to relate to someone that you have the capacity to dominate or impose upon.
I agree with your point, Ralph, in that understanding the conceptual underpinnings of a trinitarian Christ helps somewhat to understand why the doubts that “Last Temptation” flirts with on the divinity of Christ could offend. But the pickets I take to have been largely provoked by some wider and deeper sense of “culture war”, in which “Last Temptation” was simply an opportunity to stage an old grievance. What you’re pointing to is for me the complexity of how private distress about a representation can overlap with public or organized reaction. The private person who is disturbed about how a particular representation or work of culture unsettles or offends against some dearly held idea or belief may feel themselves distant from or even actively alienated by others who protest violently or strongly against that same work of culture. They may not be on the same side, or have the same motives. But the person who feels private distress may, in their ambivalence, also be driven into a kind of silent, distant acceptance or even endorsement of public protest, since the alternative positions available feel like support for some offensive or gratitutious speech (and the people who speak that way).
I do find myself in that position on some speech issues–hating speech codes, various kinds of censoriousness and political correctness, but not wanting to be misperceived as saying that certain kinds of offensive speech are non-issues, or that speech does not have consequences. Depending on circumstances, it can be very hard to find a way to say both things without looking like a waffler.
“A rioter . . . may be . . . acting in local frameworks, and some Danish cartoons merely provide a sort of focal point”
Yes. The comparison which came to my mind was with the journées of the French Revolution. The fundamental cause of such riots is local: they are moves in a local political game. The cartoons are merely a casus rioti. That isn’t to say there isn’t a real visceral reaction against the cartoons (or what they’ve been told were the cartoons) motivating individual rioters. But the riots wouldn’t have taken place unless there were a larger political antagonism within Syrian/Lebanese/Palestinian society presumably between those who wish to cultivate “Europe” as a counterweight to “America” and those who regard the whole of the West as fundamentally opposed to Islam. In that sense, the “causes” of the riots, that which led to people seeking a just cause for a riot and provoking one, are the European reaction to Hamas’s electoral victory and European support for referring Iranian nukes to the UN.
But Muslim humiliation is intimately linked to the overthrow of, to use your words, the public sphere and civil society as extensions of the state (and religion) rather than separate from it. The rise of the public sphere in Europe required an equivalent humiliation of Christianity–it had to humble itself before the insistent demands of liberty and free expression. Humiliation of Muslims, as Muslims now commonly define humiliation, cannot be avoided; rather, it must be thoroughgoing, complete, and irreversable.
Withy… Isn’t going to happen. You appear to want a French Revolution without a return of the Old Regime. Now we are talking about a world religion of 1.3 billion people. Christianity’s European “humiliation” is more than matched by its resurgence across both the western hemisphere and the third world. If you think that the inexorable powers of secularization will contain, control, and humiliate Islam, you haven’t conjured with the magnitude of that challenge.
I think it’s entirely possible that a vision of secular civil society detached from the state and a state embued by liberalism will over time become something desired in many Muslim-majority nations (it already is by some); this would not be the humiliation of Islam any more than it was the humiliation of Christian *belief*. I think it’s fair to say that the 19th Century was a final eruption in a longer process of expelling the Church from its major redoubts of temporal power. There’s no reason to suppose that such a process is generically needed to achieve a similar outcome. There’s also a complex issue here in that Islam has a much more intricate (and in many ways generative) intertwining into government and justice into social institutions, across its history. Whatever kinds of ideas about law and justice might emerge within Islamic societies that would liberate expressive practice from governmental authority would almost certainly entwine with a more pluralistic Islam. Which seems fine to me, though that’s especially a case where whatever I think of it is completely irrelevant anyway.
In any event, the proposition that what is now needed is the thoroughgoing humiliation of Muslims is part of the problem rather than the solution. It’s not just that I object to that in moral terms: I also think it’s the quickest way I can think of to finally and completely exhaust the power and influence of Western liberalism and American hegemony–in the end, those that take on the job of humiliation in those terms are likely to be humiliated in turn by the fragility and incapacity of their power.
Ralph says the magnitude of the task is very large; Prof. Burke notes the limits of Western/American power. One can grant both–and ask if there is any choice? It seems to me that the point is that the West and Islam are now inextricably intertwined: we cannot separate. It’s not only that “they hate who we are”, but that “what we are humiliates them.” We’re already one house, and a house divided; and we have to be all slave or all free. Either nothing will humiliate Islam in the West, or Islam will have to be humiliated universally. So it is a war (loosely defined, as most wars are), it’s already started, and there’s no escaping it. The question is how to fight it, given the magnitude of the task and the limits of power. Not fighting isn’t an option.
No, withywindle, we are not at war.
Dar al-Islam is trying to define itself. The polities that make it up have only existed since Sykes-Picot at the earliest, most from the postwar decolonizations. There are factions within the polities (allied across the Islamic world) which have different ideas about how to modernize, the relationship of church and state, the nature of states, to what extent existing polities ought to continue. Those factions are fighting each other. Every so often one of them cites the US or Europe as an example. That citation is not aimed at us. It is aimed at the opposing faction. These riots are not aimed at us. They are aimed at other Islamic factions. We are not the target. And we should not react as though we were.
There are a few small factions, Al-Qaeda being the most notorious, which, having given up on achieving their aims within Dar al-Islam (their aims, e.g. reestablishing the Caliphate, being unachievable), have turned to attacking the West more or less randomly. These, all agree, we should fight. But they are highly unrepresentative of Islam.
In important respects, American military action in Iraq has worked to exactly the opposite of secularist hopes. It overthrew an oppressive secularist state and has delivered Iraq into either a civil war or a state now committed to sharia law.
If we are going to be using the phrase “Dar al-Islam”–“house of submission”, says Wikipedia–then surely we should be considering the counterpart ‘Dar al-Harb”, “house of war”. More to the point, Islam, like any identity, fundamentally presupposes an other against which to define itself–Christian, Jew, Hindu, unbelievers of one sort or another. For the “Dar al-Islam” to define itself must involve the creation of a unity focused against exterior entities–and how, if not by force? Furthermore, the ‘Dar al-Islam’ must include the Islamic populations now in the West–they must be parties to any “internal” faction fights. How can an Islamic “internal” struggle not avoid millions of our fellow citizens? How can we not care about the chosen basic identities of Westen Muslims?
But I am skeptical of your basic argument. You are saying that most Muslims don’t particularly favor a war policy; I would put it that foreign affairs aren’t the top priority of most Muslims. But foreign affairs aren’t the top priority of most people anywhere–only a relatively small elite cares. But political coalitions tend to follow the priorities of those foreign policy elites, even where they care more about domestic matters. What you call “a few small factions”, I would call “the foreign policy elite of a major, and very representative, current of contemporary Islamic political culture”, which, if their political faction can seize control of a state, can align that state’s foreign policy behind their radical aims.
Which is a longish way of saying that I don’t think you can separate the civil war within dar al-Islam from the foreign policies of Islamic states and parties toward the dar al-Harb.
Withywindle, I would question the whole premise of your challenge (one that, I think, Ralph and Tim are perhaps wrongly granting in the way they respond to you). Why must one understand the public sphere in wholly secular, liberated, postreligious terms? I mean, of course Christian belief survived the arrival of the modern public sphere, and so one could argue that Islamic belief should and will survive also. But unfortunately, I fear that too many liberals have a serious misunderstanding of the forms and modes of temporality and civility that make possible liberal discourse. Yes, a particular form of institutional Christianity and religious morality and authority was devastated by the crises of 18th-century Europe, but the “secularism” which arose in its place was hardly uninformed by a continuing, comprehensive, implicit engagement with basic norms of human conduct. In other words, if you look at the history of what the modern West has accomplished, you can see an alternative account, one that shows that religiosity and communalism have always been there, if misidentified and misunderstood. We need to take seriously such alternative readings in our engagement with Islam; to drink too deeply of a too-common “the humilitation and forced privatization of religion is what makes freedom possible” liberal trope will lead one to expect (demand?) the same of Islamic societies. The results won’t be pretty.
Russell: This is also a reply to your latest post on your own blog.
I believe that certain modes of Christianity followed up on the essential Renaissance-Enlightenment humiliation of the claims of religion by *redefining* what was essentially humiliating and what was not; by redefining the essential claims of religion away from claims of supremacy in public discourse, and thus eventually removing the sense of humiliation. For another jargon, they redefined religion to include a deritualized and desacralized public sphere. With Gertrude Himmelfarb and Mark Noll, I do think that a “Scottish” Enlightenment allowed for the development of (the usually tense) harmony between Enlightenment claims and religion, without claiming a necessary “French” disjunction between reason and religion.
But this mode developed as an accommodation to a fundamental challenge by liberal discourse, and it required the acceptance of what would have been taken as humiliation a very few centuries earlier. It was not easy to accept; and it was based on the result of a series of rather bloody wars and civil wars to underpin its political bases.
I think Islam can be made to accept a Scottish Enlightenment–and indeed rather more easily than a French one–but it will still take force and humiliation to make the mainstream of Islam resemble New England Puritans in 1775, if less than it would to make it resemble French Jacobins in 1792.
So what’s the game plan, withywindle? Bomb them into submission, then airdrop copies of Hume’s Essays? I don’t know how or why you think any society on earth could be make to accept a Scottish Enlightenment (or a particular version of civil society, I guess you mean?) by force and humiliation, or who exactly you have in mind as the agents of this violent transformation. Your terms are so grand and vague that I wonder whether you have anything exactly in mind at all.
If you don’t want to dwell on particulars (and who does, when commenting at a weblog?), why not think grandly and vaguely about the possibility of the emergence of an Islamic version of a civil society detached from state authority?
1) Deployment of military, economic, political, and ideological force, as necessary and appropriate. Not all wars are conducted (exclusively) with high explosives.
2) I don’t believe any society, including ours, accepted free discourse without force and humiliation; since it was successful in our case, I’m willing to believe it could be successful elsewhere.
3) I’m trying to use the language of this particular thread to make my points.
4) Speaking in generalities can be a useful rhetoric.
5) I am thinking grandly and vaguely of the possibility of the emergence of an Islamic version of a civil society detached from state authority. It just so happens that I don’t think it will happen without violence, whether applied internally or externally.
“There are a few small factions, Al-Qaeda being the most notorious, which, having given up on achieving their aims within Dar al-Islam (their aims, e.g. reestablishing the Caliphate, being unachievable), have turned to attacking the West more or less randomly. These, all agree, we should fight. But they are highly unrepresentative of Islam. ”
Evidence please? For “unachievable, ” “all agree,” and “unrepresentative.” I see no evidence in history or current affairs.
I don’t buy this for a second, and regard it as an ahistorical apologia for abandoning any responsibility to candidly criticize bad ideas for what they are. The fact is that Muslims are not by any means the only peoples in the history of the world to be “humilated” or “ill-treated” by the West, yet they are the group most prone to expressing their resentment at such treatment through violent means. What is more, Muslims aren’t themselves innocents of history who were always acted upon rather than acting: aggressive, expansionist Islam was knocking on the gates of Western Europe as recently as the 17th century, and in Africa militant Islamic imperialism throughout the Sahel was only interrupted at the close of the 19th century by the superior force of British and French imperialism. Indeed, Islamic aggression is going on in many parts of the world at this very moment, in Sudan, in Indonesia, in Thailand, as well as in several other countries countries spanning two of the largest continents, yet where are the routine expressions of threats and violence in response to silly things like articles and cartoons by the peoples on the receiving end of all the humilations and ill-treatment meted out by Muslims in every single country in which they are the majority?
A radical suggestion: what if that “local score” of which you write in the case of the “Satanic Verses” in Nigeria, just happens to be what those engaging in the score settling actually claimed they were, namely expressing their unwillingness to tolerate anything they consider insulting to their religion? I mean, I was there when this all happened, and if those Muslims who erupted in anger were simply expressing some “local conflict” rather than rage at a perceived “insult” to their religion, one would think I’d have noticed it then …
As hard as it might be to accept, given your sympathy to Juan Cole’s position, sometimes people are indeed driven to fits of barbarism by sincerely held religious beliefs, rather than merely using them as vehicles for other grievances.
It’s a damn shame that you seem so bent on chastizing “superpower triumphalists” for not showing sufficient humility for your tastes that you should now be pretending that the Muslim propensity for violence is either a “fringe” phenomenon, borne of “local conflicts” rather than core religious beliefs or “explainable” by reference to historical “humiliations”, when anyone with the time and interest can easily verify that poll after poll of worldwide Muslim opinion suggests that violent responses to “humiliations” and censorship of critical views is indeed mainstream thinking, that such behavior is endorsed and even mandated by the Koran, the Hadith and the standard methods of interpretation within the main schools of Islamic thought, and that no other religious group in modern times has so consistently betrayed a willingness to engage in intimidation and violence at even the slightest challenge to the supremacy of their creed. Try actually living in a Muslim majority environment for a while and we’ll see how quickly you abandon all these nice-sounding but utterly wrong-headed notions.
Prof. Burke, I’ve been reading your blog, and your posts and comments on other blogs, for probably two years now. I’ve always admired your lucidity and evenhandedness, but every so often you write something that makes me say, “Damn; that man sure knows how to put lipstick on a pig” (you should pardon the expression).
Like when you write, “what is most objectionable about the cartoons, deep down, is not what they represent about the faith of Muslims but their instantiation of a form of state-society relations that both vested interests and popular consciousness within some Muslim nations find ultimately dubious.”
The rioters, whether they’re egged on by “vested interests” or engaging in some kind of acting-out therapy vis-a-vis their “popular consciousness,” aren’t remotely dubious about the form of state-society relations instantiated by the cartoons. Arson, killings, death warrants–these aren’t the responses of persons who are skeptical, who entertain doubts, who remain unpersuaded of the benefits. The rioters know damn well what they think about a secular state, or, at the very least, they think they know what they think–they reject it utterly.
It would be just as silly and about as useful to say that abortion-clinic bombers are “dubious” about abortion’s “instantiation” of a form of mother-fetus relations, or that the IRA was expressing “doubts” about the partition of Ireland.
Nor, echoing Abiola Lapite’s comments above, does it seem evident that any significant amount of ideologically- and religiously-motivated terror is really local score-settling under a global guise. And even if it were, how would anyone know?
Such nuances in the rioters’ motivations seem to me to be inferred by you, and rather uncharacteristically fuzzily at that. As such, I’m dubious about them (not to worry; I’m too much of a wuss to torch anything).
Finally, color me unconvinced that empathizing with (some/many/pick a number that comports with your worldview) Muslims’ sense of historical humiliation will accomplish much. To turn Mary Catherine Moran’s question back at her, what do we do with that? Make clucking sympathetic noises? Stop being democratic and liberal and call a halt to all technological progress until the rest of the kids have had a chance to catch up? Wear sackcloth and ashes, and send a dozen roses every day promising “we’ll” make it up to “them?” Or (heh) just stop the presses?
All facetiousness aside, I’m pretty sure I know the litany of answers: Israel; Iraq; America’s historical support for corrupt regimes, etc. But Europe, which is relatively untarnished by–at least–Kissinger and W., is also under the gun in a big, and maybe even bigger, way. Isn’t it possible, as Prof. Burke hints and quickly backs away from, that they really, truly hate Western, secular, liberal democracy? That they hate what we know as freedom? Why can’t we ever take them at their word?
It is awful to contemplate violence, even in defense of freedom, but wouldn’t it be worse to lose this precious ground that humanity has struggled so long and so hard to gain? Or is what we’ve inherited really so worthless and illusory that we can shrug and say what’s the difference between one thing and another, between this power structure and that one, between these grand-sounding words (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and those grand-sounding words (complete surrender of every last human being to Allah’s will as expressed by Sharia law)?
By the way, the negotiation analogy doesn’t quite hold water for me. As you yourself have pointed out numerous times, “Muslims” are not one undifferentiated mass. Why not ignore and/or punish miscreants (at least, for heaven’s sake, don’t reward them with concessions) and deal with those Muslims, of whom there are surely many, who don’t carry around a raging desire to avenge what they perceive as historical injustice and disenfranchisement? Certainly the immigrant Muslims I know don’t seem carry around the enormous hatred of the West evinced by the most radical elements in Muslim-majority nations.
I should clarify that when I say “immigrant Muslims I know” I’m speaking of immigrants to the U.S. If you’re in Europe your, uh, mileage may vary a bit.
It’s good to see that certitude has checked in here. But it’s troubling, isn’t it, Abiola and Rose, that American intervention in Iraq has brought it closer to sharia law obligations than it had been? It’s troubling, too, that imprudent exercise of our freedoms seem to have sealed the possibility of striking alliances with moderate Muslims around the world. It’s troubling, beyond that, that we’ve tolerated the declaration of a “war on terror” that puts no limits on executive power in this country.
1) Sharia, voted in by a democratic majority of Iraqis, is far preferable to Hussein’s secular republic of fear imposed by a tiny minority of terrorizing thugs. Even if Iraq becomes the mini-me version of Iran, it will mean a distinct improvement in the everyday life of most Iraqis over what they had under Hussein. And sharia imposed by democratic means can also be modified, compromised, or removed by democratic means. I’m not pollyanna about the situation, but I’m not stuck in gloom at the possibility of sharia.
2) Any Muslim who takes offense at “imprudent exercise of our freedoms” is not a moderate, and not an ally worth cultivating at the price of our freedom. The very use of the phrase on your part is, to coin a phrase, troubling.
3) It would be troubling if there were no limits on executive power in the United States, regardless of the reason. But of course this is not true, so one need not be troubled.
Rose, it’s not that I emphathize with a historical sense of humiliation, or agree with some of the sentiments I characterize. In some ways, I personally feel some of the dismissiveness towards rioters that Abiola feels. The difference between us is that I don’t see that my feelings matter much one way or the other. I’m more interested in this point in explaining why people do what they do, what the fulcrum that might move them one way or the other is, and so on. Whatever we might feel about mass anger or protest in a particular place and time, such protest is also a social fact, a part of the human landscape as surely as mountains or trees or lakes are a part of the material landscape.
In that context, I absolutely do think you can know whether protest is more locally than globally salient. In fact, that’s the distinction I’m trying very carefully to work in this entry. Some protests in some places are largely about global issues, are even in some very real sense “the clash of civilizations”. Other protests are not–and I think Northern Nigeria is a good example of that. How do I know? Because those protests are part of a deeper history of conflict; they resemble in form and direction protests and riots that have sprung up at times when there is no global issue, no grand provocation to Muslims, about issues that seem to have nothing to do with Islam. The history of northern Nigeria suggests to me that Islam is only one factor among quite a few in producing tension and conflict; the Nigerian state would be, in my view, a far more important source of underlying conflict. It’s not that those protests are without connection to global conflict, but neither are they wholly or even largely explained by such conflict.