Thursday, May 7, 2009

Seducing Jihad (1)


Religion is the story of faith. It is constituted and predicated by an institutionalized system of symbols and metaphors, rituals and myths that provides a common language within a set community of believers. As similar stories are repeated over generations, they developed different versions, meanings and understanding of the original. In order to give structure and meaning to the system, a rigorous exercise of interpretations are continuously carried out to provide a common identity, aspiration and hence, a “common story” to its believers – past, present and future. The question that religious studies scholars frequently pose is: “what do these stories mean?”

The deep-rooted stereotype of Islam as a “religion spread by the sword” has its origins dating in the papal propaganda of the Crusades, when Muslims were depicted as soldiers of the Antichrist in blasphemous occupation of the Holy Lands. Today, the image has been replaced by that of a Muslim terrorist strapped with explosives, eager to rob away innocent life and ready to be martyred in the name of God. Between these two, one common notion consistently remained: that Muslims have been engaged in a perpetual state of “holy war”, or jihad, from the time of Muhammad to the present day. In order to make meaning of this concept, I will have return to this “story” later.

In this paper, I will attempt to link the structurality of color to the critical study of religion, in particular, the concept of jihad, to understand the process of how we perceive, understand and make meanings. As jihad is not sui generis and due to the embodied nature of religion, I posit that color is a productive metaphor to understand how it is co-constructed between the environment and opposing interest groups such as the scholars, the historians or the media in the same way colors are perceived by the body, brain and movement.

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