Edited by
Gad Barzilai
University of Washington, USA

The Challenge of ‘Globalization’

As this volume demonstrates, religions are as vivid as ever. Religious fundamentalist movements in Christianity, Islam and Judaism have largely been generated in resistance to modernity and to its exclusive secular conception of historicity and legality. Often, this interaction of confronting modernity would not lead to violence. Nonetheless, under other conditions, collisions between neo-liberal globalization and religious fundamentalism may result in violence as was horribly proven on 11 September 2001 with Al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Religions may include subcultures of violence against ‘external enemies’, such as state law and state legal institutions that symbolize secular depravity. Hence, religious terrorism has been manifested in Western and non-Western political regimes, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, England, France, India, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, North Ireland, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Turkey and the USA (cf. Pape, 2005).

Why do religions sometimes spur terrorism as a possible hermeneutic against state law in the midst of neo-liberal globalization? It is an intriguing question since, as this volume demonstrates, religious fundamentalism is not necessarily violent. Yet, religious texts often ingrain a binary theological distinction between eternal redemptive good and irreducible evil. The cosmic struggle, including a possible violent clash between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is historically transcendental and should end in apocalyptic warfare (Juergensmeyer, 2000). Once believers are persuaded that they are under attack from secularism, they may use religious texts as manifesto of the battle against perceived heretic aggressors. Furthermore, neo-liberal globalization has expanded exhibitionist secularism, and in turn spurred a degree of siege mentality among religious fundamentalist non ruling communities. They have protested against pornography, artifcial abortions, free sex and even personal computers connected to the Internet as prominent manifestations of liberal secularism.

Social class and social deprivation also play crucial roles (Hirschl, 2004). The more a nonruling community perceives itself as socially discriminated against, the more it inclines to draw on religion as a source of violent resistance against hegemonic legal ideology in the domestic and international sphere. Islam, for example, may have moderate hermeneutics towards nonMuslims or, conversely, it may generate very violent hermeneutics; it depends signifcantly on the leadership and elite that make use of religion in a specifc context. Therefore, under conditions of poverty and feelings of deprivation, hostile leadership may turn to faith in transcendental, divine and cosmic justice in order to legitimate even a terrible violence as a means of revolutionizing the praxis and imposing religious law on earth. While the junction of religion and technology often serves religions in their educational purposes, the use of modern technology may also instigate ruthless violent events. More generally, however, as essays in this volume convey, religion is not analogous to violence. First, the practice of religion exceeds that of violence since it is more compound and complex phenomenon that habitually reflects the deepest of human desires. Second, the sources of violence are not necessarily religious and, as history tells us, they may certainly be secular as well. The challenge of globalization is to reconcile religiosity, religion and religious fundamentalism with international human rights. In a local global religious context of communities, two processes may unfold. First, as this volume shows, religion may be generated as transnational and construct cross-national, even supranational, identities and practices that are being expanded through information technologies, such as international media and the Internet (Santos, 1995; also Barzilai-Nahon and Barzilai, Chapter 13). Hence, liberalism is becoming a major and dialectical source of advancing religious values, norms and practices. Second, this volume also argues that religious communities may construct practices that are affected by liberalism. Thus, religious women affected by a liberal climate may wish to gain more equality within their non-liberal community without secularizing it. In such circumstances they would raise religious arguments for gender equality based on both human dignity and preservation of the communal culture.