face+drawing+on+wall_54305003This excellent example of the way categories or names prescribe our way of conceiving or thinking through problem came through the nettime email list recently.

On 29/09/2007, Thijs wrote:

> “[…] In contrast to most post-modern nation states, Islamic  fundamentalism offers the kind of warm hearth for which many shaken Western souls might yearn.”

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that words like “fundamentalism” and “terrorism” offer the kind of warm hearth for which many shaken Western souls might yearn: the ability to lump together a wide range of social phenomena that they don’t understand under a few convenient labels taken from American and European history, such as American Protestant fundamentalism and the French revolutionary Terror of the 1790s.

Here are some possible alternatives (which I’m sure could be improved):

Al Qaeda: Salafi nationalist guerilla network

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Sunni reformist party

Hamas: Sunni Palestinian nationalist party and militia

Hizballah: Shia Lebanese nationalist party and militia

Two things leap out of this sort of classification: the need to know something about Islam in order to know what the Arabic words mean, and the need to take nationalism seriously as a force that motivates opposition movements.

Ben

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