[ by Charles Cameron — when religion casts a long and violent shadow ]
cover art for the Unholy album, New Life behind Closed Eyes
Unholy may prove to be a very useful word, I think.
It’s not secular, it’s not irreligious, it doesn’t lack for some sort of supernatural influence — in fact it fits right in with the metaphysical implications of such Biblical phrases as (Revelation 12.7):
there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels
and (Ephesians 6.12):
we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places
Because, I am arguing, it is neither secular nor irreligious, it fits perfectly, I’d say, the kinds of situation we’re in so freuqnetly, globally, of religiously motivated group violence.
The word jihad — besides focusing entirely on Islamic variants, when in fact Buddhist, Hindu and Christian militians are also in evidence — concedes too much to those who regard their warfare as holy, divinely sanctioned, while other terms make things sound secular and almost normal, as if politics without the religious booster was all we are talking about.
BrutaL and spiritual, spiritual and brutal on both sides — in the Central African Republic, for instance:
It was March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka swept into the riverside capital, Bangui, from the northeast. President François Bozizé fled as a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder got underway. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia soon proclaimed himself the successor; he would later lose control of his ranks and an attempt that fall to disband them would do little to stop the atrocities.
At the same time, groups of militias called anti-balaka had begun to form and train and retaliate against Séléka. Their name in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”; their fighters are comprised of ex-soldiers, Christians and animists, who think magic will protect them. They’re adorned with amulets to ward off attacks and fight with hunting rifles, poison-tipped arrows and machetes.
Amulets and machetes.. warriors and angels.
Maybe we should say “unholy warriors” and “unholy wars” rather than “holy warriors” or “jihadis” — and “unholy monks” for the Burmese mobsters in saffron robes.
And I’d reserve the use of the term for situations in whiuch at least one side in a conflict openly avows religious motivation. Someone making a treaty someone else feels is foolish or dangerous simply doesn’t meet the bar.
It’s worth considering the Unholy CD cover art alongside two other recent images:
And about that top image from the Unholy album, just so you know:
UNHOLY present their Prosthetic Records debut, a metal massacre fueled with down-tuned guitars, double bass and deep grooves akin to the sounds of Entombed, Crowbar and later Carcass, with members having been in bands like Santa Sangre, Another Victim and Path Of Resistance.