Charles Cameron ventures forth to conquer new blogworlds:
Jean-Pierre Filiu’s book, Apocalypse in Islam (University of California Press, 2011) makes a crucially important contribution to our understanding of current events – it illuminates not just one but a cluster of closely-related blind-spots in our current thinking, and it does so with scholarship and verve.
Al-Qaida’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons – and Iran’s – and the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materiel – and the situation in Jerusalem – depending how you count ‘em, there are a half dozen or so glaring world problems where one spark in the Mahdist underbrush might transform a critical situation. And yet as Ali Allawi put it in his talk to the Jamestown Foundation on Mahdism in Iraq a few years back, Mahdists ferments still tend to be “below our radar”.
People are always talking about unintended consequences: might I suggest that blind-spots are where unintended consequences come from – and offer some background on apocalyptic, before proceeding to discuss Filiu’s contribution?
We already have a tendency to dismiss religious drivers in considering current events, having concluded in many cases that religion is passé for the serious-minded types who populate diplomatic, military and governmental bureaucracies world-wide – and we are even more reluctant to focus on anyone who talks about the Last Days and Final Judgment, despite the presence of both in the faith statements and scriptures of both Islam and Christianity. We think vaguely of cartoons of bearded and bedraggled men with sandwich boards declaring The End is Nigh, and move along to something more easily understood, something conveniently quantitative like the number of centrifuges unaffected by Stuxnet in Iran, or purely hypothetical, like the association of Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan.