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Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11


This book is one of the few al Qaeda inspired accounts which aims at taking their religious aspirations seriously. Addressing the much broader agenda of religion and violence Lincoln makes a thorough analysis of the set of instructions to the hijackers of the 9-11 planes found in Mohammed Atta’s luggage. Focusing on the acts of purification and mental preparation Lincoln shows how the instructions are framed in order to overcome possible hesitations and provide legitimation for violence through providing access to identification with the pious first generation of Muslims. The book is extraordinary in not just pointing to the religious references, but in highlighting how certain religious texts may prove efficient in providing legitimation for breaking normal rules of acceptable conduct. The book attempts to break with conventional terminology and suggests for instance that the concept of fundamentalism is replaced by a distinction between minimalist and maximalist versions of a given religion. The former would be the privatised, individualised kind of religion, which gained legitimacy and foothold after the Enlightenment, whereas maximalist versions of religions claim that religion ought to permeate all aspects of human existence.

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