Nihilism and the Otherness of Islam

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Abstract

The ‘death of God’ remains a recognisable frame to approach Western cultural malaise captured in its nihilism. Removed from this spatio-temporal horizon, however, claims of fin de siècle appear partial, provincial, and extraneous. For worlds ‘outside’ the West, the idea of the death of God is an absurdity, excessive and irrelevant. Viewed from relativist positionality, God’s demise presents as a strictly Western problem. On the other hand, nihilism is neither a culturally restricted state nor a unique property of Western self-annihilating proclivities. This paper explores the assumed ‘Otherness’ of Islam in its encounter with nihilism, especially in reference to the question of political violence. Distinction between life-affirming and life-negating impulses of political violence helps situate religiously coded violence and the nihilistic violence of modernity. In the case of Islamic violence, it is argued, this distinction is often blurred. The paper maps out the cosmological basis of Islamic alterity, one that is increasingly tested under conditions of globalising modernity and its pathologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-197
Number of pages21
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2013

Keywords

  • nihilism
  • modernity
  • Islam
  • transcendence
  • immanence

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