Cavenaugh: While they are both labels for mass ideologies, religion and nation differ in use because nations are allowed to use violence in support of ideology while religion is not. If we approve of what Israel does to the Palestinians we consider it a nation and the Palestinian response as “fundamentalism”; if we disapprove of it we speak of “the Palestinian state”.
The tendency to use these labels is so engrained that we can’t even see the manifest nonsense we commit ourselves to when we try to speak of “Islamic fundamentalism” or “the tendency that Islam has to violence.” See Reza Aslan here:
In other words, the violence that bothers us is nationalism, or at least an Islam that is essentially conditioned by nationalism (used in the broad sense since in the Middle East and Africa “Nation” is a bumbling mix of the organic natio and the artificial boundaries inflicted on them by European imperialism.) Blaming it on “religion” or “Islam” is just a ritual absolution for those of us who pride ourselves on either being irreligious or with separating religion from the public square. If all this violence rose from nationalism, even we might be able to commit it!
Aslan might have some ‘splanin to do over why terrorists yell “allahu Akbar” and not “viva Saudi Arabia”, but his basic point stands.