The Indo-Arab Cultural Center at Jamia organized a book release at the Edward Said Hall on Friday, July 01, 2011.
The launch was for an Arabic translation of an English book titled, “Children of Abraham at War: The Clash of Messianic Militarism” by Talmiz Ahmad.
According to news publications online, Ahmad presently also serves as the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Ahmad was accompanied on the dais by Professor Zikrur Rahman, the director of the India-Arab Cultural Center at Jamia; and Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung.
While talking about his book, Ahmad said: in his study of the ongoing conflicts in West Asia, nobody could explain to him, “how you could inflict so much violence on another people.”
However later, through his research on the subject, he came to realize that there was a religious angle to understanding the current conflict in West Asia and elsewhere.
According to him, in all the three semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there is a tradition of ‘Messianism,’ which explains the violence in the contemporary world.
Though he didn’t explain the term; messianism is normally understood to be the belief in a promised savior or redeemer, referred to as the messiah in Jewish religious scriptures. And as per the scriptures, he will bring a golden age on earth, after winning a cataclysmic battle between the forces of good and evil. And this belief, allegedly, is shared by all the three Abrahamic faiths.
And according to Ahmad, “Jewish Messianism is the key to understanding everything that followed in Christianity, and later in Islam.”
“Messianism,” he said, “finally defined western identity and culture. So that, even when with the French revolution, a sort of secular movement began in different parts of Europe; the definitions and inspirations of these movements had a messianic paradigm.”
What is unstated here is the understanding, if a people see a particular movement or conflict through a messianic paradigm, then the violence within it, is believed to have a divine sanction.
So again, according to Ahmad, this religious messianism, later in Europe, took the form of a “secular messianism.”
In explaining ‘secular messianism,’ he goes on to say, “God who sanctions violence against the other, is simply replaced by another larger value or principle, [which is] broadly secular.”
Therefore, according to Ahmad, what explains the violence in the contemporary world is the tradition of messianism inherited from the semitic religions, because of which, conflict is seen in terms of good and evil.
Later in his speech, while talking about the translation of the book, he acknowledged the scarcity of work on West Asia done by non-westerners, by stating: “We recognize that the vast body of literature, pertaining to West Asia, available to many of us, is in English, produced by Anglo-American writers, or Jewish writers, writing in English. Hardly any of the writings of the Arab people are available to us in English or in any another languages that are familiar to us.”
He concluded his speech by saying: “We are in very, very exciting times, and I do believe my book will be a small contribution, to at least in understanding some aspects of the world we are living in today.”
Scenes From the Event:
Download and listen to the entire speech by Talmiz Ahmad here: Speech by Talmiz Ahmad [Format: MP3] [Size: 17 MB] [Duration: 17 minutes]
*click on an image to enlarge.