Buc, “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West”

In March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West” by Philippe Buc (University of Vienna).  The publisher’s description follows:

Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror examines the ways that Christian theology has shaped centuries of conflict from the Jewish-Roman War of late antiquity through the First Crusade, the French Revolution, and up to the Iraq War. By isolating one factor among the many forces that converge in war—the essential tenets of Christian theology—Philippe Buc locates continuities in major episodes of violence perpetrated over the course of two millennia. Even in secularized societies or explicitly non-Christian societies, such as the Soviet Union of the Stalinist purges, social and political projects are tied to religious violence, and religious conceptual structures have influenced the ways violence is imagined, inhibited, perceived, and perpetrated.

The patterns that emerge from this sweeping history upend commonplace assumptions about historical violence, while contextualizing and explaining some of its peculiarities. Buc addresses the culturally sanctioned logic that might lead a sane person to kill or die on principle, traces the circuitous reasoning that permits contradictory political actions such as coercing freedom or pardoning war atrocities, and locates religious faith at the backbone of nationalist conflict. He reflects on the contemporary American ideology of war—one that wages violence in the name of abstract notions such as liberty and world peace and that he reveals to be deeply rooted in biblical notions. A work of extraordinary breadth, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror connects the ancient past to the troubled present, showing how religious ideals of sacrifice and purification made violence meaningful throughout history.

Motadel, “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War”

In November, Harvard University Press released “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War” by David Motadel (University of Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:

In the most crucial phase of the Second World War, German troops, fighting in regions as far apart as the Sahara and the Caucasus, confronted the Allies across lands largely populated by Muslims. Nazi officials saw Islam as a powerful force with the same enemies as Germany: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Jews. Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first comprehensive account of Berlin’s remarkably ambitious attempts to build an alliance with the Islamic world.

Drawing on archival research in three continents, David Motadel explains how German officials tried to promote the Third Reich as a patron of Islam. He explores Berlin’s policies and propaganda in the Muslim war zones, and the extensive work that authorities undertook for the recruitment, spiritual care, and ideological indoctrination of tens of thousands of Muslim volunteers who fought in the Wehrmacht and the SS.

Islam and Nazi Germany’s War reveals how German troops on the ground in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Eastern front engaged with diverse Muslim populations, including Muslim Roma and Jewish converts to Islam. Combining measured argument with a masterly handling of detail, it illuminates the profound impact of the Second World War on Muslims around the world and provides a new understanding of the politics of religion in the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century.