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gandhi-terror[1] - Mark Juergensmeyer Gandhi vs terrorism I...

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30 Dædalus Winter 2007 I mmediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the idea of taking a nonviolent stance in response to terror- ism would have been dismissed out of hand. But now, after the invasion and occupation of two Muslim countries by the U.S. military, the loss of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thou- sands of innocent Afghanis and Iraqis, and the start of a global jihadi war that seems unending, virtually any alterna- tive seems worth considering. It is in this context that various forms of less mili- tant response, including the methods of conflict resolution adopted by India’s nationalist leader, Mohandas Gandhi, deserve a second look. Like us, Gandhi had to deal with ter- rorism, and his responses show that he was a tough-minded realist. I say this knowing that this image of Gandhi is quite different from what most West- erners have in mind when they think of him. The popular view in Europe and the United States is the one a circle of Western paci½sts writing in the 1920s promoted–the image of Gandhi as a saint. In a 1921 lecture on “Who is the Great- est Man in the World Today?” John Haynes Holmes, the pastor of New York City’s largest liberal congregation, ex- tolled not Lenin or Woodrow Wilson or Sun Yat-sen but someone whom most of the crowd thronging the hall that day had never heard of–Mohandas Gandhi. 1 Holmes, who was later credit- ed with being the West’s discoverer of Gandhi, described him as his “seer and saint.” 2 In fact, the term ‘Mahatma,’ or ‘great soul,’ which is often appended to Gan- dhi’s name, probably came not from ad- mirers in India but from the West. Be- Mark Juergensmeyer Gandhi vs. terrorism Mark Juergensmeyer is professor of sociology and global studies and director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the Uni- versity of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of numerous publications, including “The New Cold War?” (1993), “Terror in the Mind of God” (revised edition, 2003), and “Gandhi’s Way” (revised edition, 2005). © 2007 by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences 1 John Haynes Holmes, “Who is the Greatest Man in the World Today?” a pamphlet pub- lished in 1921 and reprinted in Charles Chat- ½eld, ed., The Americanization of Gandhi: Images of the Mahatma (New York and London: Gar- land Publishing, 1976), 98. 2 John Haynes Holmes, My Gandhi (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), 9.
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fore the Indian philosopher Rabindra- nath Tagore used the term in his letter welcoming Gandhi to India in 1914, members of an American and European mystical movement, the Theosophists, had applied this name to Gandhi. Most likely, they were the ones who conveyed it to Tagore, and since then the term has persisted, even though it was Westerners rather than Indians who ½rst regarded Gandhi in such a saintly mien.
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