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RESPONSE TO QAMAR-UL HUDA Robert Hamerton-Kelly Stanford University Qamar and I communicated by email. The text of my response is basically what I sent him by email. Dear Qamar: Thanks for your greeting. I have read your paper with interest and learned from it. Here is a brief account of what I plan to say. My response will be chiefly from the point of view of the mimetic theory which holds that religion in its human, pagan, unrevealed form is a structure of sacred violence that lives by scapegoating and sacrifice and generates culture out ofthe victim by means of, firstly ritual, the repetition of the first murder as sacrifice, secondly prohibition, religious law that enforces differentiation, and thus prevents the crisis of undifferentiation, that is the precursor of surrogate victimage and thirdly myth, the account of the originary violence told from the point of views of the perpetrators, coverup for their violence. Islam's monotheism is a powerful antidote to this pagan sacred, indeed, in terms ofmimetic theory, all the great religions are more or less in reaction against the pagan sacred, against generative violence; and one ofthe marks oftheir greatness resides in the candor with which they address the problem of the residual sacred violence in themselves. This was my problem with Rabbi Kimelman's presentation yesterday, and I confess it is my problem with your presentation. In this regard Iconsider the Buddhistcontribution to this symposiumto be the best of the lot, precisely because it is so candid about the residue of sacred 100Robert Hamerton-Kelly violence in this truly great religion. I think that the presentation on Christianity too was, in this regard, candid. Islam's monotheism is a powerful antidote to this pagan sacred, and I want to drawjust for a minute on that. As you yourself mentioned, the rise ofIslamwas aconflictual phenomenon within thepagan diversity ofArabia in the sixth century. Andthat itselfis disclosive oftherelationshipbetween this emerging monotheism and the residual pagan sacred. Now, you understand, that in terms of mimetic theory, the god is the transfigured victim. So the god is essentially a center of violence. And the emergence of monotheism emerges as a critique of the pagan sacred, the transfigured victim. Now here are some indications in the biblical tradition that illustrate this that I find are quite interesting. You recall that monotheism in the Bible first emerges in the texts of Second Isaiah, Deutero Isaiah. Where the Israelite—in this case Jewish—experience of exile leads the prophet to perceive that God is not just the God of Israel—that is, it's not just henotheism—but is the God of all the world, and that he can indeed work through Cyrus, King ofthe Medes and Persians. It is surely significant that monotheism emerges in the very same text in which the figure of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh appears. It seems as if the emergence of monotheism goes along with the emerging recognition that the victim is innocent. That, ifyou like, is the demythologization ofthe sacred victim of the pagan divinity. I refer you now, secondly, to the ten commandments, the ten words of Moses from Sinai in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6. As we discussed in our seminar at Stanford and as René has made clear in his most recent book (ISee Satan Falling likeLightening ), the tenth commandment,"Thou shalt not covet" is indeed a prohibition on mimetic desire. This is what the Apostle Paul understood when he picked up in a book epithumesis—in Greek: "you shall not desire." By the way thuo, the root thu in Greek is the root for sacrifice. So epithumia/desire, is etymologically in Greek linked to sacrifice. "You shall not desire" is a prohibition on sacred violence. That's the last commandment and, I take it as an important summary of the previous nine commandments. What I have not seen generally appreciated is that the first commandment is a prohibition on idolatry. It is in fact the establishment of the absolute monotheism. So it is as if the ten commandments are bracketed by two stridently mimetic antimimetic injunctions: theinjunction on idolatry and the injunction on mimetic desire. And I think you can...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 99-104
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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