The Third Jihad: the Movie. What scares us from Islam’s violence?

By David Atienza, January 31, 2012

I remember, growing up in Spain, I used to always watch on the news images about Iran-Iraq’s war or the Intifada in Palestine. Every time that someone was killed, the news presented a featureless mass of grievers screaming and shaking their guns in the air threateningly. The day Gulf War I began my mother woke me up in the morning to go to school and told me: “The beginning of WWIII is close” and I spent all day terrified.

Spaniard’s collective mind has, in general, a negatively shaped opinion about Muslims that has been developed historically. Seven hundred years of Muslim occupation-coexistence, the use of Moor’s Guard by Franco and many other events have molded these ideas that are even collected in many tales where the evil character is presented with Arabic physical features like Scar, the evil uncle in the Lion King. This fear was not totally elaborated since few of us in Madrid around that time ever had any contact with Muslim people, but finally on 9/11, this fear reached the United States, formerly terrified by the Soviet Union and the possibility of a nuclear war. Eleven years later, a film called “The Third Jihad” has been shown to more than one hundred police officers of New York in their training facilities and it has been a scandal.

Whether or not the threat is real, the film touches something deep that generates anguish. When I was a child, I did not realize what scared me from those images, but after reading Girard’s works, things begun to clear up in my mind. The profound fear of violence comes from the undifferentiated mass that erases the differences and avoids any possible classification or order, and this fear generates more violence. The mass is in itself undifferentiated like the violence that it provokes. Since Osama bin Laden was killed, we do not have a defined face to situate the origin of this violence, so the fear grows unconsciously and the ‘victimary’ process is up to begin.  

The first step has been taken; lately it has been denounced that the police of New York, together with the CIA, is monitoring through “mosque crawlers” ALL Muslim communities and activities, and this is something that has spread all around the US. The tension provoked by the economic crisis is a very good breeding ground for the mimetic violence to burst. The situation is delicate.


What must be done? In my opinion, and following René Girard’s theory, there is one way out in order to avoid the increasing ethnic violence in the US. Since the first objective of terrorism is to create terror, panic, or uncontrollable fear, this kind of movies are supporting their enemies’ goals indirectly. Therefore the best option is to reduce this fear in the population by shaping and putting limits to the real threat. Islam is not jet a unified enemy and this has to be understood and maintained because from our capacity to separate or define reality comes order and therefore peace. If we do not separate reality from fiction, at the end there will be no difference and ‘terror’ will fulfill its destiny: to generate chaos, and chaos breeds violence, and violence is undifferentiated and highly contagious.

I hope my mother was wrong.



3 comentarios en “The Third Jihad: the Movie. What scares us from Islam’s violence?”

  1. I hope your mother was wrong too!! But usually mothers are always right. Girard thinks as your mother in his last book, translated to English as «Battling to the End» (, a very apocalyptical approach to political thought and/or science..

    I am very interested about the radical difference between fiction and reality. I think fictions (and every symbol is a fiction, a lie) were born after sacrifices to hide them. You could read Eric Gans to explore this particular research field, but Girard said it better and before. Maybe the book «Violence and Difference. Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction» ( by McKenna is more clear and «orthodox» toward Mimetic Theory. So, first question: What do you think about fiction as anthropological device that defines Human Being? This is related to the literary definition of man not only as symbolic animal, but also as narrative being (I realize that I am taking «fiction» only in a restrictive manner, as if only narrative discourses -or, more generally, litarary texts- are fictions…)

    In other way (maybe in the same way), about mass media as producers of fictions (newspapers, news on tv, war reporters) Gil Bailie twitted this little, but very deconstructing, video:

    I think it illustrates perfectly the relation between truth and lie, fiction and reality. And I wish to suggest a question: Do you think fiction as fine (and beautiful) device could generate Truth better than simple and grotesque reality?

    Thank you for your answers…

  2. David,

    First, you mention that “every symbol is a fiction, a lie” but for me it is not clear that fiction and lie are synonymous. To lie imply a conscience movement of the Will; does fiction works in the same way? Second, does reality match with our cognitive representation of reality? Remember the classic polemic with the realism of Saint Thomas: Adaequatio rei et intellectum. And third, it is possible to transmit our cognitive representation of reality to others? How? So I have only questions for your questions:

    1. “What do you think about fiction as anthropological device that defines Human Being?” But… Why do we need to define Human Being?
    2. “Do you think fiction as fine (and beautiful) device could generate Truth better than simple and grotesque reality?” If we are ‘symbolic animals’ and being temporal we are also ‘narrative’ (see Paul Ricoeur Time and Narrative), there is any other way to approach reality and Truth out of language, sings, narrative, and fiction? Could Truth be generate or is given? It is reality “simple and grotesque”?
    Now, in my opinion the problem begins when we deify the sign and disconnect it from reality, as you mention. This is why the Cross, the Passion, demystify any violence that is rooted in the victimary process. The Passion recovers reality radically, and this is why any human being in pain and close to die, being conscience of this, will demystified his existence. Therefore, if God is Love and reality belongs to Him, when we are closer to reality we are closer to Him.

  3. As the poster above me implied, the connection between the symbol and the terror is quite implicit. We’ve become used to the idea of a universe that can be explained semantically, which means that whenever we are faced with a dilemma we inmediately try to answer «what does it means?», grating said form with a symbolic value that is going to be our reference above everything. Normally we should just step back and look at things as they don’t really make sense, try to digest them raw without «fixing» their conceptualization to ease our own troubled feelings towards them. The basis of fear is born from ignorance, we fear the things we cannot understand, and when we create a number of symbols behind that ignorance, it shows that we are building upon fear, and that the semantic method we apply towards reality isn’t making it easier for us to deal with things as they exist in front of us.

    The task becomes more unnerving since any question contains it’s answer, for example, when trying to understand terrorism, we’re already qualifying others as terrorists and ourselves as targets, our paradigm is already deformed so our understanding cannot look away from the set values that the question we ask has already implied. When your mind is set, no real productive exchange can happen. Symbols reinforce such realities deep in our mind, so we cannot see through them.

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