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The Crusader Rhetoric of Today




From crusades to terror and jihad?
Eternal conflict or common past?
Is God and Allah the same?

Crusades. Templar knights. The Gates of Vienna. Holy war. Martyrdom. Words and phrases we know from an historical era by many people belived to belong precisely to history and not our own times. The events of the last decades has shown that is not the case.

This year's International Saladin Days are held in the aftermath of the terrorist attack 7/22. Anders Behring Breivik's political manifesto is pervaded with crusader rhetoric and historical references, seeking to embed his actions within an eternal perspective. But Behring Breivik is not alone in using this rhetoric. The struggle for Jerusalem is a point of reference for the jihadist movement, and has, gradually, seeped into public debate. George W. Bush caused a stir when he, in the aftermath of 9/11, referred to the concept of the crusade, and such references has been reiterated online, in newspapers, by politicians and academics ever since. The crusades has become part of our present time.

For this year's International Saladin Days, we have invited religion researches, historians and writers from all over the world, to illuminate and discuss our contemporary crusader rhetoric and its central premise – the notion of an essential difference. Are Christianity and Islam really fundamentally different in their cultural and political histories, and if this is the case, in what does this difference consist?




... is Professor of Islamic history and literature at Divinity School, University of Chicago. Among his books are Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (2007) and The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia (1996). In 2003, he co-editored and contributed to the anthology The new Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy.


... is Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, and the author of the books Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (1995) and Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence (2000). He is currently working on a book about Allah.


... is Professor of history at Tel Aviv University and the author of the book The Invention of the Jewish People (2008), which was on the besteller list in Israel for more than 20 weeks.


... is Professor in Arabic Literature at Duke University and the author of a number of books on Islam, gender and war, such as Women and the War Story (1996) and Women Claim Islam: Creating Islamic Feminism Through Literature (2001).


... is a political scientist educated at the University of California, Berkeley, former Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard, and today an Assistant Professorat Istanbul's Koç University.


... is a journalist and a writer. For several years, she has been connected to the Swedish Anti-racist magazine Expo. I 2011, she published the book Europas skam. Rasister på frammarsj (t: The Disgrace of Europe. Racists Advancing), in which she gives an in-depth analysis of the growth of right-wing extremism in the Europe of today.


... is Professor of history at Lund Universtity, specializing in European Medieval history, and the author of a number of books, textbooks as well as historical novels. Recipient of the August Prize and the Clio Prize, Harrison is the editor in chief of the comprehensive series Sveriges Historia (t: The History of Sweden).





5 PM - Ideologies of Global Conflict from 9/11 to 7/22
The Saladin lecture 2012 by Michael Sells

Michael Sells will hold the opening lecture at this year's International Saladin Days, having, for a number of years, worked with issues related to religion, violence and ideology, such as for the book The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia (1996). In the anthology The New Crusades. Constructing the Muslim Enemy (2003), Sells and his co-authors investigates George W. Bush's rhetoric after 9/11, Samuel Huntington's influential theory about the «clash of civilizations», as well as the underlying foundation on which these are based. In this lecture, first held during these Saladin Days, Sells draws lines from the terrorist attacks hitting the US 9/11, 2001, to Oslo and Utøya 7/22, 2011.


7 PM - Crusades rhetoric, ideology and extremism in light of
the Oslo and Utøya attacks.

A conversation between Lisa Bjurwald, Øyvind Strømmen, Thomas Hegghammer and Lena Lindgren.

How do the crusades and the assertion of an eternal conflict between Christianity and Islam appear in the public debate of Europe today? How are they employed by jihadist and counterjihadist groups, and how do they affect the public debate?

A journalist and a writer, Lisa Bjurwald recently published Europas skam. Rasister på frammarsj (t: The Disgrace of Europe. Racists Advancing), about right-wing populism in Europe. Thomas Hegghammer is a researcher at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and an expert on jihadist groups, while journalist Øyvind Strømmen for many years has monitored online extremist groups, documented in his book Det mørke nettet (t: The Dark Web) (2011). The conversation will be lead by Lena Lindgren, editor at Morgenbladet.



9 AM - Christianity; Islam and the idea of essential difference.
With Bruce Lawrence, Michael Sells, Lars Gule and Nora Eggen.

What are the differences between Christianity and Islam? Is it true that democracy, modernity and science is incompatible with Islam, but compatible with Christianity? Both religions exist in various versions and varieties, historically as well as today. Both has been, and are, official religions in vastly different states and societies. How has these societies been formed by theology and faith? What are the differences between the messages in the Bible and the Qur'an?

Bruce Lawrence is Professor of Religious Studies and an expert on religious fundamentalism, Michael Sells is Professir in Islamic literature and history. Discussing these questions, they will be joined by Nora Eggen, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies, and Lars Gule, social commentator and Associate Professor in International Studies. 


5 PM - «You’ve got to do something about your women» 
Lecture by miriam cooke.

Claims of repressed women, in need of saving from Muslim men, and of vulgar, Western women, breaking down the morals of society – neither are uncommon in debates related to religion and culture. In the 19th century, colonialism was legitimized as a civilizing mission for primitive groups of people, where segregation between genders and repression of women were widespread. How is the rhetoric of The Other formed, and, in this process, what is the role of gender?

A Professor of Arabic literature, miriam cooke has, for years, worked with issues related to gender, war and essentialism. In this lecture, she takes a closer look at how essentializing rhetoric functions in public discourse.


7 PM - Is Allah God?
A conversation between Bruce Lawrence and Åsne Seierstad.

God and Allah – are they not merely two names for the same god? That is how most non-believers see it, as do many believers. But is it that simple? Many, believers and seculars alike, are claiming, and increasingly so, that God and Allah are essentially different, and that the differences we see between the Christian and the Muslim cultural groups today is a result of this essential difference.

Bruce Lawrence, Professor at Duke University and one of the world's leading academics in Religion Studies, has, among other things, written a number of books about the relationship between Islam, Christianity and other religions. At the House of Literature, he is joined by Norwegian writer and journalisr Åsne Seierstad for a conversation about one of the most fundamental religious questions: Who is God?



10 AM - Eternal conflict or common past?
Seminar with Shlomo Sand, Şener Aktürk, miriam cooke, Dick Harrison, Trond Berg Eriksen and Hanne Eggen Røislien

The enemy is at the Gates of Vienna, at the walls of Jerusalem, across the Pyrenees. The dominating narrative is that of an eternal conflict between Christian and Islamic cultures, from the time of the crusades and until the terror in Oslo. What has the historical relationship between Christians and Muslims been like, from the Middle Ages until today? Is it true that science, enlightenment and democracy has developed in the Christian world alone? Was Spain's El-Andalus characterized by peaceful and balanced co-existence between Christians, Jews and Muslims? Why are others so important in our own identity formation, and how are the stories we tell about the past created?

With Dick Harrison, Şener Aktürk, miriam cooke, Trond Berg Eriksen and Shlomo Sand. The seminar is lead by Hanne Eggen Røislien


7 PM - Concert: Trygve Seim & Jai Shankar quartet.
Readings by Tariq Ali, Tove Nilsen, Thorvald Steen and Inger Elisabeth Hansen.

The relationship between the Christian and Islamic cultural groups and the meeting between East and West is reflected in literature, music and other cultural expressions. This year, we end the International Saladin Days with party, to which we have invited writers and musicians who in different ways have approached issues such as tolerance and reconciliation, or simply the possibility for a multicultural society.

Tariq Ali, Tove Nilsen, Thorvald Steen and Inger Elisabeth Hansen are joined by musicians Trygve Seim, Rohini Sahajpal, Jacob Young and Jai Shankar.



3 PM - From hatred of Jews to hostility of Muslims.
The political function of otherness. Lecture by Shlomo Sand.

In 2008, writer and Professor at the University of Tel Aviv, Shlomo Sand, published the book The Invention of The Jewish People. Here, he takes a closer look at the historical foundation for the Jewish-Israeli identity, claiming that the foundation for the Jewish-Israeli nation is constructed, like many national identities before it.

In this lecture, written for these Saladin Days, Sand asks what the role of difference is in our own identity: why are we so concerned with what separates us from others? And why is ethnic and religious hatred such a prominent feature of our close history and current time?