REZA ASLAN: A cosmic war is a religious war. It's a war in which God is believed to be directly engaged on one side against another. It's different than a holy war. A holy war is a war between two rival religions fighting for some kind of land or territory or something material, some material gain.and
A cosmic war is a, it's sort of an imaginary moral encounter. The bloodshed is real. The violence is real. But it's believed that the war itself is actually taking place in the heavens. It's not between armies and soldiers but between the forces of good and evil and that we human beings are nothing more than just simply pawns in this great game.
REZA ASLAN: Here's the problem is that when we see these kinds of criminal acts, particularly international terrorism, through the lens of good and evil, through the sort of religiously polarising or Manichean worldview which so much of these things are understood as, we actually validate the terrorists' world view. We legitimise their ideology.and
There's a big argument taking place right now in the United States between President Obama on one side and former vice president Dick Cheney on the other about whether we should treat terrorists like criminals or whether we should treat terrorism like a war crime.
And the problem about treating terrorism as an act of war is that when you declare war on a terrorist, they are no longer a terrorist. They're now soldiers. And nothing that they do, no action that they take can legitimately be called terrorism any longer. We validate their worldview by talking about these conflicts in the same way that they do.
REZA ASLAN: This is something that's done on both sides of the conflict, no question about it.To read the bits in between you should click here.
The difference of course between the way that we characterise the Soviet Union as the evil kingdom and the way that we characterise either Iran or for instance Al Qaeda as this sort of metaphysical evil is that on the other side of this argument are people who truly do believe that this is about good and evil; who truly are not concerned with earthly matters.
The usual ways in which one defines who's winning a war by body count or territory gain - these are totally irrelevant to cosmic warriors. They know that they have no hope of victory on this earth. Their only hope for victory is on the other plane.
So moral issues, ethical guidance - these things get thrown out the window. What does it matter whether you know the enemy is a combatant or a non-combatant when it's really God who's controlling my gun; when it's God who's compelling my actions?
Our validation of that viewpoint has made it much more difficult to tackle Al Qaeda and these like-minded militants as an ideological movement than were we to just simply delegitimise them as nothing more than common criminals which is what they are.