Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — “The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs” ]

If this was a movie, I’d say the speakers at this conference were a “stellar cast”! Will McCants, Graeme Wood, Cole Bunzel, Timothy Furnish, David Cook, JM Berger, Husain Haqqani.. Paul Berman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali..

I participated in several of the old Center for Millennial Studies conferences that Richard Landes organized around the turn of the millennium, and they were intense academic highlights for me. I thought it very short-sighted when CMS funding was cut after the turn of the year 2000, agreeing with Dr Landes that millenarianism was unlikely to go away any time soon — and AQ, and IS even more so, have more than proven his point — hence this “final” conference.

If you can attend, by all means do — highly recommended. I’m delighted to have been invited to attend myself, and hope to keep Zenpundit readers well informed.


Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad: May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

Sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Most Westerners associate the terms apocalyptic and millennial (millenarian) with Christian beliefs about the endtime. Few even know that Muhammad began his career as an apocalyptic prophet predicting the imminent Last Judgment. And yet, for the last thirty years, a wide-ranging group of militants, both Sunni and Shi’i, both in coordination and independently, have, under the apocalyptic belief that now is the time, pursued the millennial goal of spreading Dar al Islam to the entire world. In a manner entirely in keeping with apocalyptic beliefs, but utterly counter-intuitive to outsiders, these Jihadis see the Western-driven transformation of the world as a vehicle for their millennial beliefs, or, to paraphrase Eusebius on the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity: Praeparatio Califatae.

The apocalyptic scenario whereby this global conquest takes place differs from active transformative (the West shall be conquered by Da’wa [summons]) to active cataclysmic (bloody conquest). Western experts have until quite recently, for a wide range of reasons, ignored this dimension of the problem. And yet, understanding the nature of global Jihad in terms of the dynamics of apocalyptic millennial groups may provide an important understanding, both to their motivations, methods, as well as their responses to the inevitable disappointments that await all such believers. The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs, co-sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).



*All events will take place in the Stone Science Building (645 Commonwealth Ave), room B50

Sunday, May 3

10:00-12:00 Introduction:

1. Richard Landes, “Globalization as a Millennial Praeparatio Califatae: A Problematic Discussion
2. William McCants, Brookings Institute: “ISIS and the Absent Mahdi: Studies in Cognitive Dissonance and Apocalyptic Jazz”
3. Graeme Wood, Yale University, Atlantic Monthly: “On the Resistance to seeing Global Jihad as Apocalyptic Movement”

12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

1:30-3:30 Panel II: The Millennial Goal: Global Caliphate

1. Cole Bunzel, Yale U.: ISIS: From Paper State to Caliphate: Hotwiring the Millennium
2. Timothy Furnish, Independent Scholar: “Varieties of Transformative (non-violent) Jihadi Millennialism
3. Jeffrey Bale: Monterey Institute of International Studies, “The Persistence of Western ‘Mirror Imaging’ and Ideological Double Standards: Refusing to Take Islamist Ideology Seriously

4:00-5:30 Panel III: Case Studies in Apocalyptic Jihad

1. David Cook, Rice University: “ISIS and Boko Haram: Profiles in Apocalyptic Jihad”
2. JM Berger, Brookings Institute, “The role of communications Technology in mediating apocalyptic communities”
3. Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute of Near East Policy: “Apocalyptic Revolutionary Politics in Iran”

Monday, May 4

10:0-12:00 Panel IV: Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Genocide

1. Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch, “Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Global Jihad”
2. Charles Small, “Ideology and Antisemitism: Random Acts or a Core Element of the Reactionary Islamist Global Jihad?”
3. Richard Landes, BU, “Active Cataclysmic Apocalyptic Scenarios, Demonizing and Megadeath: Taiping, Communists, Nazis, and Jihadis.”
Comments: David Redles, Michael Barkun

12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

1:30-4:00 Final Panel Discussion

Paul Berman, Independent Scholar
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Independent Scholar
Jessica Stern, Harvard University
Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute
Charles Strozier, John Jay College
Brenda Brasher, Tulane University


Selected Work

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Read “Those Who Love Death: Islam’s Fatal Focus on the Afterlife” from Heretic (2015) Here

Jeffrey Bale
Read “Islamism and Totalitarianism” (2009) Here
Read “Political Correctness and the Undermining of Counterterrorism” (2013) Here

J.M Berger
Read “The ISIS Twitter Consensus” (2015) Here
Professor Berger’s latest book, coauthored with Jessica Stern, ISIS: State of Terror, can be purchased Here

Paul Berman
Read “Why is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?” (2015) Here

Cole Bunzel
Read “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State” (2015) Here

Medhi Khalaji
Read “Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy” (2008) Here

Richard Landes
Read “Enraged Millennials” from Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (2011) Here

William McCants
Read “The Sectarian Apocalypse” (2014) Here

Jessica Stern
Read “The Coming Final Battle” from ISIS: State of Terror (2015) Here

Charles Strozier
Professor Strozier’s book, The Fundamentalist Mindset can be purchased Here

Graeme Wood
Read “What ISIS Really Wants” (2015) Here