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Religion and Peace Guest lecture in E 584 Tuesday 5 June 2007. Ragnhild Nordås, International Peace Research institute, Oslo (PRIO) Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW) Religion and conflict. Historically, religious homogeneity seen as condition for stability

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religion and peace guest lecture in e 584 tuesday 5 june 2007

Religion and PeaceGuest lecture in E 584Tuesday 5 June 2007

Ragnhild Nordås,

International Peace Research institute, Oslo (PRIO)

Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW)

religion and conflict
Religion and conflict
  • Historically, religious homogeneity seen as condition for stability
  • Common assumption that religion is important for understanding conflict
  • Renewed attention to the religion-conflict nexus: Key events
      • The Iranian revolution (1979)
      • The rise of Solidarity movement and the end of the Cold War
      • The new security agenda following the end of the Cold War
      • The terror attacks of 11 September 2001
  • A resurgence of religion
      • Modernization thesis challenged
      • Global resurgence of religion, but different manifestations
      • Globalization and the war on terror seen to spur further resurgence
cultural homogeneity and conflict
Cultural homogeneity and conflict
  • Problems of state legitimacy can lead to civil conflict
  • Homogeneity is often seen as a condition for legitimacy
    • Who are ‘the People’?: Classical democratic dilemma

1. Patrie: The People are whoever lives within the territorial borders

2. Das Volk: The People are those that share the same culture, language, ethnicity, religion and culture

    • Congruence of the political (state) unit and cultural unit (people) problematic when inhabitants do not feel they share a common culture
    • Erosion of state legitimacy especially problematic
      • in issues of national boundaries and territory, and
      • in conflicts of particular cultural or symbolic significance to either majority or minority.
conceptualizing religion
Conceptualizing religion
  • Often categorized into functional or substantialdefinitions
    • Substantial: sees religions as a philosophy
    • Functional: focus on the role religion plays
      • Social cement: a system of bonding and binding through which individuals are controlled and disciplined, as well as united in more or less homogenous groups with a collective consciousness
      • A symbol matrix resulting in social facts(symbols can be religious dress, religious artefacts, as well as the rituals, values, and practices)
salience of religion
Salience of religion
  • Exclusivity
    • Inherent in the appurtenance to one religion lies a separation and exclusion from other religions
    • Harder to compromise
  • Transcendence
    • Existence of an ultimate dependable other
    • Argued to foster a stronger loyalty and private commitment than other ‘ideologies of order’
    • Hierarchical systems of thought
  • Values
    • World views, social relationships and structures of authority are different
    • Makes inter-religious dialogue challenging
  • Stability
    • Fixed or slow-changing
    • Nonnegotiable
  • Therefore religion is argued to :
    • Be something people are more willing to fight and die for
    • Lead to more long lasting and more violent conflicts
religious mobilization types
Religious mobilization types
  • Liberation theology
    • Finding strength in a religion to fight oppression or discrimination (often same religion as oppressors)
      • E.g. civil rights movement in the US
  • Fundamentalists
    • Reaction to marginalization of religion in society
    • Wish to ’cleanse’ religion – go back to the original/fundamentals
    • Extremism: an additional wish to use violent methods against threatening outsiders – conversion, suppression or elimination of the enemy seen as a religious duty
  • Ethno-religious nationalists
    • Close identification of a religious tradition to a people or a country’s destiny
    • Can demonize strangers, missionaries, or others on their territory
    • Often reference to home country as sacred or holy land
    • Indirectly preoccupied with the perceived marginalization of their religion:
      • Strategy to establish a political unit where their religion in dominant vis-à-vis other religions, rather than to ‘cleanse’ the religion
what is a religious conflict
What is a religious conflict?
  • No clear definition
  • E.g. Balkan, Sudan, Kashmir, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine sometimes labeled religious conflicts, but often not
    • Not primarily fighting over religion
    • The sides characterized by different religious affiliation
    • Does a conflict need to be religiously motivated to be considered a religious conflict?
  • Three sets of (possible) indicators of a religious war
    • Actors (different religion or not?)
    • Issues (are religious issues a motivation for fighting?)
    • Rhetoric (is religion expressed to justify fighting and/or to mobilize support?)
  • Conflicts that are not religious at the onset might develop into more religious conflicts in the continuation of war
religion and general civil war theory
Religion and general civil war theory

Three broad preconditions for violent mobilization against the state:

    • Common identity,
    • Motivation
    • Opportunity

Religion and these factors:

  • Identity
    • Strong marker of identity for individuals:
      • An important part of who are
      • Private and personal commitment
      • Important in many phases of life, especially during difficult times
      • Structuring: Rituals, rules to live by, attitudes and values
    • Important identity component also for groups:
      • Powerful experience of social membership;
      • Rituals and meeting places strengthen in-group cohesion
      • Clear demarcation of in-group vs. out-group
      • Stability over time
    • Absolute truths:
      • willing to fight and die for
      • Little room for compromise (i.e. on religious doctrine)
    • Religious duty to fight the ‘infidels’
    • Religious concepts such as martyrdom, Jihad etc.
  • Opportunity:
    • Religion is an institutional space:
      • meeting places and organizational structures can facilitate mobilization
theoretical perspectives on the culture conflict relationship
Theoretical perspectives on the culture-conflict relationship
  • Primordialism
    • See humans as value-oriented. Conflict rooted in cultural differences in and of themselves - important and sufficient explanations of conflict
  • Instrumentalism
    • Human nature seen as rational. Identities used by political entrepreneurs as tools to achieve political or economic goals. Identities are fluid and malleable
  • Constructivism
    • Cultural differences are not necessarily conflictual, but can be evoked to create conflicts in certain contexts
objections to the views
Objections to the views?
  • Primordialists fail to explain variations in the relative importance of cultural differences over time and between countries
  • Instrumentalists ‘overlook’ that cultural belonging may not be something that individuals decide for themselves
  • Constructivism builds a bridge between the two other perspectives and is approaching consensus: Identities are real, but they vary in salience depending on context
huntington s thesis primordial
Huntington’s thesis (primordial)
  • Clash of civilizations thesis
      • Huntington’s 1993 article generated more discussion in three years than any other article Foreign Affairs had published since the 1940s
      • Civilizations are ‘the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species’ (Huntington, 1996:43).
        • 8 civilizations: Western, Latin, Orthodox; Islamic, Sinic; Hinduist, Japanese, African
      • Argument about shifting loyalties: away from the nation-state and towards civilizations that transcend national borders
      • Conflicts after cold war will be cultural (religious) – between civilizations
        • Identity differentials as explanation of conflict
      • Conflict inevitable due to animosities stemming from the defining of out-group from in-group
        • as religion psychologically provides the most reassuring and supportive justification to fight against threatening ‘godless’ forces
causes of clash of civilizations
Causes of clash of civilizations
  • Differences between civilizations are the most basic and unchangeable
  • Globalization
    • More aware of differences
    • Economic liberalization weakens national identities – void filled by religion (fundamentalism)
  • Changing power balance between civilizations
    • Islam on increase (demographic); Sinic on increase (economic)
  • Economic and military cooperation tends to follow civilizations and thereby reinforce them
consequences of the thesis
Consequences of the thesis
  • Clash of civilizations within and between nations (intrastate and international wars)
  • The clashes will not be the only conflicts, but the most dangerous due to potential for escalation
  • In the 21th century the risk of a major clash is between the Western and the Islamic civilizations, possibly allied with the Sinic
some critiques
Theoretical deficiencies

Agency problem: denies human responsibility

Specification problems

What is a civilization? Blurry…

Alternatives just as likely

Global village

Fukuyama: end of history


Extensions of EU and NATO

Many Muslim countries allied with the US


Self-fulfilling prophecy?

Some critiques
tests of huntington
Tests of Huntington
  • Russett, Oneal & Cox (2000) and Henderson & Tucker (2001)
    • Intra-civilizational dyads of countries more at risk than inter-civilizational dyads
        • Huntington replies that the time period studied is not representative
  • Fox (2001)
    • Globally there are no more civilizational clashes after the Cold War
  • Chiozza (2002)
    • Finds that for the period 1946-1997 inter-civilizational dyads have no more conflict than intra-civilizational ones
  • Tusicisny (2004)
    • Intercivilizational conflicts are no longer in duration than other conflicts
    • Conflict intensity in intercivilizational conflicts have not increased since end of Cold War,
    • Most intercivilizational conflicts post-Cold War has involved Islamic groups, but the conflict frequency between the Islamic and Sinic civilizations and the West remain marginal
religion in large n studies
Religion in large-N studies
  • Focus on demographics:
    • Test whether different forms of religious heterogeneity in countries are associated with conflict:
      • Polarization
        • Increases when there are two equally large groups (i.e. 50-50 distribution is max polarization)
      • Fractionalization
        • The probability of two individuals drawn at random from the population being from different groups
      • Dominance
        • Size of largest group
      • Number of groups
    • Few robust findings
      • Reynal-Querol (2002)
        • Religious polarization increases the likelihood of ethnic civil war
        • Religious fragmentation decreases risk
        • Proportional representation and coalition politics can counteract ethnic conflict based on religious differences
      • Fearon & Laitin (2003) find no effect of religion (different measures)
      • Collier & Hoeffler (2004) find no effect of religious fractionalization
why ambiguous findings and non findings
Why ambiguous findings and non-findings?
  • Different definitions of conflicts:
      • Thresholds differ
      • Some split between ethnic and revolutionary wars
          • E.g. Reynal-Querol only investigates ethnic conflicts, not ideological/revolutionary conflict
      • Large-N civil war literature look exclusively on conflicts between a rebel group and the state – other conflict may be important also
      • Onset versus incidence of conflict
  • Different operationalizations of ethnicity/religious groups
      • What is an ethnic/religious group?
      • Which religious groups to include? Separate within world religions or not?
      • How to measure heterogeneity?
  • Different time periods studied
  • No real relationship?
alternative analyses
Alternative analyses?
  • Study rebel movements?
    • Most studies focus on features of states
  • Study issues?
    • More focus on whether religion/ethnicity is an important matter in dispute in civil conflicts
  • Other particularities of religious conflicts?
    • More long lasting than other conflicts? More intractable? More ‘symbolically’ important? More likely to spread?
  • Varying salience depending on context?
  • Nordås: Identity, opportunity, and motivation
  • Testing the primordial assumption vs. constructivism:
    • Religious identity differences become important in certain contexts:
      • When there is a large religious minority present and the minority faces severe grievances
      • Look at the role of the state in restricting/discriminating religious minorities, and state religiosity.
grievance formation in minorities
Grievance formation in minorities
  • Grievances can be created (and constitute a basis for mobilization) in religiously divided countries which restrict religious minorities
    • When there are close connections between a religion and the state
    • When particular minorities are restricted in practicing their religion
    • When the state outright target members of religious minorities and harass or persecute them
measuring the context of state religiosity
Measuring the context of state religiosity
  • State religiosity: Scale consisting of three elements
  • Coded based on US State department, Religious Freedom Reports
    • Having an official state religion
    • Restrictions on religious freedom (0–5 scale)

(1) Restrictions on conversions (2) Restrictions on personal status regarding marriage, divorce, burial, and inheritance; (3) Restrictions on places of worship (4) Restrictions on proselytizing; and (5) Mandatory religious education

    • Persecution/ harassment:
      • Arrest, detention, or harassment of adherents of minority religions, and/or forced conversions (including attempts of forced conversions)
main finding
Main conclusions

Religious cleavages do not in and of themselves increase the risk of conflict

Contrary to primordialists

However, in the situation with a religious cleavage increasing levels of state policies of minority restrictions and harassment, there is increased conflict likelihood

Support for constructivist theories

Main finding
are religious conflicts bloodier
Are religious conflicts bloodier?
  • Test of characteristics of civil wars affect the severity of conflicts in terms of battle deaths
    • Different measurements of the degree to which conflicts are religious
      • Religious affiliation of the two sides
        • Different world religion and/or different sub-religion
      • Religious issues in conflict
        • Religious incompatibility; main issue or secondary; state goal of rebels is (in part) religious: e.g. want a change to another religion, fight for secularization
      • Religious rhetoric in the conflict
        • E.g. media statements etc. which uses religious wording, texts and symbolism to mobilize support or to justify cause for fighting
    • Addresses two problems in previous studies
      • Polarization and fractionalization indices do not capture if the religious cleavage coded is central to the conflicts (specification problem in previous studies)
      • Mismatch between theoretical reasoning and empirical tests
empirical analysis
Empirical analysis
  • Unit of analysis:
    • Civil conflicts in the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflicts Dataset active in the period 1989–2005: total of 112 conflicts
  • Dependent variable:
    • Log of the number of battle-deaths
  • Estimation technique:
    • Standard robust ordinary least squares (OLS) regression
  • Religious polarization is associated with higher battle-deaths
  • However:
    • A religious difference (rebels/govt) has no effect
    • When the government side has a religious agenda there are fewer conflict deaths (few cases)
    • Conflicts with religious incompatibility (main or secondary issue) the conflicts are no different
  • When the rebels aim to change the religion of the contested territory to have a different religion there are more deaths –
    • This effect stronger for conflicts started since end of Cold War
  • Main conclusion:
    • Very little, if any, support for the claim that religious conflicts are particularly bloody
are conflicts involving muslims particularly bloody
Are conflicts involving Muslims particularly bloody?
  • Empirical findings do not support a Muslim exceptionalism
    • Conflicts involving a Muslim rebel side result in no more deaths than other conflicts
    • No effect of both sides being Muslim
    • Conflicts involving Muslim fundamentalists, or rebels that aim at establishing an Islamic state are also no different than other conflicts in terms of casualties
religion as peace builder
Religion as peace-builder
  • Non-violent ideals:
    • forgiveness, reconciliation
  • Moderate religious leaders:
    • Mediation, network across classes, moral authorities
  • Civil society:
    • Religious organizations may strengthen civil society and thereby strengthen democracy
solutions to cultural conflicts
Solutions to cultural conflicts?
  • Recognition and rights (political, economic, cultural) to minority groups
  • Grant some autonomy for minorities?
  • Democratic institutions and power-sharing?
  • International engagement in conflict resolution – interventions?
summing up
Summing up
  • The focus on religion as conflict-generator prominent in popular and academic debates – particularly since the end of the Cold War and 9/11
    • Many claims about a strong relationship between religion and conflict
  • Ambiguous results in empirical studies – most find no clear systematic effects
    • Possibly because of testing problems, or the focus of the investigations: type of conflicts studied, context variables (often) not considered etc.
    • Possibly also because the current debate gives too much emphasis on religion