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An Islam of Her Own. Sherine Hafez. Shireen Hunter. Faith and World. Mohammad N. The Political Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal. Iqbal Singh Sevea. Living Out Islam. Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle. A New Anthropology of Islam. John R. An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century. Aminah Beverly McCloud. Islam Is a Foreign Country. Zareena Grewal. Muslim Ethics and Modernity. Sheila McDonough. Contemporary Islam. Abdul Aziz Said. Beyond Shariati. Siavash Saffari. Madrasas in South Asia.

Jamal Malik. Islamic Legitimacy in a Plural Asia. Anthony Reid.

A Critique of Islamic/ist Political Discourses

Political Islam. Nazih Ayubi. Rethinking Islamic Studies. Carl W. Islam Under Siege. Akbar S. Islam in Indonesia. Carool Kersten. Islam after Liberalism. Faisal Devji. Islam, Globalization and Postmodernity. Faith and Ethics. Ali Lakhani. Islam and Peacebuilding. John Esposito. Islamic Revivalism. Jan A. Afshin Shahi. It IS About Islam. Glenn Beck. Sufi Political Thought.

Milad Milani.

War and peace in Islam : a critique of Islamic/ist political discourses

Every Man in This Village is a Liar. Megan K. Political Leadership, Nascent Statehood and Democracy. Islam and Higher Education. Marodsilton Muborakshoeva. Inside ISIS. Benjamin Hall. Islamic Education and Indoctrination. Charlene Tan. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. Routledge Handbook of Political Islam. Shahram Akbarzadeh. Men in Charge? Ziba Mir-Hosseini. The Brotherhood. Erick Stakelbeck.

khaled abou el fadl - published articles - Scholar of the House and the search for beauty in Islam

Diversity and Unity in Islamic Civilization. Mirza Iqbal Ashraf. Sufis in Western Society. Markus Dressler. Clooney's War. Alex Perry. Islamic Economy and Social Mobility. Hasan Shahpari. Hatred's Kingdom. Dore Gold. Iran's Strategic Penetration of Latin America. Joseph M. Islam, Context, Pluralism and Democracy. Yaser Ellethy. Preventing Political Violence Against Civilians. Islam In Post Modern World. Asgar Ali Engineer. Andrew Fitz-Gibbon. Militant Islam. Stephen Vertigans.

Culture, Religion, War, and Peace

Islamic State and the Coming Global Confrontation. Hussein Solomon. Engaging the Other. Border Crossings. Fred Dallmayr. Improvised Explosive Devices. James Revill. Muslim Secular Democracy. The relationship between religion and political life remains a vibrant subject of debate to this day Eisenach ; Beiner ; Martinich ; De Vries Despite the richness of the contributions of religious scholars and of philosophers, these works have not yet offered a scientific theory regarding the role that religion plays in war and peace.

The first major attempt in the IR field to understand war almost exclusively through the religious prism was that of Samuel Huntington in his well-known article and book Clash of Civilization , Instead of the traditional territorial nation-states, Huntington recognizes a world comprised of various identities that are not necessarily delineated by national boundaries. He argues that the end of the Cold War and the ideological battle between the West and the East will be replaced by a battle of civilizations, which is the broadest category of identification for individuals and is mainly determined by religious beliefs.

More specifically, Huntington predicts that the main civilizational conflict will be between the Islamic civilization and the Judeo-Christian Western civilization, due to conflictual history from both sides, a large gap in values, the rise of Islamic extremists and fundamentalism, and a clash of identities as a result of Muslim immigration.

In sum, Huntington's view clarifies two main reasons why religion can cause war. First, religion can be considered as a primordial and immutable identity. Second, globalization, which folds within it rapid economic development and an increase in interactions between individual groups, creates a clash between traditional customs and Western modernity Fox :3; Thomas The desire of other civilizations to maintain their core values and traditions, and to prevent the domination of Western culture lead Huntington to claim that civilizational differences will be the main source of future wars Huntington —31, Huntington's thesis received a lot of interest in scholarly and political discourse, and his thesis was tested and criticized from many angles.

Ajami , Bartley , and Weeks , for example, argue that states are still the main actors in the international system and that the English-Western secular modern force is more powerful than Huntington thinks. Kirkpatrick claims that intra-civilizational conflicts are more common than inter-civilizational conflicts. Others, such as Tipson , Pfaff , and Said , criticize Huntington's facts and methodology for more comprehensive reviews of the clash of civilization debate see O'Hagan ; Fox and Sandler ; Fox Katzenstein rejects Huntington's conception of civilizations as homogeneous in favor of a pluralistic view recognizing internal diversity.

Scholars have also made quantitative attempts to test Huntington's theory. Russett, Oneal, and Cox examine inter-state wars between and and conclude that realist and liberal variables provide better explanations of these conflicts than civilizational factors. Henderson and Tucker examine international wars between and and find no connection between civilization membership and international wars. In addition, Henderson and Tucker find that conflicts within civilizations are more likely than conflicts between civilizations. More recent attempts also do not find support for the clash of civilization thesis Chiozza ; Ben-Yehuda ; Bolks and Stoll ; Fox ; Henderson Fox, James, and Li bring a different angle to the clash of civilizations debate in examining international interventions on behalf of the same ethno-religious group in another state.

Although they focus only on conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, their findings show that Muslim states are more likely to intervene on behalf of other Muslim minorities. Moreover, ethnic conflicts with a religious dimension seem more likely to attract intervention than other ethnic conflicts. Another view of religion as a cause of war sees religion as a form of ideology rather than identity. In this kind of approach, the emphasis is not on how clashing religious identities create conflict, but rather how religious ideas shape worldviews that justify or are consistent with conflict see also Desch Khadduri makes an analogous point with the concepts of dar al-harb territory of war and dar al-Islam territory of Islam in Islamic laws of war.

Because religious ideology is a defined non-negotiable set of rules, resolving a religious dispute peacefully is harder than with other disputes Dark :1—2. The relationship between religious worldviews and war leads us to religious fundamentalism and violence. Of special note is the five-volume work by Marty and Appleby —5 that encompasses different approaches and case studies related to fundamentalism. Marty and Appleby argue that religious ideas are not the goal for the fundamentalists, but rather they use religion as a means to achieve political ends.

Fundamentalism, in this view, is a religious backlash against secular rule see also Tibi Juergensmeyer shares this view but opposes labeling this religious fervor as fundamentalism due to the accusatory and ambiguous meanings of the term. The direction which a fundamentalist movement takes depends on its civilization, the political and social circumstances surrounding the movement, and the international setting Eisenstadt Reviews of religious fundamentalism and violence include Gill and Ozzano Scholarship has gone beyond the clash of civilizations debate and the study of fundamentalism to explore further questions about how and under what conditions religion leads to war.

One approach has been to consider individual values and mindsets in the lists of factors that affect decision making by leaders, including decisions about war. Brecher , Jervis , and Fisher focus on culture, while Fox , Sandal and James , and Warner and Walker focus specifically on religion. On the collective level, society's core values, conceptions, and assumptions about the world and the enemy can influence foreign policy outcomes Booth ; Hudson and Vore ; Reeves Religious beliefs should not be dismissed as irrational or marginal, but should be included in the strategic calculations of leaders and states Toft Religious affinities on the collective level are not confined to traditional territorial state boundaries.

Transnational religious actors are another good example of the role of religion in conflict. Religious terrorist groups that have cells in different countries can initiate a conflict between states, and global riots can result from injury to religious sentiment, as in the Danish caricature case Dark :5—10; Fox —9; Haynes These kinds of conflicts can be international, when religious diaspora is engaged in the conflict, or remain domestic civil wars.

Fox and Sandler show how local wars can capture the interest of members of transnational religious groups due to the possible involvement of holy sites Fox and Sandler — Even without direct participation in violence, religious transnational movements and non-governmental organizations NGOs participate in global conflict by lobbying or protesting in order to encourage a state to intervene in a distant war between ethno-religious minorities Fox, James and Li Religion may also have an indirect effect on war since it can be used as a tool to mobilize people and to enhance legitimacy Fox —7; Haynes ; Snyder This does not necessarily mean that political leaders actually hold religious beliefs but that such beliefs serve them in accomplishing their political interests.

This view holds that the recent global resurgence of religion in various societies occurs as a result of instrumental use of religion by political elites Fox :4; Hasenclever and Rittberger —6. The question of whether religion is the cause of a conflict, or just a tool or a dimension of it was addressed in several quantitative studies.

Gurr measures group identity by using six indicators including religion, ethnicity, and social customs. Fox , tries to isolate conflicts between groups from different religions. Durward and Marsden offer a more nuanced and developed understanding of how religious beliefs, discourses, and practices are politicized and used to trigger conflicts, justify military interventions, and facilitate resolutions. Another trend in the study of religion and war asks whether religious conflicts are more violent than other conflicts and if some religions are more prone to use more violence than others.

As for the relationship between a specific religion and violence, Pearce's results show that Judaism and Hinduism are more violence prone, but this may be due to a small number of cases. Due to the fact that there are many Muslim states, but only one Jewish state and one Hindu state that are each experiencing protracted conflict, it is still unclear whether specific religions are more violent than others, or whether it is a false image created by the uneven numbers of religious groups.

The degree of religious violence does not have to be related to a specific religion, but rather to the type of regime or degree of state power. Thomas —15 suggests that the appeal for religious ideas grows larger especially in weak states. Fox shows an increase in religious discrimination and grievance in autocratic states compared with democratic regimes.

When a transition to democracy happens, the chances of such communal violence rise due to the diminishing power of the regime and an ease of autocratic repression Gurr Scholars have also been interested in the practical use of religion and culture to promote peace. Discussing culture specifically, Kevin Avruch suggests that culture is a significant variable in conflict resolution as each negotiator comes with his or her own subculture class, region, ethnicity, and more.

In contrast, Zartman gives culture little substantive significance and argues that it is as relevant as the breakfast the negotiators ate. Fisher and Cohen occupy the middle ground suggesting that culture matters together with other variables. For a good introductory review regarding these approaches, see Ramsbotham, Miall, and Woodhouse Cultural gaps may involve language barriers, create problems of interpretation, and disrupt the transfer of information Gulliver ; Fisher ; Faure and Rubin ; Cohen ; Berton et al. The dichotomy, made by Hall between high-context cultures and low-context cultures, is useful in explaining these cultural obstacles in international negotiation.

High-context cultures are generally associated with collective societies in which communication is less verbal and more indirect, emphasizing the context in which things are said and done. High-context cultures require communicators to pay attention to nuances and body language. Consequently, those from such cultures are more sensitive socially, they try to please their audience, and they see great importance in small talk and group consensus.

Low-context cultures, on the other hand, are individualistic in character, and communication is direct and with a clear message. Accuracy in the written or spoken word is very important in low-context culture, and less attention is paid to context, body language, and facial expressions Cohen ; Rubinstein When two societies from the two different types of culture meet around the negotiation table, potential pitfalls are evident. This line of research has specific practical implications.

The US Institute of Peace published a series of works analyzing different negotiating styles and behaviors to equip negotiators with a better understanding of cultural differences. As for structure and the process of negotiation, culture can play an important role in the degree of trust between the sides, which can define negotiation strategy and whether there is a need for mediation. These factors can also influence the size of the delegations, the different roles within the delegation, the degree of unity within the delegation, negotiating procedures, seating arrangements, and public announcements Berton et al.

This vast literature regarding culture and diplomacy has little to say about religion. As former United States Secretary of State and international relations scholar Madeleine Albright confesses, diplomacy, conflict resolution, negotiation, and peace were all conceptualized in secular terms with no room for religion and faith prior to the terror attacks of September 11th Albright :8—9. Indeed, most of the IR studies on culture and diplomatic practices to promote peace were written during the s and s.

Only after September 11th did religion and faith become a primary topic.


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Many scholars agree that the same power that religion has in inciting conflicts can also be used to promote peace Gopin ; Appleby ; Broadhead and Keown Some works continue the trajectory of previous studies on cross-cultural negotiation and focus on a specific religion. In the case of Islam, Alon , Alon and Brett , and Pely focus on Muslim perceptions of conflict resolution, values of honor, and the institutional mechanism of sulha reconciliation. Similarly, Gopin argues that in the Israeli-Palestinian case, the marginalization of religious aspects was crucial in the failure of the Oslo agreement.

He adds that by putting religion in the middle of the reconciliation process, and with dialogues between key religious figures from both sides, peace in the Middle East can be achieved. While traditional realpolitik diplomacy has had difficulties coping with religion-inspired conflicts, non-state actors, such as religious leaders and members of religious NGOs, had more success in promoting peace in different forms — whether peacemaking, peacebuilding, peace enforcing, or peace keeping Little Cynthia Sampson overviews the various roles and methodologies used by religious-motivated institutional actors in the process of peacebuilding.

She provides manifold examples of conflict intervention by religious institutional actors that advocate such as during the Rhodesian war of independence , intermediate such as in the Sudanese peace process , observe such as during the Zambian elections , and educate such as in Northern Ireland. Appleby offers a similar approach focusing on religious actors and their roles. In general, the Catholic Church receives more scholarly attention than other religious institutions in mediating disputes.

Examples include the —89 internal dispute in Bolivia Klaiber and the Beagle Channel dispute between Argentina and Chile Garrett ; Lindsley ; Laudy Bartoli's analyses of the reconciliation process in Mozambique specify how religion plays a role in conflict resolution. He demonstrates that religion does not replace or transform the political process of negotiation, but rather provides motivation, organizational capacities, legitimacy, and flexibility Bartoli , ; see also Toft, Philpott, and Shah The volume edited by David Little offers a different perspective that focuses on individual religious figures, rather than institutions, as peacemakers.

Recently, there is a growing interest in challenging the secularist assumptions of United States foreign policy. Hurd , for example, demonstrates that the perceived separation between religious and secular political authorities is a result of a political process and is socially constructed. By identifying two trajectories of secularism — a laicist one and a Judeo-Christian one — she shows how religion and secularism were never apart. Thus, instead of characterizing religion as a threat, diplomats and decision makers should realize that there are various political representations and interpretations of religion and should make more room for non-Western forms of politics Hurd From a different perspective, Farr calls for rejecting the American narrow version of religious freedom that focuses on humanitarian violations in favor of a more tolerant and broader version that builds and encourages different versions of religious freedom in different regimes.

Another research theme in IR tries to engage religion and culture in existing peace theories. The main example is democratic peace theory, by which liberal democracies tend not to fight each other. One of the explanations for democratic peace argues that shared cultures, values, and norms favoring compromise and peaceful solutions lead liberal democracies to solve disputes peacefully Maoz and Russett But the traditional cultural explanation for democratic peace focuses on political culture and not on other elements such as ethnicity, language, and religion.

Henderson tests the theory with those elements included and concludes that religious similarities within democratic dyads decrease the likelihood of war, while ethnic and lingual similarities increase this likelihood. The connection between peaceful behavior and regime type led scholars to examine the connection between specific religions and democracy as a way to better understand the conditions for democracy and presumably for peace.

This topic was researched from different angles. On the other hand, Esposito and Piscatori and Esposito and Voll argue that Islam is not necessarily hostile to democracy, and urge us to remember that Islam, like democracy, has a variety of interpretations, meanings, and political practices. Midlarsky tries to test the relationship between Islam and democracy using a political rights index measuring procedural democracy and an index of liberal democracy measuring liberal freedoms. He finds that Islam, measured by the percentage of population that is Muslim, has a negative correlation with liberal freedoms but does not necessarily rule out democratic procedure.

Recently, Hunter and Malik offer an antithesis to this view and demonstrate how military, colonial, international economic, and domestic economic factors prevented the creation of a civil society that is crucial for democracy. Sonn and McDaniel's chapter in the same book demonstrates how modern Islamic thought is quite similar to Western values, including rationality and tolerance.


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In the study of war and peace, religion long played a marginal role. Both sacred texts and Western canonical philosophical works contain religious references to war and peace, but none of the main theoretical works in IR address religion. Since the end of the Cold War and the growing attention to ethnic conflicts, new interests in culture and religion emerged.

Muslim Discovers True Peace and Identity

Scholars first explored the interplay of culture, war, and peace focusing on decision making, negotiation, national character, and the cultural construction of friends and foes. Then, as a result of the growing attention to ethnic conflict and terrorism, there was a resurgence of interest in religion in IR scholarship.

Treated both as a central component of social identity and as an overarching ideology, religious international violence is understood by some scholars as a reaction to global population flows, modernization processes, and secularization. Religion, as a social phenomenon, is also able to help us understand the growing power of actors outside the traditional boundaries of the state.

Transnational actors that share religious beliefs with each other can pursue different, and sometimes contradictory, goals from those of the nation-state. Such actors can ignite conflicts, but can also help in mediating negotiations and promoting peace. Diplomats have learned to use key religious figures in their reconciliation attempts and they try to emphasize common values and diminish differences between religions. The rediscovery of religion in IR scholarship has produced many studies that try to theorize the role of religion in conflict and peace.

Future research may focus on the relational and constantly changing aspects of religion and show what, when, and how various religious interpretations receive political prominence in promoting conflict or peace. Moreover, IR scholarship could use more theorization of how religion can be used as an independent variable across cases. How can one compare the religious passions animating the Crusades, with the religious passions during the Thirty Years War, or with modern fundamentalist terrorism?

The definitional problems, mentioned earlier, provide difficulties in that regard. A new way to look in more depth at religious and cultural elements of international politics is to use them as interpretive tools. For example, examining political rhetoric can help us understand how meanings become inscribed within a society and how changes in rhetoric can lead to changes in foreign policy Krebs and Jackson ; Krebs and Lobasz Another beneficial way to engage the elusive concepts of culture and religion is to trace the hidden set of assumptions that are embedded in the cultural and religion labels.

What types of behavior are expected from a negotiator who is labeled Muslim or Buddhist and how does it affect the negotiation process? Moreover, how does popular representation of different religions shape these hidden assumptions? IR literature will probably continue to engage culture and religion in its research, but in order to develop the field and avoid academic stagnation, it is important to enable scientific pluralism that will force us to reconsider how we treat religion and culture.

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  • Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 3 3 , 1— International Studies Review 3 3 , 53— International Political Science Review 25 1 , 55— International Politics 42 4 , — Gagnon, V. International Security 19 3 , — Garrett, J. Gill, A. Gopin, M. Abu-Nimer ed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 87— Gort, J. New York: Rodopi. Gulliver, P.