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  • Author: Manlio Graziano
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Columbia University Press
  • Abstract: Religions are reemerging in the social, political, and economic spheres previously occupied and dominated by secular institutions and ideologies. In the wake of crises exposing the limits of secular modernity, religions have again become significant players in domestic and international politics. At the same time, the Catholic Church has sought a "holy alliance" among the world's faiths to recentralize devout influence, an important, albeit little-noticed, evolution in international relations. Holy Wars and Holy Alliance explores the nation-state's current crisis in order to better understand the religious resurgence's implications for geopolitics. Manlio Graziano looks at how the Catholic Church promotes dialogue and action linking world religions, and examines how it has used its material, financial, and institutional strength to gain power and increase its profile in present-day international politics. Challenging the idea that modernity is tied to progress and secularization, Graziano documents the "return" or the "revenge" of God in all facets of life. He shows that tolerance, pluralism, democracy, and science have not triumphed as once predicted. To fully grasp the destabilizing dynamics at work today, he argues, we must appreciate the nature of religious struggles and political holy wars now unfolding across the international stage.
  • Topic: International Relations, Religion
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Identifier: 9780231543910
  • Publication Identifier Type: ISBN
  • Author: Hari Sastry
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Ambassadors Review
  • Abstract: The world we live in today is more interconnected than ever before—though we may not share soil or language, religion or currency, we are neighbors in this global community. Together, we face challenges that are more complex than any we have ever encountered: violent extremism that threatens our core values of democracy, equality, and freedom; conflicts and natural disasters that devastate and displace; diseases that unroll in waves across entire regions.
  • Topic: Democratization, Globalization, Religion, International Affairs, Freedom of Expression
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Abdisaid Ali
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Africa Center for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The growth of Salafist ideology in East Africa has challenged long established norms of tolerance and interfaith cooperation in the region. This is an outcome of a combination of external and internal factors. This includes a decades-long effort by religious foundations in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to promulgate ultraconservative interpretations of Islam throughout East Africa’s mosques, madrassas, and Muslim youth and cultural centers. Rooted within a particular Arab cultural identity, this ideology has fostered more exclusive and polarizing religious relations in the region, which has contributed to an increase in violent attacks. These tensions have been amplified by socioeconomic differences and often heavy-handed government responses that are perceived to punish entire communities for the actions of a few. Redressing these challenges will require sustained strategies to rebuild tolerance and solidarity domestically as well as curb the external influence of extremist ideology and actors.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Violent Extremism, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Islamic State (IS) is often identified as the world’s leading proponent of Salafism, or fundamentalist Sunni Islam. But, as Dr. Jacob Olidort points out, most of the world’s Salafis are not violent or politically active -- in fact, they explicitly condemn both. In this illuminating video presentation, Institute Soref Fellow Olidort provides an introduction to Salafi thought, describes the emergence of the Salafi movement, and deconstructs the Salafism of IS. This is essential viewing for anyone interested in the ideological roots of IS and how it diverges from other Islamist groups. Dr. Jacob Olidort, an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University, received his BA in Middle Eastern studies from Brandeis University, his AM in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University, and his MA and PhD in Near Eastern studies from Princeton University. Dr. Olidort has spent nearly two years in the Middle East, including a Fulbright Scholarship in the UAE and field work on Salafism in Jordan. He has given presentations and has briefed on Salafism and on countering violent extremism to various academic and policy settings. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the National Interest, and Lawfare, among other publications.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Salafism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alexander Henley
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Lebanese religious leaders are often treated as authentic representatives of their sects and are given broad powers over religious affairs. However, their leadership is not organic, nor are they necessarily popular, as these individuals are trained and selected by elite institutions. These figures do not incite sectarian hatred, and even aim to reduce it, but the way they are empowered and their monopoly on spiritual matters inhibit social integration among various religious communities and reinforce sectarian divisions.
  • Topic: Religion, Sectarianism, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Lebanon
  • Author: Zachary Abuza
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Since early-2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made gradual inroads into Southeast Asia. There are an estimated 500 Southeast Asians, not including family and kin, in Iraq and Syria fighting for ISIS, as well as al-Nusra, which at first attracted far more Southeast Asians. Since August 2014, there has been a company of Bahasa-speaking Southeast Asians, Katibah Nusantara, within ISIS. The numbers have remained low only because of proactive policies from regional security forces, who are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the 1990s when they turned a blind eye to returning veterans of the Afghan mujahideen. As an Indonesian counter-terrorism official put it, “We have experience [of those who committed terrorist acts in Indonesia] after going to Afghanistan and the Philippines and we don’t want ISIS alumni to do the same.”1 Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have all detained people for involvement in ISIS or prevented them from traveling abroad. Jihadists from around the region, including the co-founder of the al-Qaeda affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Abu Bakar Ba’asyir,2 as well as Philippine groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have pledged bai’at to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) caliphate. There have been a number of children of JI members to join IS, including the sons of Bali bombers Imam Samudra and Mukhlas, while the sons of senior JI members, Mukhliansyah and Abu Jibril, have joined al-Nusra.
  • Topic: Religion, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospects that characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons not only to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a more devout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problem to the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon to crack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressing multiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies, implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs at home for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination between security services.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Aaron Rock-Singer
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Religion was a pillar of pre-modern political identity in the Middle East, arising out of Muslims’ understanding of Islam’s foundational moment and state institutions that developed with the spread of Islamic Empire. Beginning at the turn of the 19th century, European colonial powers and indigenous reformers questioned the centrality of religious identity; instead, it was to be the nation that defined the political community. Since then, the nationalist project has permeated 20th century ideological conflicts in the region, equally shaping the claims of secularists and Islamists. Today, advocates of religious change refer back to early Islamic history as they seek to place religious over national identity, yet they, like their competitors, are unmistakably shaped by the secular nationalist project.
  • Topic: Islam, Nationalism, Post Colonialism, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Lev Weitz
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The majority of the Middle East’s population today is Muslim, as it has been for centuries. However, as the place of origin of a range of world religions – including Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and many lesser-known faiths – it remains a region of remarkable religious diversity. This article considers the place of religious minorities in the modern Middle East from three angles: their distinctive religious and communal identities, their place in the major transformations of the region’s political landscape from the nineteenth century to the post-World War I era, and the challenges of contemporary political conditions.
  • Topic: Demographics, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: We live in an age of identity politics. We define ourselves by one or more objective measures: measures of race, ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, sexual orientation, to name just a few. Those measures then define who we are to others. They determine our place in society, the communities with which we identify, our attitudes towards others and other communities. The politics of identity are fraught, and they interact in ways that both liberate and confine. On the one hand we prize diversity. On the whole, this is a good thing, since it reflects a larger transformation in American life. Like it or not, the fact is that we are becoming, have become, a “multi-cultural society.” No matter what terms we use to define diversity—racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, whatever—we are more diverse now than we have ever been, and we are destined to grow more so. Multi-culturalism is not an option; it is the future. The only question is how, and how well, we are going to deal with it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Samuel Helfont
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Defining – and distinguishing between – the terms Islam and Islamism has broad consequences for America, both domestically and internationally. However, teaching about the relationship between these two concepts involves negotiating numerous sensitivities and it can cause considerable consternation for educators. At the most basic level, Islam is a major world religion practiced by well over a billion people, and Islamism is a political ideology to which a subset of the broader Islamic community adheres. The importance of this distinction seems fairly clear. The United States, and the American body politic more generally, views itself as committed to secular governance and religious freedom. While Islam is not completely immune from criticism, Americans have traditionally objected to state interference in religious matters and, theoretically, they should expect the same standards to apply to Islam. Therefore, Islam as a religion would seem to have a clear place in the diverse fabric of American society. Islamism, as a political ideology, opens itself to harsher critiques and even questions about its appropriateness in, or compatibility with, the American political system. Unsurprisingly, American public discourse suggests that Americans generally feel much more comfortable with Islam than they do with Islamism.
  • Topic: Islam, Political Economy, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: Aram Nerguizian
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Lebanon has been a chronic US foreign policy challenge in the Levant since the Eisenhower Administration. However, given the country's centrality to regional security politics and Iran's support for the Shi'a militant group Hezbollah, the US cannot avoid looking at Lebanon as yet another arena of competition with Iran in the broader Levant.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although President Rouhani has persuaded the Supreme Leader to adjust the IRGC's economic functions, he has not challenged its role in shaping Iran's nuclear policy. President Hassan Rouhani's relationship with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a central dynamic in the country's politics and economy. As always, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately determines the roles of the president and the IRGC, so Rouhani has sought to pursue his economic imperatives without crossing the Supreme Leader or the military elite on the nuclear issue.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Eric Trager
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Low Salafist turnout for this week's constitutional referendum could signal a broad base of support for growing jihadist violence against the post-Morsi government. The January 14-15 referendum on Egypt's draft constitution is being billed as a referendum on the military's July 3 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi. Yet the vote is unlikely to alter the country's short-term political trajectory: no matter the results, the military-backed government will continue repressing pro-Morsi forces, who will in turn continue resisting a process they view as illegitimate. The extent to which Salafists participate in the referendum may have longer-term implications, however. High Salafist turnout would suggest an embrace of the Nour Party's decision to participate in the post-Morsi process, whereas low turnout would reflect strong feelings of disenfranchisement that could lead more Salafists to embrace jihadism.
  • Topic: Religion, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Reform
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The controversial Hariri trial will unfold amid growing sectarian violence in Lebanon, the seemingly interminable war in Syria, and a longstanding political stalemate regarding Hezbollah's role in government.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Tehran worries about internal threats from Salafi jihadists, it may well cooperate with such groups if they attack Western interests.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iran, North America
  • Author: Habib Sayah
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As Tunisia's Islamists reaffirm their cohesiveness, the country's contentious politics have worn out many voters and dulled their interest in democratic participation, making abstention the most likely winner of this year's elections. Last week, 39,000 members of Tunisia's leading Islamist faction, Ennahda, took part in an internal referendum to decide whether to postpone their next national congress, where a new party executive board is typically chosen. More than 70 percent of the members agreed to maintain the party's cohesiveness in order to focus on winning the next round of legislative elections rather than risk exposing internal divisions. In contrast, the various parties in the secular opposition remain disorganized and divided by their ambitions -- months after helping to pressure the Ennahda-led governing coalition out of office and agreeing to a transitional roadmap, they are unable to unite, whether against their Islamist adversary or around a common political project. More important, Islamists and secularists alike face an uphill battle in convincing increasingly skeptical Tunisian voters that they are serious about addressing the country's social, economic, and security concerns instead of squabbling with each other.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Power Politics, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The thorny parliamentary process of selecting a new president could rekindle violence if it results in substantial delays or further sectarian friction. Last week, Lebanon's parliament convened for the first round of balloting to elect a new president. While Samir Geagea -- who leads the Christian "Lebanese Forces" party, which is aligned with the pro-Western March 14 coalition -- received the most votes, he failed to secure the requisite two-thirds parliamentary support. In the coming weeks, legislators are slated to continue meeting until a president is selected. Unlike last week's session, in which the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc did not challenge Geagea's candidacy, the voting promises to become increasingly contentious in subsequent rounds. Perennial sectarian tensions exacerbated by the war next door in Syria have complicated the historically wrought and arcane election process. Should a compromise candidate not emerge by May 25, the term of current president Michel Suleiman will expire, leaving the post vacant. In the past, the presidency -- which by law must be held by a Christian -- was the dominant office in Lebanon's government. But the 1989 Taif Accord effectively stripped the position of its powers, delegating them to the prime minister, who must hail from the Sunni Muslim constituency. Given the post's largely symbolic nature, some might argue that the tense selection process is much ado about nothing. Yet the presidency remains an emotionally evocative issue for Lebanese Christians, and both the March 8 and March 14 blocs see a sympathetic chief executive as an important advantage worth fighting for.
  • Topic: Religion, Power Politics, Regime Change, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Haroon Ullah, Eric Trager, Vish Sakthivel
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A senior State Department advisor and two Washington Institute scholars discuss what lessons can -- and cannot -- be drawn from the Islamist political experience in Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and other countries.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Security crackdowns will not be enough to eradicate jihadist networks in Tunisia and Libya, which have the patience and ideological conviction to weather drastic reorganization. Eight months ago, the Tunisian government officially designated Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) as a terrorist organization. Since then, Tunis has cracked down on the group's activities, going after both its dawa campaign (i.e., proselytization and social-welfare efforts) and any links members have to terrorist plots. On the whole, AST's public response has been to keep relatively quiet. Yet recent developments indicate that the group may be rebranding itself as Shabab al-Tawhid (ST; the Youth of Pure Monotheism), a shift that would have important implications for efforts to counter Tunisian jihadists and their associates in Libya.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Tunisia