The Problem of Religious Wars

Ekstreme islamistiske grupper er foreløpig ingen fare mot Norges sikkerhet, ifølge Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste (PST).
Foto: Flickr
When is terrorism "religious"? Are ‘religious terrorists’ more likely to be indiscriminate and intransigent? How does adopting the term ‘religious terrorism’ impact on policy?

In 2005, Martin E. Marty wrote that “the collisions of faith, or the collisions of peoples of faith, are among the most threatening conflicts around the world in the new millennium. They grow more ominous and lethal every season”. 

What is the scourge of religious violence in today's world? How can religious war be understood? Are conflicts involving a religious dimension particularly horrid; and how can religious conflict be solved? 
We have invited two world leading scholars on the religion-conflict nexus to shed light on these questions. Based on their ongoing research, they will give an overview of key patterns and processes linking religion with violent conflict in today's world, and discuss what it takes to end such conflicts.

In this presentation, Dr. Jeroen Gunning will critique the validity of the concept of ‘religious terrorism’. He will argue that the distinctions commonly drawn between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ terrorism are problematic, both conceptually and empirically, and that the term is misleading in its typical assumptions about the motives, causes and behaviour of groups classified as ‘religious terrorist’. By using it, important aspects of both ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ violence are obscured; policy-wise, it serves to delegitimise certain actors and legitimise contentious counterterrorist practices. Part of the problem lies in the genealogy of the term ‘religion’ and the way it is implicated in power structures. The problem is compounded by dominant conceptions in both academia and the policy world about the causal power of ideas. Dr Gunning will end with a few reflections on alternative ways of approaching the study of terrorist violence, religious or otherwise.

Jacob Høigilt (FAFO) will respond to Dr. Gunnings presentation. Greg Reichberg (PRIO) will chair the event. 

Speakers: Monica Duffy Toft (Oxford University): Why does religion still matter for understanding war? Is religious violence rational?

Isak Svensson (Uppsala University): How can religious armed conflicts be settled peacefully?

Ragnhild Nordås (PRIO): Are religious conflicts bloodier?

Discussant: Scott Gates (PRIO).
Chair: Gina Lende (PRIO).

This seminar is part of an on-going seminar series at PRIO scrutinising the role of religion in conflict and peace.