For this literature review, I selected two articles by Bar-Ilan University Department of Political Sciences Professor Jonathan Fox: his June 2000 article “Is Islam More Conflict Prone than Other Religions?” from the journal “Nationalism and Ethnic Politics” and his September 2001 article “Clash of Civilizations or Clash of Religions?” from the journal “Ethnicities”.
Part 1: Summary: “What kinds of questions does each study attempt to solve? What were their findings?”
In his June 2000 Nationalism and Ethnic Politics article, Professor Fox points out that in the early 1990’s, in the year 1993, 17 out of 40, or 42% of Islamic ethnoreligious minorities engaged in political demonstrations and 13, or 32.5% engaged in some form of rebellion. By contrast in the same year, only 7 of 29 Christian ethnoreligious minorities engaged in some form of rebellion and only ten percent engaged in political demonstrations. [Fox, 2000, Page 10] As a possible explanation for this phenomenon, Professor Fox points out that “Islamic regimes are more autocratic and repressive and less democratic”. [Fox, 2000, Page 13] Professor Fox also points out that religion is more important both in conflicts involving Islamic ethnoreligious minorities [Page 10] and in those involving Islamic majorities [Page 11] than in those involving Christian ethnoreligious minorities and majorities. Professor Fox’s data demonstrates that religion is most important to the conflict when both the majority and minority group are Islamic, “less so when one of them is Islamic and least important when neither group are Islamic” [Page 15] and that religious legitimacy is 50% “more important for conflicts involving Islamic majorities than for conflicts involving non-Islamic majorities, including those involving Christian majorities” [Page 11]. Again, Professor Fox offers an explanation for this data: that “religious legitimacy is significantly higher for Islamic regimes”. [Page 13] Fox defines political legitimacy as “the extent to which it is legitimate to invoke religion in political discourse” [Fox, Page 19]. Fox’s data shows that “Islamic minorities express the highest level of religious demands, are involved in conflicts with the highest level of religious legitimacy, score the highest on the composite measure for religious involvement in the conflict and are engaged in conflicts where, on average, religion is most relevant.” Fox argues that an explanation for the violent stereotype of militant Islam prevalent in Western media, policymaking and academic circles since the late 1970’s; which Fox does not endorse; is that the disproportional involvement of religion in conflicts involving Muslims is “foreign to the Western concept of separation of church and state” and so “may seem more threatening to Western eyes.” [Page 16]
In his September 2001 article, Fox critiques the hypothesis of the “clash of civilizations” first proposed in 1992 by Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Director and albert J. Weatherhead University Professor Samuel Huntington. Fox’s critique of Huntington’s hypothesis is the fact that there is “considerable overlap between Huntington’s concept of civilization and religion.” [Fox, 2001, Page 297] Professor Fox’s analysis shows that “most civilizational conflicts also involve religious differences and most conflict involving religious differences are also civilizational.” Fox argues that overlap between civilizational and religious differences “lends credence to the argument that Huntington’s concept of civilization is mostly a surrogate variable for religion” [Page 311], and that while there is considerable overlap between the two variables, “civilizations and religion are not one and the same.” [Page 304]
Part 2: Analysis: “What were the strengths and weaknesses of each study? What methodological challenges were there and were they acknowledged? How might you improve this research? Were there conflicting results?”
In his June 2000 Nationalism and Ethnic Politics article, Professor Fox’s data shows that “the more Islamic groups are involved in an ethnoreligious conflict more important religion is to that conflict” [Page 15] and that the “level of autocracy and repression by Islamic regimes can explain much of the significance of religion to ethnic conflicts in which these regimes are engaged” [Page 13]. However, Fox points out that most Islamic ethnoreligious minorities do not live in Islamic states, and so while the fact that Islamic majority groups tend to have more autocratic government may explain some of the differences between the importance of religion in conflicts involving Islamic and non-Islamic minority groups, majority groups and the interaction between the two, it cannot explain all of them. Fox further argues that even if much of the importance of religion in ethnoreligious conflicts involving Islamic groups can be explained by regime type, “the question of why Islamic regimes tend to be disproportionally autocratic remains open.” [Page 16] Fox’s data shows that there is no “significant correlation between religious legitimacy and democracy, autocracy or political discrimination.” [Page 13] He points out that the explanation that it is the nature of the regime that is responsible for religion being an important issue does not account for several factors, including the importance of religion to Islamic minorities.
“If Islam causes regimes to be more autocratic, the argument that the autocratic nature of a regime is responsible for religion being a factor in an ethnoreligious conflict is irrelevant.” [Fox, 2000, Page 16]
Fox’s explanation for the lack of support for the violent stereotype of militant Islam prevalent in the West in the evidence examined in his analysis is the nature of the evidence itself, which focused on ethnoreligious conflict. Fox defines ethnoreligious conflict as “conflict between two ethnic groups who happen to be of different religions”. Fox points out “many of the violent conflicts that have contributed to the stereotype of the Islamic militant are between secular and religious Muslims who are all members of the same ethnic group.”
In his September 2001 article, Professor Fox’s data shows that religious difference are “more important factors in the conflict behavior of majority groups and international actors than are civilizational differences”, but that civilizational differences “seem to be more important factors in determining the behavior of minority groups” [Page 311]. This results in an inability to definitively answer the question of whether religion’s impact on ethnic conflict is due to civilizational differences. Fox suggests that the “question of which is more important, religion or civilization, may be a moot point”, at least for ethnic conflict because of the possibility that religion and civilization are surrogate variables for culture and it is cultural differences that are the “true source of any perceived impact” of religion or civilization on ethnic conflict.
Conclusion: “What Areas of Further Inquiry Would Have Liked To Pursue Had You The Time? Apply at Least Five Concepts or Theories From Class Lecture Or Reading”.
By comparing the importance of religion in Christian and Islamic ethnoreligious majority and minority groups in his 2000 article, Professor Fox is putting to the test to the concept of “functional equivalency”. His conclusion, that much of the emphasis on religion in Islamic ethnoreligious minority groups can be attributed not only to the autocratic nature of the regimes in Islamic states, but to the fact that most Islamic ethnoreligious minority groups live in non-Muslim majority nations lends credence to concept of Jihadist as a reflexive reaction against secularization and westernization, as theorized by Charles Kurzman in “Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims” [Boli, John and Lechner, Frank, eds. “The Globalization Reader”, 2012, page 391-395].
The 2004 article “Religion, Collective Action and the Onset of Armed Conflict in Developing Countries” by Matthias Basedau of the German Institute of global and Area Studies and Birte Pfeiffer of the Justus Liebig University of Giessen in the “Journal of Conflict Resolution”, as applied to the question “Are Religions More a Cause of Global Conflict, Solidarity, or Both?” is an example of the phenomenon of the “universalization of the particular”, and in doing so challenges the concept of the designation of countries as “developing”.
1. Basedau, Matthias, Birte Pfeiffer, et al. “Bad Religion? Religion, Collective Action and the Onset of Armed Conflict in Developing Countries”. Journal of Conflict Resolution Volume 60, Number 2, July 23, 2014. Pages 226-255: http://jcr.sagepub.com/content/60/2/226.full.pdf
2. Fox, Jonathan. “Clash of Civilization or Clash of Religions? Which is a More Important Determinant of Ethnic Conflict?” Ethnicities, Volume 1, Issue 3. September 2001. Pages 295-320: http://etn.sagepub.com/content/1/3/295.full.pdf
3. Fox, Jonathan. “Is Islam More Conflict Prone Than Other Religions? A Cross-Sectional Study of Ethnoreligious Conflict”. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Volume 6, Issue 2. June 2000. Pages 1-24: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13537110008428593
4. Seul, Jeffrey. “Ours is the Way of God: Religion, Identity and Intergroup Conflict”. Journal of Peace Research. Volume 36, Issue 5. September 1999. Pages 553-569: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/36/5/553.full.pdf