SECULAR ROOTS OF RELIGIOUS RAGE: SHAPING RELIGIOUS IDENTITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
In historic cases of religious conflict, religion was not necessarily the original source of the conflict, but was eventually established as the focal point around which individuals defined their identity. Although the differences between the two groups may have been numerous (political, economic, cultural, etc.), religion provided the easiest and most prominently accessible tool for mass mobilization and identity differentiation. Once this shift occurs, the religious identities become so salient that all future interactions tend to be defined along religious lines, which in turn lends itself to intractability. This paper draws parallels between previous intractable religious conflicts and the current developing conflict between the United States and the Islamic world. Although the United States has made a concerted effort to declare a war on “terror” and not Islam, the perceived threat associated with current U.S. foreign policy behavior is encouraging the redefinition of Middle Eastern identity in Islamic terms and creating the possibility of intractable religious conflict on a global scale. Consequently, while many within the region may not have initially seen this conflict along religious lines, Islam has provided the most prominent and convenient form for articulating their frustrations.
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