Revisiting the Religious Violence Thesis: Minorities in the Middle East

18 September 2019, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Why do ordinary individuals participate in political campaigns involving mass looting, killings, and enslavement against members of another religious group? This paper argues that religious justifications of violence have a stronger appeal when they target liminal minorities whose beliefs and norms remain illegible in the eyes of a majority religion. It then formulates a series of alternative hypotheses about the role of greed, threat, resentment, and guilt in the motives of perpetrators and uses the self-styled Islamic State (IS) campaign against Yezidis in 2014 as a case study to test these hypotheses . Empirical evidence comes from extensive fieldwork including dozens of in-depth interviews with Yezidi survivors and others in Iraqi Kurdistan. The analysis reveals that religious beliefs were necessary both for making extreme levels of violence permissible and for mobilizing local population to participate in the atrocities.


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.