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The Religious Foundations of Political Violence

The Religious Foundations of Political Violence

Building on a longstanding academic partnership, TRENDS Research & Advisory and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), based in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, have launched a major new project to examine the religious foundations of political violence.

Western thinking about the interplay between religion and violence has traditionally been influenced by the secularisation thesis of the 20th century. Most notably, the works of Marx and Weber posited that in the wake of progress and modernisation (however understood) human beings are more like to base their beliefs, identity and actions on rational scientific thought, rather than the supposedly mysticism of religion. Yet, it is clear that development and modernisation have not lead to a retreat in either the appeal – or indeed zeal – of religious conviction in the 21st century. If anything, the current rise of global disorder and insecurity could even be said to have led to an increase, in some parts of the world at least, in religious observance.

Some discussions about contemporary political violence consequently overlook or neglect the role of religious narratives – particularly in discussion about terrorist actors. This comes despite the fact groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State clearly invoke and refer to a jurisprudential framework of obligation and necessity to explain their actions.

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