It is not uncommon to see discussions on radicalisation and/or extremism segue into arguments that Islam is especially violent, and this trend is found in academic discourse as well as on internet message boards and other public fora. One such example was the oft-criticised line in Samuel Huntington’s (1995: 258) Clash of Civilisations: “Islam’s borders are bloody, and so are its innards.” The title of this article is drawn from that line and is another contribution to the broader debate on whether or not Islam is especially violent, in this case through examining if countries with large and/or predominantly Muslim populations are more likely to see state-sponsored repression.
Using the five-point Political Terror Scale (PTS – which is based on reports from the US State Department and Amnesty International) as data they found that contrary to many common assumptions there were actually lower levels of political repression in countries with large Muslim populations, relative to states with large Catholic populations. The same results were found when they used state membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) instead of the size of the Muslim population as the indicator of an Islamic state.
In addition to the above, the authors also found that the substantive impact of religion in general was very slight when compared to political-economic variables such as democracy, per capita income, oil wealth and involvement in intra and inter-state conflicts. For example, whether or not a country is an oil producer is a far more significant factor in the probability of state repression than its majority religion.
Further, the authors found that the cultural effects of the MENA (Middle East and North African) region were more significant in indicating possible state repression than Islam. This finding mirrored another study which found that the cultural effects of MENA were more significant than Islam in their effects on women’s rights. The authors concluded that “Compared with others, Islam is not associated with greater levels of repression, and religious affiliation is not a strong predictor of political terror.”
This study was limited to examining effects of religion on a particular variety of human rights violations. Nonetheless this quantitative analysis remains a useful addition to the evidence base addressing whether or not Islam is especially violent.
- Journal : International Studies Quarterly
- Author : Indra De Soysa & Ragnhild Nordas
- Date : 2007
- Volume : 51 (4)
- Pages : 927-943
- Reviewer : Matthew Francis
- Link : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2007.00483.x/abstract