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introduction
1. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
Margo Kitts Introduction to Journal of Religion and Violence 9(2–3)
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2. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
John F. Shean The Destruction of the Serapeum in 391: Religious Violence and Intolerance in an Imperial Age
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This article reconsiders the destruction of the Serapeum in Alexandria by Christian militants in 391 within the context of Christianization in the late fourth century. The attack on the Serapeum was a deliberately staged, high-profile act of religious violence designed to demonstrate to the wider imperial community that the Roman state was no longer interested in protecting targeted cult sites from Christian militants, and that the perpetrators of such violence would suffer no negative consequences for their actions. The Serapeum, dedicated to the worship of the gods Serapis and Isis, was traditionally associated with the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and with the pharaonic and later Roman Imperial cult. The destruction of this religious and cultural complex by a Christian mob, acting under the direction of the local bishop Theophilus, was a deliberate act of vandalism intended to demonstrate the greater power of the Christian God over his spiritual competitors. In addition, the destruction of this famous sanctuary was undertaken with the approval of the reigning emperor, signaling a change in the locus of sacral authority in the Roman world as Roman emperors were now abandoning traditional pharaonic and Hellenistic models of divine kingship by ceding spiritual authority to Christian bishops.
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3. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
Don J. Wyatt Not by Valor or Victory Alone: Religious Agency in the Apotheosis of the Chinese Warrior Hero
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In the civilizations of the classical West, as exemplified foremost by that of Greece, as well as in that of early imperial China, the idea that humans who excelled exceptionally in war could merit deification was an abiding operative assumption. Given this premise, unsurprising then is the fact that such individuals should be found to have exhibited certain defining traits in common, including exceptional bravery and skill in leadership as well as—at least up until the point of their own deaths—an outstanding record of battlefield success. In addition, whether in Greece or in China, we find that the elevation of the exemplary warrior to the status of a god occurred under religious auspices, or was abetted by a belief structure that at least exhibited many of the core customary functions of a conventional religion. However, if we must regard the normative Chinese paradigm of martial divinization as having consistently departed in conception from its counterpart in the West, then surely the determinative difference is the premium placed on the Chinese demonstration of loyalty. In China, inasmuch as there were credentials for deification, the individual warrior’s unfailing subscription to the virtue of loyalty seems to have superseded all else, and the pathway to immortality as a god was forever obstructed without it.
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4. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
Andrea Malji Understanding India’s Uneven Sex Ratios: A Comparative Religions Approach
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This article examines India’s uneven sex ratios (the ratio of women to men) and explores how religion may shape beliefs on gender, son preference, and femicide. Estimates vary, but at least 13.5 million females that should exist in India, do not. Extensive literature has discussed the wide range of potential factors that may influence India’s uneven sex ratio including education, socio-economic status, gender equality, and geographic region. Scholars have also examined the role religion has in shaping beliefs on gender and son-preference. Most religion-centered analyses have focused primarily on Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. This article expands on previous research by providing a comparative religious approach that includes Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism in addition to Jainism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Animism. Religion is not monolithic and individual beliefs and practices vary significantly throughout India. However, understanding how key figures and texts from the religion contextualize this problem may help better understand India’s imbalanced sex ratio. This paper provides several insights on this topic. First, it maps the district-level sex ratio across India to demonstrate the geographical variation in sex ratios. Next, it discusses how factors such as dowry, joint family system, and inheritance practices are deeply embedded in a family’s preference for a male child, but manifest differently based on different factors, including religion and socio-economic status. Third, it provides a brief overview of each religion’s view on son preference and sex-selective abortion. Finally, it concludes by offering suggestions about how future research can expand on this work.
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5. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
Flagg Miller Muslim Hunger Strikes as Secular Critique in Yemen
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The growing internationalism of armed conflict in Yemen has presented challenges to Muslim reformers working to achieve social justice. This paper attends to the ethical dimensions of Islamic activism by exploring the use of hunger strikes to strengthen otherwise fractious political coalitions. Facing pressure from actors willing to evoke the most strident forms of sectarianism to explain, license and justify violence, hunger strikers and their supporters enlist what Abdulrabbuh al-Rubaidi (2018) has called a “new skepticism” toward conventional religious establishments that, for many Yemenis since 2011 especially, have become complicit with authoritarian oppression. With the aim of identifying new currents in Muslim reform across the Global South as sovereign state formations face unprecedented scrutiny, this paper considers hunger strike activists’ turn to what political theorist Achille Mbembé (2019) has called “the necropolitical.” In drawing attention to the relationship between hungry bodies and forms of living death exacted on populations through regimes of national and parastatal violence, Yemeni activists hail the value of older, anti-imperialist discourses for reconstituting Islamic solidarity. The ethical leverage of such activism inheres, it is argued, in manifestations of “the secular,” understood not as something opposed to, or outside of, religion but, pace anthropologist Khaled Furani (2015), as a recognition of finitude whose sensory dimensions, magnified against frailties of sovereignty, knowledge and certitude, guide believers toward otherwise unavailable modes of religious worldliness. Islamic fasting rituals help activists frame and stage finitude. Conducted in ordinary and domestic spaces and coordinated with hunger strikes, in practice as well as through literary and artistic representation, fasting rituals situate hunger strike activism as an exercise in Muslim sovereignty tethered to virtuous self-fashioning.
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6. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2/3
Nicholas J. Blasco Russian Orthodoxy, Militant Internationalism, and Anti-Americanism in Post-Soviet Russia
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Correlates of militarism have been widely explored in the last twenty years. Since the shift in attention from Great Power Competition to the Global War on Terror, researchers have focused on religiosity’s role in the development of militant attitudes primarily in the context of Islamic extremism. Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power has coincided with increased religious language and fervor—each quite antithetical to the Soviet ethos but useful in chastising Western decadence. Despite Russian elites’ desire to possess and partake in the trappings of cosmopolitan internationalism (again, contra communism), they have adopted the same critical, conservative outlook of Russian Orthodoxy. Using data from The Survey of Russian Elites, Moscow Russia, between 2012 and 2016 (https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03724.v6), this paper explores the relationship between expressions of religious Orthodoxy and militant internationalism among Russian elites. Through multiple regression analysis, little evidence was found to support the relationship between religious measures and the militarism sub-dimension of militant internationalism. However, various religious measures were statistically significant in predicting the Anti-Americanism sub-dimension of Militant Internationalism. These results conflict somewhat with past research analyzing Islamic religiosity and militarism. Despite these inconsistencies, evidence suggests that the importance of God in an individual’s life and the cultural significance of Russian Orthodoxy predicts Anti-Americanism among Russian elites.
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7. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Margo Kitts Religion, Nationalism, and Violence: Introduction
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8. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Margo Kitts Proud Boys, Nationalism, and Religion
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The Proud Boys are an opportunistic hate group whose message of white male chauvinism is infused with religious and nationalist symbols. They fit into the global trend of religious nationalism in that they are driven by a reaction to religious pluralism, entertain atavistic yearnings, and celebrate a founding hero, Donald Trump. Enthralled with fistfighting, in both their initiatory rituals and their engagements with antifa groups, they delight in offending the genteel sensibilities they associate with the “white liberal elite.” They are proudly anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and anti-feminist, but their list of enemies appears to be ever shifting, suggesting a toxic virility run amuck. While they are but one expression of an enduring European-American chauvinism, their celebration of masculinity resembles the masculinism and misogyny that arose in response to the Victorian era in the US.
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9. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Michael Jerryson Religious Violence as Emergency Mindset
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Religion and violence are both ambiguous categories but in the cultural mosaic that pits human against human, religion is a reoccurring justifier. There is no religion exempt from this tendency toward violence. Further, based on Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments with students who were convinced that it was necessary to inflict torture on subjects for the greater good, it is apparent that ordinary people may commit heinous acts, given a sense of overarching emergency. Examples of religiously justified atrocities and violent rhetoric are summarized in this essay. In each case there is the mindset that violence is justified due to an extraordinary set of circumstances which require the suspension of behavioral norms.
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10. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Andrea Malji People Don’t Want a Mosque Here: Destruction of Minority Religious Sites as a Strategy of Nationalism
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Religious sites are often at the center of confrontation. Groups frequently clash over the structures and the historical narratives surrounding sacred spaces. Religious sites encompass deeply entrenched meanings for groups of all backgrounds. These spaces represent identity, tradition, history, family, and belief systems. For minority groups, their religious sites can help provide a sense of belonging and serve as a monument to their history in the community. Due to their symbolic importance, religious sites are also vulnerable to violence by outside groups. Destructive acts targeting religious architecture and symbols are common throughout the world, but are especially frequent in identity-based conflicts, such as in Bosnia. However, the study of these attacks and their relationship to nationalist movements, particularly in Asia, has not been adequately studied. This article examines the destruction of Islamic sites in three distinct countries and contexts: India, Myanmar, and Xinjiang, China. In each case, Muslims are religious minorities and face varying levels of persecution. This article argues that the destruction of religious spaces and symbols has been used both literally and symbolically to claim a space for the dominant group and assert a right to the associated territory. The elimination of Muslim sites is part of a broader attempt to engage in a historical revisionism that diminishes or vilifies Muslims belonging in the region.
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11. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Meerim Aitkulova Kyrk Choro: A Neo-Nationalist Movement in Kyrgyzstan
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The article attempts to understand the phenomenon of the neo-patriotic group Kyrk Choro in Kyrgyzstan, and focuses on issues such as the activities of the group and the conditions for its emergence. The confusion of ideological orientations in the country has led to the fragmentation of the Kyrgyz society. The emergence and popularity of Kyrk Choro are reflections of the aggravating contradictions between westernization and attempts to keep Kyrgyz values.
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12. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Torkel Brekke Islamophobia and Antisemitism are Different in Their Potential for Globalization
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A widespread assumption in research on prejudice and hate crime is that Islamophobia and antisemitism are analogous phenomena: both travel easily across national and cultural boundaries and adapt to new contexts. This article argues that this assumption is incorrect. Islamophobia works well in very different cultural contexts and shows highly diverse localized expressions. Antisemitism is linked to Christian theology even when expressed in Muslim societies and is not global to nearly the same extent as Islamophobia. The key question is this: how can we understand the cultural conditions for the globalization of antisemitism and Islamophobia? To answer this the article looks briefly at Islamophobia and antisemitism in Chinese and Hindu civilizations and then moves on to introduce the theory of cultural models. Islamophobia is a family of more or less similar cultural models belonging to a range of different cultures across time and space. This is the general answer to the question of why Islamophobia is an intensely globalizing prejudice. Islamophobia should be conceptualized as a number of overlapping cultural models found in various societies. Today, local varieties of Islamophobia seem to come into closer contact, to converge and sometimes to exchange elements as a result of intensifying transnational and global communication.
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13. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Alalddin Al-Tarawneh The Role of Quran Translations in Radicalizing Muslims in the West and Misrepresenting Islam
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There is considerable evidence that many translations of the Quran constitute fertile ground for the radicalization of a large number of Western Muslims, particularly those who do not speak Arabic as their mother tongue. While a handful of previous studies have addressed the factors engendering terrorism, more remains to be said regarding the roots thereof. Therefore, this article employs the narrative theory of translation studies (TS) to highlight how these texts are manipulated through their translation, in order to deceive and brainwash young Muslims in the West. It argues that terrorist groups are successful in creating a radicalized discourse by injecting their violent ideology into Quran translations and by framing the facts to serve their objectives. This discourse is masked by the holiness of the Quran that is not questionable for Muslims. The article concludes that many translations of the Quran are dangerous and instantiate a supportive tool for terrorist groups in their attempts to brainwash Muslims and secure recruits within Western communities. The article recommends the engagement of Western governments in monitoring the circulation of Quran translations and even in undertaking a role in institutionalizing the process of translation, rather than leaving it in the hands of unqualified individuals.
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14. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Nakul Kundra Vaishnava Nation and Militant Nationalism in Bankimacandra Chatterji’s Anandamath, or The Sacred Brotherhood
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Anandamath, or The Sacred Brotherhood (hereinafter “Anandamath”) is a political novel. In this literary work, Vaishnavism, one of the major forms of modern Hinduism, lays the foundation of the Bengali Vaishnava nation and provides the Children with a moral justification for resorting to violence under the auspices of state-seeking nationalism, which is a sociopolitical phenomenon in which members of a nation try to attain “a certain amount of sovereignty” or “political autonomy” (Guichard 2010: 15). To justify militant nationalism, Bankimacandra Chatterji (hereinafter “Bankim”) creates a code which is considerably different from Lord Chaitanya’s Vaishnava code and depicts a Dharma Yuddha along the thematic lines of the Mahabharata. Since the Vaishnava Order aims to restore the lost glory of the Mother, it demands complete dedication and commitment from the Children, who, otherwise, are to pay a heavy price. Even the caste system, which divides Hindus into four main categories—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras—is negated to fulfil the Rashtra Dharma (national duty). The narrative is wreathed in the Indian religious and ethical values, supernaturalism, and mysticism in the epic tradition, and it upholds the principle of moral conscience, a central theme of the Bhagavad-gita (the Gita). The novelist presents Vaishnava nationalism as a Dharmic movement and the ideology of the Bengali Vaishnavas.
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15. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
Margo Kitts China, Religion, and Violence: Introduction
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16. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
Barend J. ter Haar A Word for Violence: The Chinese Term bao 暴
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The term bao 暴 is only a rough equivalent to the English term violence. Both terms are primarily pejorative judgments and problematic as analytical terms. Bao is a standard term in legitimation propaganda when the victorious party will blame the adversary for being “violent” and praise itself for being its positive equivalent “martial.” Not everything that we label as violent today was considered as such in China’s past, including vengeance. The label bao was also used for what local people considered excessive violence, such as a former prostitute maltreating servants or concubines, a fisherman intending to kill his mother, or a man plucking the feathers of his prizewinning cock. Again not all forms of behavior that we might consider “violent” are labelled as such, but only those where the use of force and resulting harm are considered out of tune with the social or kinship relationship between the parties involved.
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17. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
Don J. Wyatt Bravest Warriors Most Ethereal, Most Human: Demon Soldiers in Chinese History
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Often depicted as pitted in cosmic struggle against nobler multitudes of spiritual or heavenly warriors, when viewed from our modernist perspective, the ghostly or demon warriors of Chinese tradition are stigmatized as being, at best, ambiguous in status and, at worst, as perverse beings of consummately evil ill repute. However, discoveries from investigation into the historical origins of these demonic soldiers or troopers demand that we regard them as much more enigmatic in their roles and functions than is initially suggested. Documented earliest references indicate not only how the concept of demon warrior first arose for the purposes of furthering and facilitating the immortality ethos of religious Daoism. Also evident from these first written mentions is the clear and unassailable fact that the prototypes for these ghostly beings were unmistakably and very often unremarkably human. Subsequent literature, especially that surviving in the genre of early medieval tales of the strange, only reinforces the notion of these sometimes real and other times fantastical purveyors of violence as occupants of the permeable vortex thinly separating the human and the supernatural worlds, allowing them to manifest themselves at will and freely in either venue. Furthermore, we learn foremost how their primal function was not unlike that of Western guardian angels in being principally tutelary, with the tacit expectation that they should serve dutifully in defense of those who either cultivated or conjured them forth, ensuring the wellbeing of the living by acting as a kind of collective bulwark against the forces of death.
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18. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
Rachel Heggie When Violence Happens: The McDonald’s Murder and Religious Violence in the Hands of the Chinese Communist Party
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After the brutal beating of a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in the eastern Chinese city of Zhaoyuan, the situation quickly went from a tragedy and homicide investigation to the renewing of a nationwide assault on unregulated religious practice. The Church of Almighty God, a banned Christian heterodox movement, was quickly blamed. What followed was a scene all too familiar to religious practice in China: widespread crackdowns on practitioners and a public media campaign against the group. In this way, the “McDonald’s murder” serves as a fitting case study for what happens when religious violence occurs in the midst of an atheist regime adamantly opposed to religious practice. This paper retraces the steps taken by the Chinese Communist Party in the days, months, and years following the murder, revealing an organized and carefully executed strategy to further its ultimate agenda of a secular, centralized society.
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19. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
Xinzhang Zhang, James R. Lewis The Gods Hate Fags: Falun Gong’s Reactionary Social Teachings
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In the ongoing struggle between Falun Gong and the Chinese state, Li Hongzhi’s reactionary social teachings are often mentioned in passing, but not examined in a systematic fashion. The present paper makes a preliminary effort in that direction, surveying Li’s homophobic, anti-miscegenist, anti-feminist et cetera pronouncements. On the one hand, these teachings often work at cross purposes with the movement’s efforts to garner support and to portray itself as the innocent victim of the Chinese state. On the other hand, the harshness of Li Hongzhi’s frequent pronouncements against gays, race-mixing and the like turn away potential supporters and provide critics with an abundant reservoir from which to fashion anti-Falun Gong discourse.
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20. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 8 > Issue: 3
James R. Lewis, Junhui Qin Is Li Hongzhi a CIA Agent? Tracing the Funding Trail Through the Friends of Falun Gong
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In 2000, Mark Palmer, one of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED’s) founders and Vice Chairman of Freedom House—an organization funded entirely by the U.S. Congress—founded a new government-supported group, Friends of Falun Gong (FoFG). By perusing FoFG’s annual tax filings, one discovers that FoFG has contributed funds to Sounds of Hope Radio, New Tang Dynasty TV, and the Epoch Times—all Falun Gong media outlets. FoFG has also contributed to Dragon Springs (a Falun Gong ‘compound’ that hosts a Falun Gong school and a residency complex) and to Shen Yun (a Falun Gong performance company), as well as to Falun Gong’s PR arm. In order to contextualize the U.S. government’s funding of Falun Gong, it will also be helpful to examine a handful of additional U.S. agency activities, such as the NED’s funding of Liu Xiaobo, the Hong Kong protests, and other China-related and Tibet-related groups.
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