Chechens take part in the zikr, a Muslim ritual of the Sufi tradition, while chanting special prayers and dancing in a circle in front of the Heart of Chechnya mosque in Grozny, Mar. 9, 2009, during celebrations of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.
"Understanding Rationality in Religious Violence"
Op-Ed, The Huffington Post
June 14, 2010
Author: Monica Duffy Toft, Former Associate Professor of Public Policy; Former Board Member, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Former Director, Initiative on Religion and International Affairs
When I first began research into religion and global politics, I began by trying to approach it as I had most of my previous research: canvas previous efforts, formulate some new conjectures, and then seek out real-world evidence that might test them. It didn't work.
The main problem was that there was simply too little previous work to build on. Beginning in the early 1980s, the discipline of international relations had fallen victim to a rather large blind spot. The nationalist-inspired violence of the early 1990s was its first manifestation, and religiously-inspired violence has proven to be its second. Simply put, the discipline tended to define rationality in such a narrow way that it was forced to shuffle off nationalism, civil war, guerrilla war, terrorism, and religious violence into the error term: violence spawned in such contexts wasn't of sufficient magnitude (compared to, say, a major conventional war, or a superpower thermonuclear exchange), and in addition, such "irrational" actors made poor foundations for general theories — which were, and in many ways remain, the Holy Grail of international relations scholarship.
Consider two of the core texts that international relations (IR) scholars read as graduate students in the late 1990s: Hans Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations and Kenneth Waltz's Theory of International Politics. Neither provides anything meaningful by way to understand how religion might operate....
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