Terror in the Name of God: confronting acts of religious violence in a liberal society

CIS Occasional Paper 154
Terrorism Religion Islam Democracy Freedom of religion Counter-terrorism

Acts of violence perpetrated in the name of religion have been reported with great prominence in recent times. Scholars of religion continue to weigh whether people who kill or injure others are really doing so in the name of their God, as they claim; or whether they are actors merely identifiable as followers of that God. There are no obvious answers to the problem of religious violence.

Although it is not a new phenomenon, it has taken on a new, more deadly form that is provoking heightened concerns about the integration of Muslims into the wider society.

Confronting religious violence effectively requires the preservation of strong bonds of trust and respect between citizens, the voluntary associations of civil society, such as religious communities, and the organs of government. It also requires an unfailing commitment to upholding the cultural, moral, and legal stability of a liberal society in order that citizens may freely challenge religious believers who advocate militant or illiberal teachings. Upholding and defending the values of an open, liberal society needs to be a priority for all who are prepared to engage in the ideological contest provoked by religious violence.

This paper sets out to examine some of the key problems religious violence poses for western, liberal societies.

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