Separating Religion from Terrorism

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Separating Religion from Terrorism


A conference in Aberystwyth this weekend will examine just how much of a role religion really plays in terrorist ideology. Dr Marie Breen Smyth, director of the newly-formed Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth considers the issues

THE shock waves following the bombing of London on July 7 this year brought with them a new set of worries about safety and security.

Some now feel unsafe on visits to London or major American cities, while others worry about being targets of suspicion because of their religion or ethnic origin. In the aftermath of the London bombings, seen alongside the bombing of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 and the Madrid bombings, mistrust has been directed at the Muslim community both locally and globally. Fingers have been pointed at radical Imams in certain Mosques, and the media have shown a tendency to blame their religious leadership for this recent outbreak of terror attacks.

It is hard to imagine Christian people going to church on a Sunday, singing 'The Lord is My Shepherd' and then hearing a sermon that motivates them to go out and kill in the name of religion. Or is it?

Those who carried out the bombing of abortion clinics and the assassination of the doctors who worked in them in the United States claimed to be acting in the name of a Christian god. And closer to home, religious labels of Catholic and Protestant applied in Northern Ireland mark people out as targets for violent attack.

The 'blood and thunder' preaching of certain religious leaders in Northern Ireland has been claimed by some Loyalist paramilitaries as a motivating factor early in their violent careers.

Professor Nicholas Wheeler, director of the David Davies Memorial Institute, Dr Jeroen Gunning of the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence (both members of the internationally renowned Department of International Politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth) and Stephen Thomas, Director of the Welsh Centre of International Affairs, are bringing together a group of experts to address the role of religion in promoting violence in world politics.

Does religion motivate people to become involved in violence and terror? And does religion provide comfort and reassurance to those who carry out such attacks, promising them rewards in the hereafter? …

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