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date: 21 April 2024

Drivers of Religious Extremism in South Asialocked

Drivers of Religious Extremism in South Asialocked

  • Zahid Shahab AhmedZahid Shahab AhmedAlfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

Summary

Religious extremism is not a new phenomenon in South Asia but it has certainly grown during the 21st century and that too across the region. While there are historical reasons behind religious divisions and fissures in South Asia (e.g., the two-nation theory with reference to the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent), religious nationalism is a key driver behind the securitization of religious minorities. Although the existence of Muslim extremists is linked to how religion was used as a tool to recruit and mobilize mujahideen against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988, the global dynamics after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the “war on terror” have also influenced religious radicalization and extremism in Pakistan. In contrast, Buddhist and Hindu nationalism have been key drivers of religiously motivated extremism targeting religious minorities, especially Muslims, in Sri Lanka and India. There are similarities in terms of how Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim extremist groups have been propagating hate and inciting violence; for instance, many extremist groups now increasingly use social media. As this article argues, the presence of religious extremism in South Asia presents a significant challenge to peace and security. This includes various forms of extremism targeting different religious groups and promoting anti-Western sentiments. International terrorist organizations are active in the region, while Hindu and Buddhist nationalists contribute to the marginalization and violence against Muslims. Creating an environment of tolerance, inclusivity, and respect for all religious communities is crucial to address these complex issues effectively.

Subjects

  • Conflict Studies
  • Human Rights
  • Identity
  • Security Studies

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