Coordinator: Kaja Borchgrevink

The Religion research group examines how religious actors, ideas, and institutions influence social and political processes.​

We explore issues at the intersection of religion, conflict, and peacebuilding.

The main research themes include the following:

  • How religious actors, ideas, and institutions influence social and political change
  • The ethical foundations guiding the use of armed force, as understood within different religious traditions
  • The interconnection between religious doctrines, rhetoric, practices, and motivations, on matters relating to peacebuilding and war.

The researchers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including development studies, philosophy, political science, religious studies, social geography, and sociology. Religion research at PRIO combines empirical work with strong theoretical ambitions. We aim at advancing the scholarly study of religion, while at the same time providing relevant knowledge and analysis to policymakers and practitioners.​

Past Events


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Erdal, Marta Bivand & Kaja Borchgrevink (2016) Transnational Islamic charity as everyday rituals, Global Networks. DOI: 10.1111/glob.12137.
Reichberg, Gregory M. (2016) Jacques Maritain, l'Espagne, et la guerre sainte [Jacques Maritain, Spain, and Holy War], Revue Thomiste 115(2): 215–233.
Hatay, Mete (2015) ‘Reluctant’ Muslims? Turkish Cypriots, Islam, and Sufism, Cyprus Review 27(2): 43–63.
Gates, Scott & Sukanya Podder (2015) Social Media, Recruitment, Allegiance, and the Islamic State, Perspectives on Terrorism 9(4): 107–116.
Brekke, Torkel (2015) Bridging the gap between ancient and modern in the study of religion and violence in India, Journal of Religion and Violence 3(3): 327–333.
Høigilt, Jacob (2014) Prophets in their own country? Hizb al- Tahrir in the Palestinian context, Politics, Religion & Ideology. DOI: 10.1080/21567689.2014.9656921–17.
Nordås, Ragnhild (2014) Religious demography and conflict: Lessons from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, International Area Studies Review 17(2): 146–166.
Høigilt, Jacob & Frida Austvoll Nome (2014) Egyptian Salafism in Revolution, Journal of Islamic Studies 25(1): 33–55.
Borchgrevink, Kaja (2013) Transnational Links of Afghan Madrasas: Implications for the Reform of Religious Education, Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education 43(1): 69–84.
Brekke, Torkel (2013) Religion and Sex-Selective Abortion: A comparative study of immigrants from South Asia to Norway, Diaspora Studies 6(1): 31–40.
Harpviken, Kristian Berg (2012) The Transnationalization of the Taliban, International Area Studies Review15(3): 203–229.
Reichberg, Gregory M.;Syse, Henrik; & Begby, Endre (2012) The Ethics of War. Part I: Historical Trends , Philosophy Compass 7(5): 316–327.
Begby, Endre;Reichberg, Gregory M.; & Syse, Henrik (2012)The Ethics of War. Part II: Contemporary Authors and Issues , Philosophy Compass 7(5): 328–347.
Reichberg, Gregory M. (2010) Thomas Aquinas Between Just War and Pacifism , Journal of Religious Ethics 38(2): 219–241.
Røislien, Jo; & Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2010) The Logic of Palestinian Terrorist Target Choice? Examining the Israel Defense Forces' Official Statistics on Palestinian Terrorist Attacks 2000-2004 , Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 33(2): 134–148.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Astri Suhrke (2009) Negotiating Justice Sector Reform in Afghanistan, Crime, Law and Social Change 51(2): 211–130.
Vogt, Kari; & Nome, Frida Austvoll (2008) Islamic Education in Qom: Contemporary Developments , Acta Orientalia 6935–75.
Harpviken, Kristian Berg; & Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2008) Faithful Brokers? Potentials and Pitfalls of Religion in Peacemaking , Conflict Resolution Quarterly 25(3): 351–373.
Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2007) Living with Contradiction: Examining the Worldview of the Jewish Settlers , International Journal of Conflict & Violence 1(2): 169–184.
Nome, Frida Austvoll (2006) Strained Harmony: Religious Diversity in Syria , Report to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs .
Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2005) For Gud, stat og fedreland. Bosetterne på Vestbredden og i Øst-Jerusalem [For God, State and Fatherland. Settlers in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem] , Internasjonal Politikk 5517–535.

PhD Thesis

Nilsen, Marte (2012) Negotiating Thainess: Religious and National Identities in Thailand's Southern Conflict. PhD thesis, Lund Studies in History of Religions, Lund University, Sweden.


Brekke, Torkel (2016) Faithonomics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brekke, Torkel (2011) Fundamentalism: Prophecy and Protest in an Age of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book Chapter

Brekke, Torkel (2016) Gun & Guru: Religious Teachers in the Indian Army, in Brekke, Torkel; & Vladimir Tikhonov, eds, Military Chaplaincy: Comparative Perspectives. Dehli: Oxford University Press .
Brekke, Torkel (2016) Swami Vivekananda, in Eggert, Marion; Stefan Reichmuth; Hans-Martin Krämer; & Bjorn Bentlage, eds, Sourcebook of Interreligious Contacts. Leiden: Brill .
Brekke, Torkel (2015) The Indian Tradition, in James Turner Johnson, ed., Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics. London: Ashgate (415–427).
Brekke, Torkel (2015) Indian Shia Muslims and ideas of home around Partition in the fiction of Rahi Masoom Reza, in Özdalga, Elisabeth; & Daniella Kuzmanovic, eds, Novel and Nation In the Muslim World. London: Palgrave Macmillan (201–215).
Høigilt, Jacob (2015) Hizb al-Tahrir between Context and Ideology, in Adli Daana, ed., Islamic Hizb Ut-Tahrir In Palestine. Beirut: The Arab Institute For Research and Publishing (19–44).
Hatay, Mete & Ali Dayioglu (2015) Cyprus, in Scharbrodt, Oliver; Samim Akgonul; Ahmet Alibasic; Jorgen Nielsen; & Egdunas Racius, eds, Yearbook of Muslims In Europe: Volume 7. Netherlands: Brill (157–173).
Brekke, Torkel (2014) Secularism and the market for religion in Scandinavia and India, in Loconzsci, Peter; & Walter Van Herck, eds, Secularism, Politics and Religion: Contexts and Concepts In India and Europe. New York: Routledge (158–176).
Brekke, Torkel (2014) The Sikh Tradition, in Reichberg, Gregory M.; & Henrik Syse, eds, The Comparative Ethics of War. New York: Cambridge University Press (672–701).
Hatay, Mete (2014) Three Ways of Sharing the Sacred: Choreographies of Coexistence in Cyprus, in Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Conflict Resolution (Ed. Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey). New York: Columbia University Press (69–96).
Hatay, Mete & Ali Dayioglu (2014) Cyprus, in Nielsen, Jørgen S.; Samim Akgönül; Ahmet Alibašić; & Egdūnas Račius, eds, Yearbook of Muslims In Europe, Vol. 6. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers (153–175).
Roy, Kaushik (2014) Hinduism, in Reichberg, Gregory M.; & Henrik Syse, eds, Religion, War, and Ethics: a Sourcebook of Textual Traditions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (471–543).
Brekke, Torkel (2012) Hinduism and Security, in Seiple, Chris; Dennis R. Hoover; & Pauletta Otis, eds, Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security. New York: Routledge (80–94).
Brekke, Torkel (2012) Breaking the Thigh and Breaking the Warrior Code, in Aquil, Raziuddin; & Kaushik Roy, eds, Warfare, Religion, and Society In Indian History. Dehli: Manohar (43–63).
Brekke, Torkel (2012) The Dharam Yudh or Just War in Sikhism, in Kaushik Roy, ed., Warfare and Politics In South Asia from Ancient to Modern Times. New Dehli: Manohar (387–414).
Harpviken, Kristian Berg (2012) Warlordism: Three Biographies From Southeastern Afghanistan, in Suhrke, Astri; & Mats Berdal, eds, The Peace In Between: Post-War Violence and Peacebuilding. London: Routledge (173–191).
Nilsen, Marte (2012) Military Temples and Saffron-Robed Soldiers: Legitimacy and the Securing of Buddhism in Southern Thailand, in Tikhonov, Vladimir; & Torkel Brekke, eds, Buddhism and Violence. Militarism and Buddhism In Modern Asia. London: Routledge (37–53).
Ezzati, Rojan(2011) 'Alle ser på oss som utlendinger uansett': Selvbilder og andre bilder av unge menn med muslimsk bakgrunn etter 11. september 2001, in Eriksen, Thomas Hylland, ed., Kulturell Kompleksitet I Det Nye Norge. : Unipub(57–67).
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2010) Afghanistan: Civil Society Between Modernity and Tradition, in Civil Society and Peacebuilding: a Critical Assessment. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner (235–257).
Harpviken, Kristian Berg(1998) The Hazara of Aghanistan: The Thorny Path Towards Political Unity, 1978-1992, in Atabaki, Touraj; & O'Kane, John, eds, Post-Soviet Central Asia. : I. B. Tauris(177–198).

Edited Volume

Brekke, Torkel; & Vladimir Tikhonov, eds, (2016) Military Chaplaincy: Comparative Perspectives. Dehli: Oxford University Press.
Tikhonov, Vladimir; & Torkel Brekke, eds, (2015) Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia. London: Routledge. Routledge Studies in Religion.
Reichberg, Gregory M.; & Henrik Syse, eds, (2014) Religion, War, and Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Brekke, Torkel (ed.) (2009) The Ethics of War in Asian Civilizations: A Comparative Perspective. London: Routledge.
Reichberg, Gregory M.; Vesselin Popovski; & Nicholas Turner, eds, (2009) World Religions and Norms of War. Tokyo, New York, Paris: United Nations University Press.
Syse, Henrik; & Gregory M. Reichberg, eds, (2007) Ethics, Nationalism, and Just War: Medieval and Contemporary Perspectives. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

Non-refereed Journal Article

Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2006) Religion is Not Just Religion , Global Knowledge (1): .
Lende, Gina (2004) Med Jesus for Palestina - palestinske kristne [Jesus for Palestine: the Palestinian Christians] , Babylon- Tidsskrift Om Midtøsten Og Nord-Afrika 1(2): 90–97.

Popular Article

Hatay, Mete (2015) Gökyüzündeki Rekabet: Çan kuleleri ve Minareler [The Competition in the Sky: Bell Towers and Minarets], Poli, Havadis Newspaper, 20.9.2015.
Hatay, Mete (2015) Din değiştirme ve Kıbrıs Köylerinin Etnik Homojenleşme süreci [Religious Conversion and Ethnic Homogenization Processes in Cyprus], Poli, Havadis Newspaper, 23.8.2015.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2015) Muslimer flest feirer id [Most Muslims Celebrate Eid], Dagbladet.
Hatay, Mete (2015) Suudi Kralı’nın Kıbrıs Vakıfları üzerindeki hak iddiası [The claims of the King of Saudi Arabia on Cypriot Evkaf], Poli, Havadis Newspaper, 28.6.2015.
Erdal, Marta Bivand & Rojan Tordhol Ezzati (2015) Når blir du norsk? [When do you become Norwegian?], Aftenposten.
Rudolfsen, Ida (2015) Islam og konflikt [Islam and conflict], Ny Tid.
Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Ida Rudolfsen (2015) Brannen i islams hus [The Fire in the House of Islam], Aftenposten Innsikt.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2014) Norske fremmedhjelpere [Foreign helpers], NRK Ytring.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2014) Muslimsk dugnad for de fattige [Muslim charity for the poor], VG.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2013) Den usynlige bistanden, Klassekampen.
Ezzati, Rojan (2011) Fragmentering i terrorens tid [Fragmentation in the Time of Terror], Dagsavisen , 2 August.
Lende, Gina (2011) Er religion umoderne? [Is Religion Old Fashioned?], Stavanger Aftenblad, 31 May.
Lende, Gina (2011) Den nye vinen [“The It-thing” – Charismatic Christianity], Stavanger Aftenblad, 12 April.
Lende, Gina (2011) Fleire veger til Golgata [There are Several Paths to Golgotha], Stavanger Aftenblad, 1 March.
Ezzati, Rojan (2010) Kravet om forklaring, Dagsavisen, 14 July.
Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2009) Får han superkrefter nå? Nobel-prisen hjelper ikke Obama i Midtøsten. [Does He Get Superpowers Now? The Nobel Prize Won't Help Obama in the Middle East], VG, 17 October.
Harpviken, Kristian Berg & Kaja Borchgrevink (2009) A Muted Voice? Religious Actors and Civil Society in Post-2001 Afghanistan, Afghanistan Info, 15 March.
Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2007) Religionens fornyede rolle [The Renewed Role of Religion], Aftenposten, 16 January.

PRIO Report

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005) The Sangha and its Relation to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka, PRIO Report, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Conference Paper

Nordås, Ragnhild 2008 Gunning for God? Religion and Conflict Severity, presented at Peace Science Society (International) 2008 North American Meeting, , 24–25 October.
de Soysa, Indra; & Nordås, Ragnhild 2006 Islam's Bloody Innards? Religion and Political Terror, 1980-2000, presented at Religion and Political Terror, 1980-2000, , September.
Nordås, Ragnhild 2005 The Future of Religious Values – Impacts of Globalization and Intrastate Factors, presented at The Third European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) conference, , 8–10 September.
Nordås, Ragnhild 2005 Religious Diversity and State Strategies: Impacts on Development and Conflict, presented at the 46th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, , 1–5 March.

PRIO Policy Brief

Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2015) Other Voices, Other Choices?, PRIO Policy Brief, 15. Oslo: PRIO.
Erdal, Marta Bivand & Kaja Borchgrevink (2015) Diaspora Development Engagements Seen Through the Prism of Islamic Charity, PRIO Policy Brief, 16. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen, Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar, PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen, Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar (BURMESE version), PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen, Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) Myanmar’s National Census – Helping or ​Disrupting Peace?, PRIO Policy Brief, 1. Oslo: PRIO.
Tariq, Mohammed Osman; Kaja Borchgrevink & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2011) Building Trust and Institutions - Religious Institution-Building in Afghanistan: An Exploration, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2010) Teaching Religion, Taming Rebellion: Religious Education Reform in Afghanistan, PRIO Policy Brief, 7. Oslo: PRIO.
Nome, Frida Austvoll (2008) Engaging Religion To Reduce Tension: The Case of Syria and Lebanon, PRIO Policy Brief, 1. Oslo: PRIO.

PRIO Paper

Borchgrevink, Kaja (2010) Beyond Borders: Diversity and Transnational Links in Afghan Religious Education, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.
Borchgrevink, Kaja (2007) Religious Actors and Civil Society in Post-2001 Afghanistan, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

Report - Other

Erdal, Marta Bivand; Alice Ennals; Kari Helene Partapouli; & Nadia Falch Bandak, eds, (2015) Diaspora og Utvikling [Diaspora and Development]Oslo: Development Fund.
Borchgrevink, Kaja; Kristian Berg Harpviken; Kanishka Nawabi; Mirwais Wardak; Astri Suhrke; & Arne Strand (2007) Disconnected and Discounted? Religious actors and Civil Society in Post - 2001 Afghanistan, PRIO-CPAU-CMI Policy Brief. Oslo/Bergen: PRIO/CPAU/CMI.

Report - External Series

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) The rise of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Asia and possibilities for transformation, NOREF Policy Brief. Oslo: NOREF.
Borchgrevink, Kaja; & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2011) Taking Stock: Madrasa Reform in Pakistan , Noref Policy Brief, 4. Oslo: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF).
Borchgrevink, Kaja (2011) Pakistan’s Madrasas: Moderation or Militancy? The Madrasa Debate and the Reform Process, Noref Policy Papers. Oslo: NOREF.
Borchgrevink, Kaja; & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2010) Afghanistan’s Religious Landscape: Politicising the Sacred, Noref Policy Brief, 3. Oslo: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF).
Harpviken, Kristian Berg; & Røislien, Hanne Eggen (2005) Mapping the Terrain: The Role of Religion in Peacemaking, State of the Art Paper to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, : PRIO.

Book Review

Brekke, Torkel (2015) Review of Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers; Elizabeth Shakman Hurd; Saba Mahmood; & Peter G. Danchin, eds, Politics of Religious Freedom, in Reading Religion .

Blog Posts

Are We Nearing an End to Buddhist Extremism in Myanmar?

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Ma Ba Tha and similar groups of extremist monks in Myanmar could face resistance after a government official finally rebuked their brand of nationalism. It took just one dismissive comment from the chief minister of Yangon to seemingly deflate Ma Ba Tha. The Buddhist nationalist organisation has become known for its provocative segregation policies and derogatory depictions of Muslims, but now, almost for the first time, they were the ones under attack. It was a big moment, but the events that followed should be viewed in context of the massive political and religious reorientation taking place in Myanmar. Both political ...

Interfaith Dialogue can Help Build Peace

Posted by Trond Bakkevig on Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Interfaith dialogue is a necessary aid in conflicts involving religion. Some years ago, many Western social scientists were claiming that religion was a dying phenomenon. Such assertions were part of an arrogant assumption that the entire world would soon come to resemble the north-western corner of Europe. In Eastern Europe, which lay under the yoke of Communism, atheistic faith prevailed. And no doubt many people believed that atheism would continue to prevail after the Communist system was abolished. After the fall of Communism, however, atheistic was to a large extent replaced by religious faith. Putin, a former KGB officer, became ...

Suicide Bombing ≠ Religious Fervor

Posted by Ragnhild Nordås on Friday, 8 April 2016

Is it just religious fanatics who blow themselves up as suicide bombers? Bernt Hagtvet, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo, has been active in the Norwegian media lately, stating that only religion (he focuses mostly on Islam) brings the fervor to commit suicide attacks as part of a political struggle – or “only religious totalitarian movements have capabilities to create a fanaticism strong enough to suicide.” This is not true. Firstly, there is ample evidence showing that a deterministic relationship between suicide missions and having a religious agenda or ideology is wrong. It is right that more ...

Are Myanmar's Monks Hindering Democratization?

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The upcoming general elections in Myanmar raise the question of religion’s role in democratisation processes. Previously Buddhism has been an important force in favour of democracy, but in the 2015 election campaign strong Buddhist forces are supporting the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). This is their democratic right, but it may hinder further political reforms and democratisation in Myanmar. Buddhist nationalism has flourished since political reforms were introduced in 2011. Leading Buddhist monks have formed the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, generally known by the abbreviation ‘MaBaTha’, which has the aim of promoting Buddhist interests. ...

Most Muslims Celebrate Eid

Posted by Kaja Borchgrevink & Marta Bivand Erdal on Thursday, 16 July 2015

Now that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is ending, most Muslims – in Oslo, as elsewhere in the world – celebrate the festival of Eid. It is a time for celebration. For many Muslims, it is also a time to help those less well-off than themselves, either through the annual “religious tax” zakat or through other forms of charity. Muslims in Oslo are engaged in a range of charitable, humanitarian and development efforts. We have learned about these through our research over the past four years, exploring development involvement in Pakistan and beyond, among the Pakistani diaspora. However, charitable ...

The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Narrow Burman-Buddhist nationalism remains the country’s biggest barrier to sustainable political reform. The Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, is gaining ground in Myanmar. It has also been receiving increased international attention—last month for its proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in public schools. The organization was founded in 2014, when central figures from the more widely known 969 movement started campaigning for four laws to ban polygamy, restrict interfaith marriages and religious conversions, and enforce birth control measures among groups with high rates of population growth. All four laws, which ...

Endangered Co-Existence: Buddhist-Muslim Friction in Asia

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Friday, 26 June 2015

Disputes about everything from holy sites to ritual animal slaughter and compulsory family planning are causing dangerous tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Friction between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia is putting pressure on a centuries-long tradition of religious co-existence, tolerance and shared cultural values. Hate speech, violence involving Buddhists and Muslims, attacks on religious minorities, and new laws designed to control religious conversion, family planning and interfaith marriage are now contributing to increased conflict in the region. Dramatic increase In recent years, the number of attacks on Muslim minorities in Buddhist ...

ASEAN’s Rohingya Challenge: Can ASEAN fail to act and yet be a Community?

Posted by Stein Tønnesson on Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A human tragedy has been unfolding in the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of poor Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees and job seekers have been the victims of xenophobia, cynical smugglers and incapable governance. What has ASEAN done? So far very little. Yet this crisis is exactly the kind of non-traditional trans-national security challenge that ASEAN must cope with if it means seriously its ambition to form a peaceful “ASEAN Community” by December 2015. The exodus of refugees and job seekers from Myanmar and Bangladesh presents an acute challenge for ASEAN Four member countries are directly involved: Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia ...

The Buddhist Face of Peace: Buddhist Peace Initiatives in Times of Religious Intolerance

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund & Susan Hayward on Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Buddhist anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence against Muslim minorities and hate speech against UN officials are now global media sensations. Less known is the growing number of religious peace initiatives, by both Muslims and Buddhists, to address the situation. Recently, practitioners and scholars met in Bangkok to discuss ways forward. Anti-Muslim violence Both Sri Lanka and Myanmar have witnessed severe verbal and physical attacks on their Muslim minorities since 2012. For further reading on this, see for example The New York Times, The Democratic Voice of Burma, and Reuters. ...

Islam and Conflict

Posted by Ida Rudolfsen on Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The number of civil wars worldwide has fallen in recent years, but meanwhile the number of civil wars in Muslim countries is increasing. From early on in the 21st century, we have also seen a marked growth in the number of active groups of Islamist insurgents. The media in Western countries focus strongly on terrorism and threats from the Muslim world. Are Muslim countries really more violent than others? And if they are, is it the West that is paying the price? In 2012, there were six civil wars worldwide (defining “civil war” as a conflict resulting in more than ...

The Secular Suicide Bomber

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Is the all-consuming focus on Islam leading us to ignore the fact that suicide attacks have also been carried out by Christian, Hindu and secular martyrs? There can be no doubt that violent actions conducted in the name of Islam constitute a threat to state and individual security not only in Europe, but most of all in the Muslim world itself. The question, however, is whether the all-consuming focus on Islam is leading us to ignore the fact that suicide attacks have also been carried out by Christian, Hindu and secular martyrs. Such actions are motivated by politics, strategy and ...

A Muted Voice? Religious Actors and Civil Society in Post-2001 Afghanistan

Posted by Kristian Berg Harpviken & Kaja Borchgrevink on Wednesday, 25 March 2015

In general, religious actors are not perceived as possible contributors to civil society. In Afghanistan, where religion permeates society and politics, and where religious leaders and networks bear considerable influence, this is particularly problematic. There is a need for a thorough rethink of what civil society is, and the role of religion within it. While knowledge is deficient in vital areas, what we do know merits a thorough reorientation of policy and practice. Religious actors are under double pressure. The Taliban, as the main armed opposition, see Islam as their main source of legitimacy. Religious leaders who express support for ...

The Fire in the House of Islam

Posted by Nils Petter Gleditsch on Friday, 20 March 2015

Generally speaking, the global map of conflict is increasingly shaped by armed conflicts involving Muslims on one side or the other, or on both. Are Muslim countries particularly belligerent? Is the religion to blame? Despite the numerous items of bad news delivered by the mass media on a daily basis, a global overview of armed conflict shows several positive trends. During most of the Cold War, there was an increase in the number of ongoing armed conflicts worldwide, but the number decreased sharply after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This trend is even stronger if we restrict our survey ...

Buddhist Nationalism Threatens Myanmar’s Democratic Transition

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Thursday, 12 March 2015

It’s election year in Myanmar, the big test for the country’s aspiring democratic transition. Among the spirited national debates there are four controversial pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Myanmar’s Assembly of the Union parliament (the Pyidaungsu hluttaw). These reportedly aim to protect race and religion. But in truth, the bills represent a setback for religious freedom and women’s rights and — if adopted — are likely to deepen existing religious divides, threaten the reform agenda and stir violence prior to the elections. A rising Buddhist nationalist movement has lobbied for the bills, in particular the ‘Organisation for the ...

Between the Mosque and the Temple Mount

Posted by Trond Bakkevig on Friday, 27 February 2015

Unrest on and around the Al Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount in Jerusalem last autumn caused the Palestinian president, Mahmood Abbas, to warn that the conflict between Israel and Palestine could escalate into a religious war.  The site has extremely powerful national and religious symbolic value for both Palestinians and Israelis. Jordanian protection The tension caused Jordan’s King Abdullah to summon Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to talks in Amman. The 1994 peace agreement between Jordan and Israel confirms the Jordanian king as custodian of the mosque. The king funds the mosque’s maintenance and the salaries of its staff. When King Abdullah demanded ...

Legality and Courtesy

Posted by Trond Bakkevig on Friday, 30 January 2015

In his opinion article in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on 21 January, Per Edgar Kokkvold (secretary general in the Norwegian Press Association) stated the obvious, “It is people who must be protected – and who are protected under current legislation, under the law that prohibits discriminatory or hateful utterances, persecution or insults based on religion or belief. But here it is the individual person who is protected, not the religion. Religions and beliefs must be open to insult.” This is the position under Norwegian law, and this is the position that Norwegian politicians – and the Church of Norway – ...

The Road to Hell is Paved With Rapid Reactions

Posted by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh on Wednesday, 14 January 2015

In the wake of a vicious crime, caution and restraint are a virtue. Once upon a time, in the realm of Xanadu, two and a half dim-witted but well-armed, well-funded and well-trained professional criminals committed cold-blooded murder, commando-style. While committing their crime, they uttered two sentences vocally and publically, following their script to a T. First they cried/lied: “Allah o Akbar.” Obviously, anyone who takes the sacred life of another human being either does not believe in God, or tries to be God himself, in which case he is a lunatic. But the citizens of Xanadu took their words literally ...

Foreign Helpers

Posted by Kaja Borchgrevink & Marta Bivand Erdal on Friday, 19 December 2014

While a small number of young Norwegian Muslims have travelled to Syria to join militant groups as “foreign fighters”, far greater numbers of young Muslims are supporting humanitarian efforts. Most media attention is focused on young people travelling abroad to fight, rather than on young people’s humanitarian work. Throughout the autumn, aid organizations and groups of individuals have been collecting winter clothing, footwear, sleeping bags and blankets. With winter closing in, the situation is precarious and there is great enthusiasm for collecting clothes and blankets to send to civilians both in Syria itself and in refugee camps in the region. ...

A Dangerous Census

Posted by Marte Nilsen, Kristin Dalen & Kristin Jesnes on Friday, 17 October 2014

Norway has spent NOK 40 million to help fund a census in Myanmar (Burma). The census results are at odds with previous assumptions and may increase the level of conflict in the country in the run-up to the elections in 2015. Norway must take responsibility. Every country needs to know who is living within its borders. This is especially true of Myanmar, which is emerging from decades of military dictatorship and civil war. There is broad political consensus in Norway in favour of supporting reforms in Myanmar, and the census data will be important for decision-making in the future. At the ...

Muslim Charity for the Poor

Posted by Kaja Borchgrevink & Marta Bivand Erdal on Monday, 28 July 2014

Fasting and celebration At this time Muslims all over the world are celebrating Eid – Islam’s most important religious festival. Eid marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. After the Eid prayer, families and friends gather to celebrate. This is a time for dressing in fine clothing, eating well, and giving gifts to children. In fact, it is not unlike Christmas. During Eid, it is customary for everyone who can afford it to donate a sum of money, zakat-al-fitr, so that the poor will also be able to eat their fill during the festival. These donations are often ...

Invisible Aid

Posted by Marta Bivand Erdal & Kaja Borchgrevink on Friday, 4 July 2014

Muslims pay 15 times more “religious tax” than the rest of the world gives in humanitarian aid. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, has just started. A time of fasting for devout Muslims, this is also the time of year when most Muslims pay their annual zakat. Zakat is a form of compulsory almsgiving, a kind of “religious tax.” The amount due is 2.5 per cent of a Muslim’s wealth at the start of Ramadan, subject to a minimum threshold. The Koran contains clear rules about who is eligible to receive zakat: in general, these are people who ...