Religious and Ethnic Hatred Seen as Biggest Threat

Nov. 01, 2014

NuclearweaponsAIDSEnvironmentaldestructionAmericanresearcherssaywhatyou feardependslot on whereyoulive. But this yearresearchersfound that people everywherebelievereligious and ethnic hatred is increasinglybecoming the world’s most seriousthreat.

JacobPoushterworks for the PewResearchCenter in WashingtonDC. He was involvedin the Center’s studywhich was released in October. He said researchersaskedpeople in 44 countries to choose which of fivedangers is the topthreat to the world.

“We found that MiddleEasternerstended to identify religious and ethnichatred as the topglobalthreatwhileEuropeans and to someextentAmericanssaid that inequality was the topdanger.”

MrPoushtersaid that, in generalAfricanssawAIDS and otherinfectiousdiseases as the numberone threatPeople in Asia and LatinAmericaworriedmostaboutpollution and the environmentMrPoushteradded that researcherscarried out the surveybefore IslamicStatemilitantsseizedmuch of Iraq and Syria, and beforeEbolabecamemajor internationalnewsstory.

The PewResearchCenterlastinvestigated the public’s fears in 2007. Since thenmore peoplearound the world — and especially in the MiddleEast — namedreligious and ethnichatred as the world’s biggestdanger.

But someinternationalrelationsexpertswarned that the expression religious and ethnic hatred” may be misleading.

JocelyneCesari is with the BerkeleyCenter for ReligionPeace and World Affairs at GeorgetownUniversity in WashingtonDC. She recentlywrotebookcalled Awakening of MuslimDemocracy.

She agreed that religious and ethnictensions in the MiddleEasthave sharplyincreased over the pastthreeyears. But, she said, the tensionsdo not come from differences in beliefInstead, she said, the tensionscome from political and economicimbalances.

MsCesarisaidMiddleEasterngovernmentssuch as in Iraq or Syriaoften useone religious or ethnicgroup to control the wholepopulation.

People are veryaware of that. Ifyou don’t belong to the rightgroupyou may be in trouble.”

MsCesaricomparedcurrentreligious and ethnictensions in the Middle East to conflicts betweenCatholics and Protestants in Ireland in the late 20th century.

“We havenowknowledge that it was not aboutbelief, it was something aboutbeingpart of the samenation on an equalfooting.”

MsCesarisaid that, to improve the situationMiddleEasterngovernments must representallreligious and ethniccommunitiesfairly.

AnotherresearcherAndrewRosswarnedagainstmisuse of the word hatred.” MrRoss teachespoliticalscience at OhioUniversity.

“I thinkhatred has become the kind of, the go-tocategory for thinkingabout popularemotion in conflictedsocieties.”

MrRossstudiedethnic-related conflict in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. He said internationalobserversthereidentified the presence of intensehatred. But when researchersspoke to peopleone-on-one, the subjectsdid not oftendescribefeelings of hatredInsteadMrRossfoundtheytalkedaboutnumber of feelingsincluding jealousypride and hopelessness.

He noted that a majorstudycouldspeakonlyverygenerallyaboutpeople’s complex feelings and experiences. But he said that Pew’s findingssuggest ourfears are more similarthandifferent.

For instance, he saidinequality is a commonconcern. In somecountries inequalitymayrelate to religious and ethnicgroups. In others, it canrelate to raceclass or immigration status.

I’m CatyWeaver.

* KellyJeanKellyreported and wrote this storyGeorgeGrow was the editor.

Jocelyne Cesari is a Director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University and a fellow at the FDP for the academic year 2014-2015. The full article and recording can be found in Voice of America.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Future of Diplomacy Project
For Academic Citation:Religious and Ethnic Hatred Seen as Biggest Threat.” News, , November 1, 2014.