Religion and Tolerance of Minority Sects in the Arab World

Does religious behavior always promote hostility toward members of other faiths? This article suggests that the relationship between personal religious behavior and religious tolerance is not so simple. Even in the Arab World, frequently cited as a center of religious piety and intolerance, different forms of religious behavior have markedly different effects on attitudes toward minority sects. Using both observational and experimental data from across the Arab World as well as an original nationally representative survey conducted in Lebanon in 2013 and 2014, I argue that while communal religious practice does indeed tend to promote intolerant attitudes, personal prayer has precisely the opposite effect. These findings indicate that the traditional assumption that piety invariably leads to intolerance should be rethought. Even in one of the most sectarian environments in the world, private religious behavior can have a substantial pro-tolerance effect.

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