The Multidimensional Impact of Islamic Religiosity on Ethno-religious Social Tolerance in the Middle East and North Africa

“Ethno-religious tolerance is crucial for establishing sustainable democracy, which is scarce in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This study provides an empirically grounded and nuanced critique of Orientalist studies simply pointing at Islam. It presents a systematic analysis of the impact of religious belonging, belief, and behavior on social tolerance in the MENA, based on 32 uniquely
synchronized Arab Barometer and World Values surveys. This study’s major contributions are that it (a) provides unique empirical insights into the multifaceted impact of religiosity on social tolerance in the region, (b) develops the 3-Bs approach to a context-sensitive framework, and (c) shows that and explains why Islam has both negative and positive influences. The analyses show (i) that the degree to which people identify with their religion has no negative impact on social tolerance, with exception of the few cases in which Islamist forces hold power; (ii) that under “normal” circumstances orthodox-literalist believers are more tolerant towards others, but less so if they feel repressed or threatened in society (which only holds for a few cases); and (iii) that mosque attendance has a negative impact on ethno-religious social tolerance, and this effect is particularly strong if conservative Islamist states coercively regulate religion and its content, such as communication via sermons. All things considered the multifaceted 3-B approach is found to hold well once the MENA-specific aspects and its diverse society-state-religion relations are incorporated as sources of both possible threats and socialization…”

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