Religious Movements, Militancy, and Conflict in South Asia
July 13, 2012
Religious institutions and leaders are critically important in many conflict and post-conflict cases, and religious values often motivate either violence or peacebuilding. This report, part of an ongoing research effort to assess what is substantively distinctive about religion and the roles it can play in conflict, explores the ways that religion has been a factor in militant groups’ approaches to gaining support in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Religion is a relevant factor in key ways that these groups build support, including their relations with the state, service provision, kinship and patronage networks, and diaspora outreach. The roles religion plays in these categories are complicated and not always intuitive. Militant groups must find ways to limit central government pressures on their activities, including religious ones. These same groups can risk alienating local populations when they pair strong ideological or religious stances with service provision, or operate through patronage networks that are too rigid or not sufficiently inclusive. And global religious networks can inspire diaspora communities to pursue violent activity against their adopted governments. In South Asia, these groups’ activities matter because they threaten the ability of states to maintain peace and stability internally and complicate relations between already tense neighbors. Such instability has grave implications for U.S. national security.