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The Janus Face of Religion: On the Religious Factor in "New Wars"

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Every religion can be a base for respect and for violence. This is how the Bosnian peace activist Cvijeta Novacovic puts it. The Janus face of religion becomes especially visible when religion and politics mingle closely. This is the case in many of the so called "new wars," as for example in Bosnia, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and other places.

The present article focuses on how religion works within conflictive environments to mobilize people and to re-structure their identities. First, we will examine the special dynamics of new wars in order to focus the problem. Then, religion will be framed as a specific strategy of identity politics. On this basis we can analyze some ways by which religious logics operate in conflictive settings — for violence or for respect. The Bosnian war will serve as an example in most parts of the article.


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