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Sectarianism is bigotry, discrimination or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group, such as between different denomination of a religion or the factions of a political movement.

The ideological underpinnings of attitudes and behaviors labeled as sectarian are extraordinarily varied. Members of a religious or political group may feel that their own salvation, or success of their particular objectives, requires aggressively seeking converts from other groups; adherents of a given faction may believe that for the achievement of their own political or religious project their internal opponents must be purged.

Sometimes a group feeling itself to be under economic or political pressure will attack members of another group thought to be responsible for its own decline. It may also more rigidly define the definition of "orthodox" belief within its particular group or organisation, and expel or excommunicate those who do not agree with this newfound clarified definition of political or religious 'orthodoxy.' In other cases, dissenters from this orthodoxy will secede from the orthodox organisation and proclaim themselves as practitioners of a reformed belief system, or holders of a perceived former orthodoxy. At other times, sectarianism may be the expression of a group's nationalistic or cultural ambitions, or exploited by demagogues.

A sectarian conflict usually refers to violent conflict along religious and political lines such as the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Irelandmarker (although political beliefs and class-divisions played major roles as well). It may also refer to general philosophical, political or armed conflict between different schools of thought such as that between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Non-sectarians espouse that free association and tolerance of different beliefs are the cornerstone to successful peaceful human interaction. They espouse political and religious pluralism.

Religious sectarianism

Sectarianism is present in all parts of the world. Wherever religious sectarians compete, religious sectarianism is found in varying forms and degrees. In some areas, religious sectarians (for example Protestant and Catholic Christians in the United Statesmarker) now exist peacefully side-by-side for the most part. In others, some nominal Catholics and Protestants have been in fierce conflict – one recent example of this was in Northern Ireland, although the conflict was condemned by some Catholic and Protestant leaders. Within Islam, there has been conflict at various periods between Sunnis and Shias; Shi'ites consider Sunnis to be Muslim but "non-Believers". Many Sunni religious leaders, including those inspired by Wahhabism and other ideologies have declared Shias (and sometimes mainstream Sunnis) to be heretics and/or apostates. Iraqmarker and Pakistanmarker are two notable contemporary examples.

Europe

See also: the Troubles, Demographics and politics of Northern Ireland


Since the 17th century, there has been sectarian conflict of varying intensity in Irelandmarker. This religious sectarianism is bound up with nationalism. This has been particularly intense in Northern Ireland since the 17th century. Due to Irish emigration these tensions can be found in other regions of the world, including Scotlandmarker (with some fans of football clubs such as Rangers and Celtic and Hearts F.C. and Hibernian F.C. indulging in sectarian chants) (see: Sectarianism in Glasgow), Newfoundland, Canadamarker's Maritime provinces, New York Statemarker, Ontariomarker, Liverpoolmarker, Birminghammarker and elsewhere. See also Know-Nothings for anti-Catholic sentiment in the United Statesmarker.

In Catholic countries, Protestants have historically been persecuted as heretics. For example, the substantial Protestant population of Francemarker (the Huguenots) was expelled from the kingdom in the 1680s following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In Spainmarker, the Inquisition sought to root out not only Protestantism but also crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims (moriscos); elsewhere the Papal Inquisition held similar goals.

In most places where Protestantism is the majority or 'official' religion, there have been examples of Catholics being persecuted. In countries where the Reformation was successful, this often lay in the perception that Catholics retained allegiance to a 'foreign' power (the Papacy), causing them to be regarded with suspicion. Sometimes this mistrust manifested itself in Catholics being subjected to restrictions and discrimination, which itself led to further conflict. For example, before Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Catholics were forbidden from voting, becoming MP's or buying land in Ireland.

Today, bigotry and discrimination in employment are usually relegated a few places where extreme forms of religion are the norm, or in areas with a long history of sectarian violence and tension, such as Northern Ireland (especially in terms of employment; however, this is dying out in this jurisdiction, thanks to strictly-enforced legislation. Reverse discrimination now takes place in terms of employment quotas which are now applied). In places where more 'moderate' forms of Protestantism (such as Anglicanism / Episcopalianism) prevail, the two traditions do not become polarized against each other, and usually co-exist peacefully. Especially in England, sectarianism is nowadays almost unheard of. However in Western Scotland (where Calvinism and Presbyterianism are the norm) sectarian divisions can still sometimes arise between Catholics and Protestants. Indeed, in the early years following the Scottish Reformation there was actually internal sectarian tension between Church of Scotlandmarker Presbyterians and 'High Church' Anglicans, whom they regarded as having retained too many attitudes and practices from the Catholic era. Northern Ireland has introduced a Private Day of Reflection, since 2007, to mark the transition to a post-[sectarian] conflict society, an initiative of the cross-community Healing through Remembering organisation and research project.

The civil wars in the Balkans which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia have been heavily tinged with sectarianism. Croats and Slovenes have traditionally been Catholic, Serbs and Macedonians Eastern Orthodox, and Bosniaks and most Albanians Muslim. Religious affiliation served as a marker of group identity in this conflict, despite relatively low rates of religious practice and belief among these various groups after decades of communism.

Australia

Sectarianism in Australia is a historical legacy from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Pakistan

In Pakistanmarker, there has been a history of sectarian violence and unrest since the 1970s, although much of the violence may be attributed to non-theological clashes over tribal lands, rivalries, and class-disputes. Almost all relations between Shias and Sunnis are peaceful, and there exists a large degree of intermarriage between the two communities. Further, many prominent Shias play an important political role in the country - the late Benazir Bhutto is believed to have been Shia, for example. However, sporadic violence between the two communities is often initiated by extremists on both sides, particularly in South Punjab.

Middle East and Asia

Iraq

Iraq's Shia population was persecuted during the presidency of Saddam Hussein, and certain elements of the Iraqi insurgency have made a point of targeting Shias in sectarian attacks. In turn, the Sunnis have complained of discrimination and human rights abuses by Iraq's Shia majority government, which is bolstered by the fact that Sunni detainees were allegedly discovered to have been tortured in a compound used by government forces on November 15 2005. This sectarianism has fueled a giant level of emigration and internal displacement.

Some people advocate an independent nation for the Shias of Iraq. The idea that Iraq could be split into Kurdistanmarker in the north, Iraq in the center and Basramarker in the south. The thinking is that if each community is busy nation-building, they would not be attacking each other as they would be within a single country where the communities may be striving for political dominance at expense of other communities instead of working together. British India was split into Hindu-dominant India and Muslim-dominant Pakistan. After a two year trial, Malaysiamarker was split into Malay-dominant Malaysia and Chinese-dominant Singaporemarker.

Lebanon

Lebanon's religious divisions are extremely complicated, and the country is made up by a multitude of religious groupings. Sectarianism in Lebanonmarker was caused because of the political sharing of power. The 1943 National Pact gave the Maronite Christians, the then majority, more power than the other groups. Although the Taif agreement ended the civil war, power is still divided along sects.

Sectarianism within Judaism

Sectarianism also exists between Orthodox and Reform Jews, with orthodox Jews often characterizing reform Jews as being non-religious, disobeying the Torah, rarely attending shul and adopting semi-Christian styles of worship. Reform Jews, on the other hand, often view the orthodox as being intolerant of them and of other religions, placing legalistic rules such as the observance of the Sabbath above ethical obligations, being cult-like and hostile to change.

Political sectarianism

In the political realm, to describe a group as 'sectarian' (or as practicising 'sectarianism'), is to accuse them of prioritizing differences and rivalries with politically close groups. An example might be a communist group who are accused of devoting an excessive amount of time and energy to denouncing other communist groups rather than their common foes. However, separatist fundamentalist Protestant political parties have proliferated, and regularly denounce one another, in New Zealandmarker, as can be seen from the entries on United Future New Zealand and Future New Zealand. Libertarianism seems to be similarly susceptible to fissiparous tendencies of its own.

The Monty Python film The Life of Brian has a well-known joke in which various Judeanmarker groups, who to an outsider are indistinguishable, are more concerned with in-fighting than with their nominal aim of opposing Roman rule. This is taken to be a parody of modern political groups.

See also



References



Memorials fostering a fragile parity-of-esteem-for-difference




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