The term ethno-religious group (or ethno-religious group and other variants), which is not precisely defined , is used to denote groups for whose delimitation both ethnic and religious aspects are decisive. In the plural form, ethnic-religious groups , they can denote such groups in a context that is both ethnically and religiously fragmented, for example in terms such as “ethnic-religious groups in Iraq”. In a narrower sense, they designate groups (mostly minority groups) with ethnic attributes, but which are delimited according to the social (not necessarily spiritual) affiliation of their members to a certain religious community .
In sociology , this definition is made more precise: It is crucial that the individual - regardless of his or her personal beliefs - feels obliged , in particular, to symbols , objects and common actions of the traditional religious community , in order to express his ethnic affiliation. This behavior serves to preserve the ethnic identity and to distinguish it from other communities .
Formation and preservation of identity
Ethnic-religious communities define their ethnic identity through a common religion that is regularly mediated by ancestry, also usually through a common history, their own cultural tradition with a common language and literature, a common geographical origin and / or an ( invented ) descent from one or a variety of common prominent ancestors. Often, ethno-religious groups represent both religious minorities and ethnic minorities within a larger community, or they form in response to oppression by a dominant religious group or by a state religion . Ethnic-religious groups emerge again and again in the diaspora , in particular through migration and flight like the Huguenots , but they also often dissolve again.
Jonathan Fox, a researcher into religious conflicts, suggests as an operational delimitation criterion that 80% of the members of an ethnic minority group should follow a belief different from the religion prevailing in their state, so that they can be described as an ethno-religious minority group. Often, however, the individual self-classification is viewed as a criterion of belonging, since objective data on origin are difficult to determine (as in Canada).
Symbolic identity building strategies
It is characteristic of ethnic-religious groups that they operate the symbolic demarcation (through rituals, clothing, their own holidays, etc.) from the environment in order to preserve their identity with high energy. These activities go beyond the practice of religious cults (“symbolic ethnicity / religiosity”), but are of course rarely shown in situations of persecution. Herbert J. Gans differentiates more precisely between symbolic identity formation strategies of religious-ethnic (e.g. the Jews or Parsees, so-called sacralization of the ethnic group ) and ethnic-religious groups (e.g. the Russian Orthodox Christians in the USA, so-called . Ethnicization of religion ). The activities of preserving identity are occasionally accompanied by strategies of strict avoidance of contact, a high level of mistrust of the environment and fundamentalism .
In an ethno-religious group, special value is placed on religious marriage (internal marriage, so-called religious endogamy ) as a means of maintaining the stability and historical longevity of the community and culture. This adherence to religious endogamy can be linked to ethnic nationalism. In a study of Syrian Orthodox Christians, Donabed and Mako point out that elites can also “dream” of an identity as an ethnic-religious group and try to implement this social construction with political means. In situations of persecution, it also happened again and again that ethnic-religious groups mix with other groups for reasons of protection. This is especially true for women. Some ethnic-religious groups evidently emerged from the merger of very heterogeneous ethnic groups. B. for the Druze , which show a relationship with Middle Eastern, Turkish and Indo-European population groups, which indicates a common region of origin in south-eastern Turkey rather than ethnic homogeneity.
While Tanja Wettach-Zeitz emphasizes the dogmatism of nationalist-clerical elites as a condition for the stability of many such groups, Dorothea Lüddeckens and Rafael Walthert see the particular stability and conservatism of many ethnic-religious groups as being based on the fact that belonging to them is independent of individual decisions and that there is a lack of collective actors who could change the community through decisions. Coupled with ethnicity, the religious community can maintain its traditional practice regardless of such decisions.
Ethnicization of religion
The French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd pointed out in 2017 that the endogamous space in many ancient cultures was primarily determined by religious affiliation (so-called religious endogamy ). Extreme endogamy could lead to the ethnicization of the religion.
In American society, religion is still regarded as an identity marker of culture or ethnicity. One speaks of an ethnicization of religion when communities of migrants increasingly appropriate and cultivate religious traditions in order to reproduce their ethnic identity, especially in the transition from the first to the second and the following generations. One can also speak of an ethnicization of religion when ethnic communities of migrants in the destination country adopt a new religion in order to distinguish themselves from the environment and assimilation e.g. B. to avoid a liberal value system . This applies, for example, to extremely conservative evangelical groups of Korean immigrants in the USA or to free-church Russian Germans in Germany, who, however, do not adopt a new religion, but want to preserve their mostly Mennonite roots by forming their own communities. In Paraguay , Mennonites of various origins have merged into a German-speaking (“Plautdietsch”) ethnic-religious group, which is also an ethnic group from the point of view of the majority population.
Ethnicization of religious affiliation can also serve to avoid religious discrimination if the country in question does not legally prohibit discrimination on religious grounds, as is sometimes the case in Anglo-Saxon law. It can also serve to defuse religious conflicts, which then of course have the tendency to develop into nationality conflicts. The attempts by the Yugoslav state , which have been increasing since the 1970s, to grant Bosnian Muslims (the Bosniaks ) an independent ethnic status and thus promote a secular Bosniak identity, were in the long term unsuitable for eliminating the latent religious conflict and curbing pan-Islamism .
The political scientist Olivier Roy uses the term neo-ethnicity for the striving of (mostly young) members of a religion (such as Muslims or Mormons) for a "renewed, common basis". The content of the religion is interpreted in its own way in order to constitute a new ethnic identity. The ideology of the radical-archaic interpretation of Islam in the so-called Islamic State is also in this context .
Sacralization of the ethnic group
One speaks of a sacralization of an ethnic group when a religious experience is exclusively claimed by a biological or socially constructed community of descent, which claims a special status for itself and for its belief system compared to other groups and tries to exclude them from their territory or from society ( so-called "tribal exclusivism"). Such a sacralization of the ethnic group is often caused by existence-threatening situations and experiences of oppression and leads to the radicalization of theology and its mixing with secular political goals. Ethnic or religiously motivated cleansing can result. Jonathan Fox assumes that the majority of today's ethnic conflicts are also religious conflicts or take on religious forms, even if the primary causes of the conflict are of a secular nature.
Examples of ethno-religious groups
Classic examples of ethno-religious communities:
- Jews : they define themselves as a people and as followers of the Jewish religion ; Jews in Israel have a local majority group the process of forming a nation completed
- Samaritans : about 700 in the West Bank and near Tel Aviv (emerged from the Israelites like the Jews )
- Karaites (Karaites) : in Israel, Poland and in the Crimea
- Yazidis : in Iraq, Syria and Turkey as well as in the Caucasus in Georgia and in Armenia (recognized there as an independent ethnic group since 2002)
- Druze : in the Middle East (Levant states)
- Shabak : in northern Iraq, members of the Shabak ethnic group as well as members of Shabakism
- Mandaeans : in southern Iraq and in the Iranian province of Khuzestan
- Copts : in Egypt
- Parsing : in Pakistan and India, followers of Zoroastrianism (in Iran, followers of Zoroastrianism call themselves "Zoroastrians")
- Sikhs : their ethnicity is based on the culture of the Punjab , so they differentiate between the Punjabi Sikhs (in India and the Diaspora ) and the Gora Sikhs ( Hindi gora "fair-skinned, Europeans"), who have converted to Sikhism
- Hui Chinese , one of the 56 nationalities of China
- Amish : in the United States
- Hutterite : in the United States and Canada
- Old order Mennonites : in North America
- Old Colonial Mennonites : on the American double continent
Ethnic-religious identity formation of nations and national minorities after 1918
The historian Emanuel Turczynski (1919–2002) assumed that the nationalism of the 19th and 20th centuries could not replace religious ties. On the contrary, he speaks of the identity-creating and integration function of religion in the attempt to form the most homogeneous nation-states possible after 1918. He coined and used the term “denominational nations” for the increasing mixing of ethnic and religious aspects in the development of the successor nations of the old Austria-Hungary also for the autonomy efforts of their ethnic minorities like the Ruthenians and Transylvanian Saxons .
The latest in 17./18. Century Islamized South Slavic Gorans in today's Kosovo and the Torbeschen in North Macedonia received their ascribed status as ethnic-religious minority groups only in the context of their integration into changing state structures with Muslim or Orthodox majority of the population. In the Ottoman Empire they were one group among many on a linguistic continuum. In Yugoslavia they were regarded as non-Slavs, but they saw themselves as “Muslims” in the ethnic sense, like many Bosniaks. The Albanians now consider them to be Slavic speaking Albanians, while in North Macedonia they are considered Muslim Macedonians. In the absence of their own written culture and historical tradition, their self-definition as an ethnic-religious group is poorly developed; Their complex multiple identity is preserved on the one hand through tradition and the demarcation of Serbs, Albanians and Macedonians, on the other hand politics and intellectual elites try to construct them as ethnically unambiguous, which leads to the search for evidence of lineages up to the Illyrians .
“Ethnoreligious group” as a legal term
Protection against discrimination on the basis of religion was not developed in England on a legal basis, but only partly through case law. Until 2000, there was only selective protection against discrimination with regard to gender, race and disability. The British Anti-Discrimination Act was amended in 1994 after a lawsuit in 1983 over whether a Sikh student was allowed to wear a Dastar . The law created the conditions for the extension of the feature "race" (race) through the inclusion of ethnic groups with close ties to a religion and therefore offered a discrimination protection at least for Jews and Sikhs. Ethno-religious groups are defined by the following features:
- a long shared history that distinguishes the group from others, and of which the group is aware and the memory of which it receives;
- a special cultural tradition that is often, but not necessarily, associated with observance of religious customs.
A common regional origin, a common literature, a religion that distinguishes them from the groups in the vicinity and a minority status or the characteristic of oppression by the environment are also relevant. Even if the common ethnic origin of such a group can rarely be proven, a low number of people leaving and converting to the respective religion and the lack of proselytizing are indicators of a high degree of ethnic unity.
The legislation in New South Wales (New South Wales) also includes ethno-religious groups in the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of the characteristic “race” in a 1994 amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977. Discrimination on purely religious grounds, however, is not explicitly taken into account in the law, which in turn is the case in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act of 1998.
In the US census , people are not allowed to assign themselves to six predefined categories according to their religion, but only according to the criterion “race” (in addition to which Hawaiians are also informally accepted). Here, the Sikhs, who primarily define themselves religiously, are fighting for the introduction of a new “racial” category, “Sikh”, which would enable them to gain greater visibility and recognition in the ethnic and religious mix of the USA. This makes recognition as a “race” a makeshift instrument for an identity politics originally motivated by religion.
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