Conference ‘The Root Causes of Terrorism: A Religious Studies Perspective’, Leiden 18-19 May 2011

Conference ‘The Root Causes of Terrorism: A Religious Studies Perspective’, Leiden 18-19 May 2011


Nine years after the event of the September 11th and the global war on terror, bombs are still blasted and innocent people are being killed under the banner of terrorism. Most of these sinisterly threatening events are motivated by religious claims, or are taken place in religiously affected places. Is religion the main cause of terrorism, or does terrorism still arise because of leaders who brainwash and coach future terrorists so that they kill under the banner of religion? Religious imagination seems to hold here an influential power in the creation of ‘delusion’ to orient the ‘bigot’ believers toward the fulfilling of their religious duty against those who are religious in a different way or not religious at all. Religion, in this sense, is tightly allied with political aspirations as it can be seen in most of the current instances

In spite of sacred pretexts justifying acts of killing, more ‘enlightened’ religious leaders and religious minded people believe and argue that religion is a source of peace and mercy. For them, the sacred texts must be read from a ‘humanist’ perspective because the whole religion is ultimately, so they claim, about human beings who are all equal and created by the same God. This is the attitude of many religious people today, i.e. that God is merciful and compassionate, and the religious tradition thus praised would never allow religious hatred, intolerance, and resentment. Nor do scriptures provide any rationale, so they say, for one-sided and serf-serving interpretations or interpretations that promote aggression against others. If religion falls short, they continue, of mercy, compassion, and peace, it falls into ideological dogma and stoned-headedness. Therefore, those interpretations that justify aggression and acts of killing are the shallow and purposeful readings of the religious texts aiming at political intentions, so more benevolent advocates of religions might plead.

Whatever reading of religious traditions one might advocate, it cannot be denied that in practice, religion and ‘violence’ often are closely associated. The central question of this conference is what a religious studies perspective (rather than that of a religious advocate or representative) can contribute to the deep links between religion and terrorism.


Dr. Rico Sneller
Assistant professor of Ethics and History of Philosophy
Institute for Religious Studies
Leiden University
Phone:               +31 71 527 2583

Dr. Lucien van Liere
Assistant Professor Religion and Conflict
Dep. Religiewetenschap en Theologie
Utrecht University
Phone:               +31 30 253 1974

Dr. Jalil Roshandel
Associate professor
Director, Security Studies
East Carolina University
Brewster A – 116
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
Phone: 001 1 252 328 1062

Dr. Mahmoud Masaeli
Professor of Ethics and International Relations
Faculty of Philosophy, Saint Paul University, Ottawa
President, Global Solutions Praxis
2028 Belcourt Blvd.
Ottawa, ON K1C 1M6
Phone: 001 613 818 4726 001 613 818 4726

For further information, see here:

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