GEOMETR.IT Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute
* Why (Clash of) Civilizations Discourses Just Won’t Go Away? Understanding the Civilizational Politics of Our Times
Religion and international relations: what are the issues?
Mounting concern over the threat posed by pirates and Islamic insurgents in Somalia has led Britain and other EU nations to consider the feasibility of air strikes against their logistical hubs and training camps.
(Hopkins and Norton-Taylor, 2012)
US and Nato forces rushed yesterday to apologise for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of Afghans gathered to protest outside Bagram military airbase.
Tibetans in north-west China have marked a tense traditional new year with prayer, the sounding of a gong and subdued defiance, in the wake of a string of self-immolations and protests against Chinese control … At least 16 Tibetans are believed to have died after setting themselves on fire in protest since March, most of them Buddhist monks in Tibetan parts of Sichuan and Gansu provinces.
Britain and other EU nations target militarily ‘Islamic insurgents’ in Somalia. American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops burn the Muslim holy book – the Qur’an – in Afghanistan, setting off a fire storm of anger in the country. Growing numbers of Buddhist monks – over 30 at the time of writing (May 2012) – kill themselves through self-immolation in Tibet. All these stories were in
just one British newspaper, The Guardian, over just two days, 22 and 23 February 2012. What do they have in common?
Religion was excluded from political power in Europe as a key mechanism for trying to keep international relations peaceful, harmonious and cooperative. Over the course of three and a half centuries – roughly from the time of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) until the end of the Cold War (1988) – international relations developed as a highly secular environment, with no public place for religion. Now, however, there is de facto consensus among IR scholars that religion has ‘returned’, both within countries and in international relations. Consequential to religion’s ‘return’, international relations scholars now interrogate the previously anodyne and uncontroversial concept of ‘secularism’, defined here as state promotion of secular policies at home and abroad.
All states have foreign policies that officially focus on securing a set of ‘national interest’ goals. A state’s foreign policy should be flexible enough to follow the changing contours and dynamics of international politics while simultaneously seeking to preserve and promote what the government of the day decrees are the country’s national interests.
Most IR scholars would agree that a country’s domestic environment has a role in shaping its foreign policy. For Frankel (1963), foreign policy is to a large extent a reflection of a country’s domestic milieu, its needs, priorities, strengths and weaknesses.
The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute