The origins of sectarianism in Egypt and the fertile crescent

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This paper differs from previous studies in arguing that sectarianism has overwhelmingly been created consensually by/or as a result of the elites’ behavioral patterns. Religious or communal pluralism does not categorically lead to political sectarianism; The development of pluralism into political sectarianism can thus be adduced as dependent upon other factors—first and foremost the behavioural patterns of the elite. While the imperial legacy, theological controversies, and socioeconomic gaps feed political sectarianism, in and of themselves they are insufficient to cause it. A survey of the history of Egypt and the other countries in the Fertile Crescent reveals that the development of political sectarianism or sectarian violence has been organically linked to elites' political behaviors and interests. sectarianism takes the form of the instrumental exploitation of a religious or communal identity or framework in order to enable political organization, the gaining of political legitimacy, the promotion of political change, or the preservation of the control held by interest groups. While in the eyes of many critics, sectarianism forms a striking example of the elites' intrinsic weakness, sectarianism is first and foremost a product of the elites’ quest for power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-49
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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