Ethnic Divisiveness: Fomenting Hostility

(This is a current extract from the Patterns of Power Repository.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/4452.htm)

It has already been pointed out that leaders can exert a very powerful influence on the behaviour of group members (4.3.1), and they can use this influence in several ways to undermine peaceful pluralism:

·      Leaders can demonise other groups to strengthen their own group’s sense of identity, exploiting the underlying potential for hostility:

“…solidarity within the group is often correlated strongly and perhaps in part caused by hatred, prejudice and rejection towards those outside the group.” [1]

·      They can also attempt to enlarge their following by proselytising, an active recruitment campaign, which is seen as a threat by other groups and provides further fuel for conflict.

·      People can be persuaded that to convert others, even by using violence against them, is a duty and will save the others’ souls – although this requires a distortion of religious teaching. 

·      Osama bin Laden was able to persuade some Muslims that his jihad was a “Just War” as defined in the Quran, although his arguments have been denounced by other radical Muslims.[2] 

All these techniques exacerbate the risk of ethnic conflict.  An aggressive campaign against people from other ethnic groups is the hallmark of an irresponsible leader who seeks personal and political power ( 

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] The report Identity, Politics and Public Policy, published by IPPR in April 2010, describes hostility to other groups (p. 10).  It was available in May 2014 at http://www.ippr.org/publications/identity-politics-and-public-policy.

[2] Alia Brahimi, in the introduction to her book Jihad and Just War in the War on Terror, lists several Muslim leaders who condemned Osama bin Laden’s attempt to use the Quran to justify his jihad.  The introduction was available in May 2014 at http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199562961.do.