Does Existential Security Affect Tolerance in the Middle East?
Siegel, Tara Danica
Policymakers often characterize Middle Eastern conflict as religiously-motivated and identity-driven, assuming that religious intolerance is innate, ossified, and destined to fuel conflict well into the future. This paper questions such assumptions by examining the origins of religious tolerance across nine Arab states. Religious tolerance, literature argues, often stems from a person’s sense of security. With the exception of one paper, however, this link has not been investigated in the Middle Eastern context; previous studies stress religious and cultural variables. This paper, therefore, draws upon the latest wave of World Values Survey data to examine the relationship between an individual’s perception of security and his/her willingness to have a neighbor of a different religion—a useful proxy for religious tolerance. To do so, this paper employs a linear probability model, taking note of reported economic status, feelings of physical security, and demographic indicators such as region, education level, age, and gender. It finds that existential security does affect tolerance across nine Middle Eastern countries, though the relationship in Iraq, specifically, is quite textured. Ultimately, this paper recommends that policymakers consider individuals’ perceptions of security when constructing policy in the Middle East. Perhaps, with a more nuanced understanding of religious tolerance’s determinants, policymakers will be better equipped to respond to—or prevent—Middle Eastern conflict.
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