Contemporary religious conflicts and the law of armed conflict: an analysis of the challenges posed by ISIS and other “Unconventional Armed Groups”

Morris, Christopher (2019) Contemporary religious conflicts and the law of armed conflict: an analysis of the challenges posed by ISIS and other “Unconventional Armed Groups”. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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This thesis introduces and develops the idea of “contemporary religious conflict”. It proposes that international humanitarian law (IHL) should incorporate an understanding of religious approaches to the use of force in order to better address the shortfall of humanitarian protections that have become typical of conflicts involving “unconventional armed groups”. Due to this shortfall having a relationship with what may be termed the “war on terror”, the intention is to focus explicitly upon the capacity for religious ideology to influence how force is used, and how IHL should address this challenge.

Contemporary religious conflict is not introduced as a new category of armed conflict intended to supplement those already existing in IHL, but as a means of better balancing the use of force with humanitarian concerns by acknowledging the deterministic influence the adoption of religious features may have upon how an armed group uses force. A distinct framework for understanding conflicts with a religious component provides a more nuanced method for balancing state interests with humanitarian principles. This thesis accordingly sets out to determine how religious conflicts function differently from non-religious conflicts, and to what extent these differences challenge the assumptions concerning the use of force inherent in IHL. In order to determine how IHL may adapt to these stresses, this thesis will draw upon both historic and present-day approaches to religious conflict, as well as contemporary state practice in conflicts involving religious interest groups, with an overt focus upon key current examples such as ISIS.1 Whilst IHL has conventionally been disinterested in the rationale behind armed conflicts, acknowledging that the adoption of religious ideology can have a causal relationship with how force is used permits shareholders in IHL to more effectively determine their role in limiting the adverse implications of armed conflict, and ensuring humanitarian principles are applied in an appropriate manner.

This study depends upon contemporary examples of religious conflict, necessitating a focus upon examples derived from the Islamic tradition, largely within the context of what is frequently termed the “war on terror”. Whilst this study explicitly focuses upon central examples such as ISIS, the intent is to propose a general basis for a differentiated understanding of religious conflict applicable in a wider range of instances.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: International law, non-state armed groups, Islamic state, transnational, ideology
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
M100 Law by area
M200 Law by Topic
M900 Other in Law
V600 Theology and Religious studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 11 May 2020 10:03
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 18:05

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