Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 September 2022) | Viewed by 16389

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Political Science and International Relations, London Metropolitan University, London N7 8DB, UK
Interests: religious nationalism
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Political Science and International Relations, London Metropolitan University, London N7 8DB, UK
Interests: religion; global politics; democratization

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Scholars wonder how religion affects international relations (Fox and Sandler 2004; Mavelli and Petito 2014). Some are influenced by international relations theories, such as the liberal, neo-liberal, and English School schools of thought. The international relations scholar Joseph Nye introduced the concept of soft power more than 30 years ago, in the context of secular power relations. More recently, scholars have sought to examine a related concept: religious soft power. The soft power of religion is thought to influence the foreign policies of many states, as well as the activities of numerous non-state actors, including the Holy See, al Qaeda, ISIS, and Hindutva movements. Scholars have discovered that religious soft power can be wielded with much variation, exemplifying what Scott Appleby (2000) identifies as the 'ambivalence' of religion. Given the preparatory work that has been undertaken on the concept of religious soft power, now is the time to take our knowledge further.

Mandaville and Hamid (2018) emphasise several components of religious soft power in relation to states' foreign policies. First, their institutional and normative capacity as well as civilizational affinity; second, the socio-political characteristics of states and the concerns of political leaders seeking to exercise religious soft power; third, the ambivalent nature of religious soft power. In addition, Bettiza (2020) contends that some states, such as the USA, have particularly important religious soft power resources, encouraging scholars to craft new definitions, including symbolic, cultural, and network-based religious elements, enabling a broadening and focusing of religious soft power.

The Special Issue is interested in religious soft power as exercised by both state and non-state actors in international relations, and identifies three important questions: what is religious soft power, and why is it important in international relations? How can we identify religious soft power when it is exercised? What are the limits of religious soft power in contemporary international relations? The objective of this Special Issue is to discover more about these issues and increase our understanding of religious soft power in international relations.

Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Haynes
Dr. Ahmet Erdi Öztürk
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religious soft power
  • global politics
  • international relations

Published Papers (5 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Editorial

Jump to: Research

5 pages, 175 KiB  
Editorial
Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage
by Ahmet Erdi Ozturk
Religions 2023, 14(2), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020135 - 18 Jan 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2087
Abstract
The following questions can be asked about the role of religion in global politics and discussions of its power position: (1) If religion is used as a soft power resource, how can we define it [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

12 pages, 274 KiB  
Article
Religious and Economic Soft Power in Ghana-Turkey Relations
by Jeffrey Haynes
Religions 2022, 13(11), 1030; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111030 - 28 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2000
Abstract
Turkey’s government seeks to apply both “religious soft power” and “economic soft power” to increase its influence in Ghana. Turkey’s religious soft power relationship with Ghana is exemplified by Turkey’s paying for construction of a new national mosque in the African country, at [...] Read more.
Turkey’s government seeks to apply both “religious soft power” and “economic soft power” to increase its influence in Ghana. Turkey’s religious soft power relationship with Ghana is exemplified by Turkey’s paying for construction of a new national mosque in the African country, at a cost of USD 10 million. Turkey’s economic soft power relationship with Ghana is exemplified by both considerable recent investments and in fast-growing bilateral trade. The overall aim of the government of Turkey is to increase the country’s influence in Ghana, part of a wider initiative to expand its regional influence in Africa. Ghana is important to Turkey as it is regarded as a strategically important African country, one of the region’s few democracies and an economic success. The paper assesses Turkey’s various forms of influence in Ghana and considers what Turkey hopes to achieve in foreign policy terms. The paper is in four sections. The first examines religious soft power and Turkey–Ghana relations, noting that recently they have become closer and more cordial, involving both religious and non-religious aspects. The second section examines Muslims’ traditionally marginal political position in Ghana and explains that over time Muslims have become more politically assertive, open to external religious influences, including from Turkey, a country well known to use religious soft power to try to expand its foreign policy influence. The third section assesses recent Ghana-Turkey relations, including the expansion of Turkey’s economic soft power, with three examples: the national mosque, encouraging Islamic education, and mutual desire to quell the activities of what the government of Turkey refers to as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation”. The section also considers the role of Turkey’s economic soft power in increasing the country’s presence in Ghana. The concluding section argues that the government of Turkey uses several techniques to increase its influence in Ghana, including both religious soft power and economic soft power. The government of Ghana broadly welcomes Turkey’s influence from both religious and economic perspectives: from a religious point of view, Turkey’s Sunni orthodoxy is seen as very unlikely to stimulate radicalization among Ghana’s Muslims, while Turkey’s economic presence is welcomed as an important means to help further build Ghana’s economy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)
16 pages, 296 KiB  
Article
Conceptions of Power and Role of Religion in Community Organising
by Luca Ozzano and Sara Fenoglio
Religions 2022, 13(9), 837; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090837 - 08 Sep 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1492
Abstract
Community organising, an approach aiming at building local leadership and empowering local communities, has become increasingly popular in the last few decades because of the crisis of more traditional practises of civil society building and political action. In this paper, the authors first [...] Read more.
Community organising, an approach aiming at building local leadership and empowering local communities, has become increasingly popular in the last few decades because of the crisis of more traditional practises of civil society building and political action. In this paper, the authors first describe the main tenets of this approach, formalised between the 1930s and the 1940s in Chicago by Saul Alinsky, and its history and evolution to the present day. The following paragraphs describe the role played by religious values and religious communities, often representing key institutions in rundown social and urban contexts, in this approach. In the last paragraph, the authors finally discuss the conception of power implied in the version of community organising proposed by the Industrial Areas Foundation (an organisation created by Alinsky) and its affiliates, and the role of religion in it. With this work, the authors argue that the relational and bottom-up idea of power proposed by the IAF and its affiliates, although often focused on the development of a local power base able to place political pressure on the authorities from below and even economic boycott campaigns, has increasingly also relied on soft power after Alinsky’s death, especially because of the development of the ‘relational’ side of community organising, a process where the involvement of religious congregations (with the weight of their moral authority) has played a major role. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)
23 pages, 955 KiB  
Article
The United Arab Emirates’ Religious Soft Power through Ulema and Organizations
by Hamdullah Baycar and Mehmet Rakipoglu
Religions 2022, 13(7), 646; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070646 - 13 Jul 2022
Viewed by 5730
Abstract
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) proposes “peaceful” religious discourse by supporting religious scholars such as Hamza Yusuf and Abdallah bin Bayyah and institutions such as the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and the Emirates Fatwa Council. The UAE has attempted to [...] Read more.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) proposes “peaceful” religious discourse by supporting religious scholars such as Hamza Yusuf and Abdallah bin Bayyah and institutions such as the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and the Emirates Fatwa Council. The UAE has attempted to present itself as promoting a moderate form of Islam to counter political Islam. This study is based on data from religious verdicts (fatwās), speeches, and conference records of these scholars and institutions. The main point of the research is to show to what extent providing additional support to recently established religious institutions and emerging scholars is used as soft power to promote the UAE’s version of Islam and present the UAE as a moderate and tolerant country. Applying critical discourse analysis, the study aims to uncover the existing connection between emerging religiopolitical discourse and UAE-based legal verdicts of scholars (ulamā) and the organizations that they initiated. This study further argues that “moderate Islam” and “tolerance”, used as religious soft power, are other tools that the UAE has applied in line with expectations for influence and power-seeking based on small state theory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)
Show Figures

Figure 1

15 pages, 723 KiB  
Article
With Friends Like These: Does American Soft Power Advance International Religious Freedom?
by Ariel Zellman and Jonathan Fox
Religions 2022, 13(6), 502; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060502 - 31 May 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2924
Abstract
The International Religious Freedom Act, passed by Congress in 1998, set international religious freedom promotion (IRF) as a core objective of American foreign policy. Although formally empowering the president to enact punitive sanctions in instances of extreme religious repression, IRF is primarily a [...] Read more.
The International Religious Freedom Act, passed by Congress in 1998, set international religious freedom promotion (IRF) as a core objective of American foreign policy. Although formally empowering the president to enact punitive sanctions in instances of extreme religious repression, IRF is primarily a soft power instrument, with the expressed intent to persuade rather than coerce states into greater respect for religious freedom. Nearly a quarter century since its enactment, however, religious discrimination has markedly increased worldwide. This paper therefore seeks to quantitatively evaluate the extent to which American soft power, measured via levels of popular approval for the United States in countries surveyed by various polling agencies from 2002 to 2014, has correlated with shifts in governmental religious discrimination (GRD) since 1998. We find that not only do higher levels of approval of the United States correlate with greater increases in GRD, but this effect is particularly robust in more democratic states, in which American soft power should presumably have a greater influence. These findings should be deeply troubling for IRF advocates, empirically validating prevalent concerns regarding the efficacy, priority, and viability of IRF as a foreign policy instrument. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop