Title: Cognition in context : new approaches to new Islamist movements in the Middle East
Source document: Sacra. 2011, vol. 9, iss. 1, pp. 22-33
ISSN1214-5351 (print)2336-4483 (online)
License: Not specified license
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In the past two decades cognitive anthropology has offered a radically new framework for the study of social movements and complex ideologies. Besides creating a scientific foundation for the study of religion and culture, its empirical basis offers a less biased approach to controversial subjects such as new religious movements and religious violence that traditional anthropological approaches have struggled to maintain. This paper argues that new religious movements can be analysed using the tools of cognitive science, specifically new Islamist movements in the Middle East affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Such an approach yields an objective lens to analyse the claims that their ideologies make them violent. By presenting a brief analysis of movements inspired from the Sunni tradition in the 20th century this paper intends to show that the causal factors of religious violence are largely the product of the dynamic mental mechanisms interacting with a physical and social environment.