Ethno-religious

This article is about groups that share both an ethnic and a religious background. For religions that are closely tied to a particular ethnic group, see ethnic religion.

An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group of people whose members are also unified by a common religious background. Ethnoreligious communities define their ethnic identity neither exclusively by ancestral heritage nor simply by religious affiliation, but often through a combination of both (a long shared history; a cultural tradition of its own; either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors; a common language, not necessarily peculiar to the group; a common literature peculiar to the group; a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups; being a minority or being an oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community).

Examples of ethnic groups defined by ancestral religions are the Jews, the Druze of the Levant, the Copts of Egypt, the Yazidi of northern Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran and India, and the Serer of Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania.[1]

In an ethnoreligious group, particular emphasis is placed upon religious endogamy, and the concurrent discouragement of interfaith marriages or intercourse, as a means of preserving the stability and historical longevity of the community and culture. This adherence to religious endogamy can also, in some instances, be tied to ethnic nationalism if the ethnoreligious group possesses a historical base in a specific region.

Ethnoreligious group as a legal concept

Australia

In Australian law, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) defines "race" to include "ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin".[2] The reference to "ethno-religious" was added by the Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Act 1994 (NSW).[3] John Hannaford, the NSW Attorney-General at the time, explained that "The effect of the latter amendment is to clarify that ethno-religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, have access to the racial vilification and discrimination provisions of the Act. ...extensions of the Anti-Discrimination Act to ethno-religious groups will not extend to discrimination on the ground of religion."[4][5]

The definition of "race" in Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) likewise includes "ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin".[6] However, unlike the NSW Act, it also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of "religious belief or affiliation" or "religious activity".[7]

Development of Definition from United Kingdom Law

Main article: Mandla v Dowell-Lee

In the United Kingdom the landmark legal case Mandla v Dowell-Lee placed a legal definition on ethnic groups with religious ties, which in turn has paved the way for definition of ethnoreligious[8] group. Both Jews[9][10][11] and Sikhs[12][13][14] were determined to be ethnoreligious groups under the Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Act 1994 (see above).

The Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Act 1994 made reference to Mandla v Dowell-Lee which defined ethnic groups as:

  1. a long shared history, of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it keeps alive;
  2. a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance. In addition to those two essential characteristics the following characteristics are, in my opinion, relevant:
  3. either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors;
  4. a common language, not necessarily peculiar to the group;
  5. a common literature peculiar to the group;
  6. a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups or from the general community surrounding it;
  7. being a minority or being an oppressed or dominant group within a larger community. For example, a conquered people (say, the inhabitants of England shortly after the Norman conquest) and their conquerors might both be ethnic groups

The significance of this case was that groups like Sikhs and Jews could be protected under the Race Relations Act 1976.[15]

Examples of ethnoreligious groups

The term "ethnoreligious" has been applied by at least one author to each of the following groups:

See also

Notes

References

  • The dominant animal: human evolution and the environment by Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich
  • Fracturing resemblances: identity and mimetic conflict in Melanesia and the West by Simon Harrison
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