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The first issue of International Journal of Religion is a special issue. It seeks to compare and contrast differing religious perspectives on the topic of politics and religious dissent. Its focus is on: key tenets of belief of a particular religious faith; examples of dissent from core beliefs; the elasticity of religious traditions; consequences of dissent; diversity within religious faiths; how religions manage or fail to manage dissent; ethical treatment of dissent in religious traditions; and whether religious faiths prescribe clear ways to manage dissent.
Three questions frame the topic in the special issue:
- How do religious leaders respond to dissent within their faiths?
- How does the state respond to religious dissent?
- How do religions react to dissent from feminist and gay activists?
Examples may be drawn from the following: Judaism focuses more on belonging than believing and may consequently be relatively open to pluralism and tolerant of diversity. Christianity has a long history of violence in the context of dissent, suggesting a relatively high degree of intolerance. Nevertheless, Christianity developed into a relatively diverse religion, the default faith of Western modernity, linked to individuals' right to be free, including their choice of faith. Islam is more heterogeneous, divided and intolerant of dissent, a situation aggravated by the consequences of colonialism. Hinduism developed via diverse traditions which existed long before 'construction' of Hinduism during colonialism, with the result that Hinduism is often thought of as both a tolerant and accommodative religious tradition. Sikhism is strongly linked to maintenance of identity, focused on both rigid boundaries and exclusiveness, a process linked to politics and power. Confucianism is a contested term used to describe a wide variety of rituals and convictions, sometimes adopted by those in power to justify national unity and stability via a 'Confucian' culture, sometimes employed by the powerful to stifle dissent. Buddhism is often said to both tolerant and able to adapt to an environment where it is practised, yet the faith also may exhibit intolerance in relation to expressions of dissent.