An excellent column in Washington Post on religious nationalism in the Middle East by Brian A. Catlos, who is a religious studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Following are some excerpts, but do read the Religious Nationalism finds a footing in the Middle East
'With many reports of this violence come adjectives such as “barbarous” and “medieval,” along with the intimation that this sort of intolerance is particularly characteristic of Islam and antithetical to the enlightened and rational secularism of the West.But brutal as this sectarian violence may be, the fact that there are so many religious minorities in the Middle East stands testament to the reality that, despite long-standing antagonisms, myriad ethnic groups and religious denominations have not only survived but even thrived in this region through some 1,500 years of Islamic domination. The richness of the culture, where many of the ancient sects and arcane languages — often surviving only in small, highly localized communities — predate Christianity, Islam and even modern Judaism, has no parallel in Europe. The Yazidi religion, for example, goes back to Mesopotamia; Aramaic, the language of Jesus, continues to be spoken in a clutch of villages near Damascus.....''This reflects an entirely different model of political compromise than that which has developed in the West, and it may seem regressive to us. But it is an arrangement that developed organically and has functioned for about 14 centuries.The breakdown of religious tolerance and plurality in today’s Middle East is not, then, a manifestation of some particularly Islamic barbarism or evidence of a return to the Middle Ages. Nor is it religious in motivation, although it may be in expression. It is a symptom of what we call modernization, and its political framework: nationalism....'