Does Religious Discrimination Promote Dissent? A Quantitative Analysis

Can religious grievances serve as a catalyst for political violence? This paper seeks to examine the impact of religious discrimination on the probability of ethnic dissent. It is argued that religious discrimination leads to the generation of grievances, which in turn encourages ethnoreligious minorities to engage in peaceful and violent opposition against the state. To test this argument, the authors collected data on religious discrimination of ethnoreligious minorities for the period 1990–2003. The empirical findings suggest that religious discrimination is a strong predictor of violent dissent, including rebellion and civil war. As the level of religious discrimination against ethnoreligious groups increases, the probability of rebellion and civil war heightens, controlling for several other state and group-level factors. The exact opposite is true for protest, however: higher levels of religious discrimination are associated with lower levels of non-violent protest activity. These findings suggest that the impact of religious discrimination on anti-state activity is not uniform, and that religious discrimination encourages only violent forms of dissent.