Causes of War in the Next Decade
Oleh R. Idris Musa
“War is almost universally regarded as a human disaster, a source of misery on a catastrophic scale, and, in the nuclear age, a threat to the entire human race” (Garnett, 2002, p.68). Looking back at the last century, there were two world wars that killed more than 69 million people and another 24 conflicts as well as violence around the globe which in total had killed between 167 million and 188 million people (Ferguson & Niall, 2006). The twenty first century has just begun; yet, there are many conflicts and violence emerges. Militants and terrorist groups have continuously threatening the peaceful life of people around the world. In addition, powerful states have commenced war against those whom they think would stand against their way in making a “better future”. Perhaps in one decade, there would be another conflict larger than it seen today. And if so, what are likely to be the causes of war in the next ten years?
To answer the question is to avoid the future war by knowing the roots first. Indeed, no one can predict the future and it is difficult to determine what the causes of war in that timeline are. Furthermore, there are various causes of war and every cause has their own explanation, such as ideologies, imperialism, arms-racing, lack of democracy and even environmental issue. Nonetheless, by looking at the conflicts as well as the background of the political progresses between states and non-state groups in the presents, particularly in Middle East, the main causes of war in the next decade are likely to be because of nationalism and religion. However, it has to be bear in mind that religion plays an exacerbating factor in the conflict which is primarily caused by nationalism. In other words, religion turns the conflict worse (Fox, 2004, p.728). Moreover, the reason to focus on the conflict in Middle East is because there are more than enough conflicts occurring in this area in recent years compare with other area. The conflict stirring between China and Taiwan or even the Korean Peninsula issue are examples of other conflicts driven by nationalism issue; however, these conflicts seems to be less affecting the international community in the future rather than the conflicts in Middle East.
Firstly, nationalism, it has always been in the history of human life, primarily since 150 years before when the influences of nationalist brought down five empires to pieces. First, the Spanish and Portuguese empires fell apart because of the Latin American nationalist movement; followed by the fall down of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Tsarist, and Ottoman empires at the end of World War I which led to the disintegration of the Eastern European, Balkan, and Middle Eastern. Third, after World War II, when the Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations striving for independence to fill the state frameworks which was left behind by Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Fourth, the ethnic minorities nationalist movements in Western European and several parts in OECD countries around 30 years before, such as the Basque country, Catalonia, Brittany, Wales, Scotland, Quebec, and Corsica. The last one is the nationalist movements since the down fall of the Soviet empire, such as in the Central Asia, the Baltic States, Eastern and Central Europe and in several parts of Russia (Lustick, 1999, p.332). Certainly from the fact of those five empires disintegration, nationalism is the vital cause of almost every conflict. In addition, nationalism is not a simple issue, especially when observing the relation between nation and state.
One explanation of nationalism is from the book Nationalism by Elie Kedouri as quoted by O’Sullivan (2004, p.34):
Nationalism is a doctrine invented in Europe in the beginning of 19th century. It pretends to supply a criterion for the determination of the unit of population proper to enjoy a government exclusively its own for the legitimate exercise of power in the state and for the right organization of a society of states. Briefly, the doctrine holds that humanity is naturally divided into nations; that nations are known by certain characteristic which can be ascertained; and that only legitimate type of government is national self-government.
Furthermore, according to White (2000, pp.1-3), nations are social groups that build a state, a form of their political and territorial independence, in which to defend their rights and to develop their national identities. However, to build a state is not a simple task because there are 5000 nations known and yet, there are already political complexities with just 200 states existing in the world. Therefore, to make a balance between the states and the natural sources as well as the territories acknowledgment, a number of states have refused to recognize the independence of several nations, leading to a conflict between states and those nations whose strive for their independence. This problem has always occurred in every period of time in the 20th century; certainly, it is not impossible if nationalism would also be the root of conflict in the next ten years, mainly between states and nations in that states. However, because nationality is the “universality of ethnicity” (Hasting, 1997, p.174) which is form by a community which has common values, acquaintances, traditions, language and land, some states whom have similarities and interests with those nations, offers their support. It leads to a conflict among states; for instance: the Israel movement for independence, in making of a Jewish State which led to a possible conflict between the United States and Iran.
The conflict without ends between Israel and Palestine today is one of the main conflicts in Middle East which is driven by nationalism issue, where the Jews strived for many years in making of the Jewish State, Israel. It was basically started when a Jewish Austrian Journalist, Theodor Herzl, printed a note in 1896 called Der Judenstaat or The Jewish State. Soon after the first Zionist Congress in 1897 at Basle, it became a Jews movement to create a Jewish state in Jerusalem/Palestine, and this movement became known as Zionism. In essence, Zionist Jews or Zionism means the mission of Jewish people to return to their homeland, Zion, name of a hill in Jerusalem (Cattan H., 1981, pp.12-13). However, their maneuver to accomplish their mission in building an independent state met an unexpected contact with the Arabs. It began when the United Nations passed a partition resolution which gave the Jews a portion of land in Palestine on 29 November 1947. The Arabs rejected this resolution and soon there were Anti-Jewish groups emerged. After through a series of armed conflicts fought between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors; such as Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq, the Jewish finally succeeded to take over their land based on the UN resolution and intentionally by force they also took over some parts of land which are allocated by UN to the Arabs and Palestinians. On May 14th, 1948, the Jews declared their independence and established the State of Israel (Tessler, 1994, pp.261-263).
Currently, the possible conflict between the United States and Iran was driven by the conflict between Israel and Palestine, because these two states have their own interest and influence over the land in Middle East in general and particularly in Israel/Palestine. In addition, the United States has a strong relationship with Israel as well as Iran have a well-built affiliation with Palestine.
Mearsheimer and Walt (2006, pp.30-32) describes that in U.S., there is an intimate political relationship between Israel and United States called the “Israel Lobby”. This lobby, which is supported by the Israeli politicians in the U.S. and pro-Israel-Americans, has managed to influence the United States foreign policies, especially in matter of the Israel – Palestine conflict. Since 1973, the U.S. has given a direct aid to Israel for a total $140 billion and another $3 billion each year. Additionally, the United States supplies Israel with weaponry, such as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 Jets. They also help Israel when there is a threat from other countries to Israel; for example, the U.S. has vetoed 33 United Nations Security Council Resolutions against Israel since 1982. These assistances by the United States transform Israel into a small state with huge power. Also, because of this, Israel has the courage to launch a military attack against those who they thought would be a threat to the Jewish State, Israel. For example, the Israel aggressions in Lebanon last year just because of two of their soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah, the major Islamic political group in Lebanon. Perhaps, Israel would not hesitate to launch another military attack against its neighbors in the future because of the enormous support from the United States who has perform a new foreign policy, which is also formed by the “Israel Lobby”, against Muslims or Arabs countries, such as Iraq, Iran and Syria. As BBC News reported in 2003, just before the United States invaded Iraq, the U.S. President George W. Bush said, “This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves… the ultimate justice”.
Whereas for Iran, shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as the President of Iran, he develops two major foreign policies, an Iran nuclear program and the Israel abolishment from the world map (Taheri, 2006, pp.99-101). On Jerusalem Day October 2006 in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked Israel, he said,” This regime (Israel), thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence…Even if we assume the Holocaust is true, then why should the Palestinians pay the price for it…” (BBC News, 2006). The Iran foreign policy and the provocation from the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel have surely bring difficulties in finding a peace process in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This means that the conflicts in this particular area would become even larger in the next few years. As for the reason why Iran is willing to give their support to Palestine is basically because of religious issue where both of them are Muslim countries. Iranian and Palestinians shares the common believe where Muslims should help out each other in defending their land even though there is a distinction between both religious ideologies, where Iranians are generally Shiites and Palestinians are Sunnis. And these two Muslims groups are also having a clash between them. Further discussion of these two ideologies and the tension between them shall be discussed later.
Back to the United States and Iran, in the next upcoming years, both the United States and Iran are likely facing a possible conflict between them. Fayazmanesh (2001, p.221-222) reports that the U.S. banned all commerce and travel between Iran and the United States, designed an image of Iran as an international terrorism supporter, blocked the import trades from Iran and at the moment, the United States try to put sanction on Iran nuclear program, but Iran stands still with their policies. The United Nations, the European Union and Arab’s countries are currently move toward into a serious diplomatic discussion to prevent a huge conflict, to prevent, if it is properly said, a nuclear war.
From a short summary of the conflict between Israel and Palestine above, it can be acknowledges that nationalism has driven both Israel and Palestine into a conflict over a common land in pursuit of independence. The conflict itself has as well caused a possible conflict between the United States and Iran. In other words, the scale of the conflict in Middle East has gradually increasing into a more universal conflict. What is more, the conflicts in Middle East might find difficulties in order to achieve peace, even between the states in the Middle East itself, because the roots of nationalism and ethnic sentiments in Middle East have a long history back in the Ottoman Empire period.
Before the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was known as the greatest and the largest empire in the world since the late of the seventeenth century. In the Ottoman Empire, ethnic groups were the social units which had their own rights and civil liberties. After the collapse of the empire, new states emerged based on the regional divisions of the empire, the European imperialist interest, and mostly by geographical factors, such as mountains, rivers, deserts and the sea. Several regions were disintegrating, such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and also Israel. The fragmentation of the empire and changes of cultural because of the European imperialist influences has placed a barrier between the new states to formulate a coalition. In addition, they were incapable in helping one another because they were short of resources and also because they did not trust one another. Even thought they found Arab League in 1945, it seems to be that it has already failed in building a mutual assistance between the states in Middle East (Binder, 1999, pp.12-13). The conflicts in the present have steadily grown and there is more violence than it should be, not only between Israel and Palestine, or possibly between the United States and Iran, but also among ethnics and nations in Middle East which have a common relation based on religion or beliefs.
This is the next part where religion plays it roles as an exacerbating factor of the conflicts, extends the conflicts into a wider scope. An issue of nationalism has already made an unstable political situation in Middle East; yet, religious issue has added more complexities into the conflicts. This is because:
‘religion’ names or denotes a complex set of phenomena comprising such things as publicly observable behaviours; publicly proclaimed beliefs and ethical systems; some sense of transcendental reference, or acknowledgement of human existence set in a context that is ‘more than’ or ‘transcends’ everyday life; institutional arrangements and social structures; openly available (where applicable) textual or scriptural sources …. (Pratt, 2003, p.3)
In short, it means that religion is a sensitive issue which can easily generate a conflict when there was a collision between two or more of interest groups with different principle, especially in religious matter. Furthermore, in the Middle East, Islamic movements are the major opposition power and there has been an increase in their movements especially in the last ten years. These religious movements are often having a differentiation which then bursting the pressure out. For instance: the tension between the Sunni and Shiites, two major Islamic sectarian groups in Middle East, especially after the Lebanese Minister of Interior, Ahmat Fatfat, visited the United States last year, just a week after the LBC broadcasted a slapstick sketch which derided the Shiite Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. It roused the tension between the Sunni and the Shiites because Ahmat Fatfat is a Sunnis. This event made the Shiite think that the Sunni does not respect the values of the Shiite and the Shiite believes that the Sunni has fallen into the United States grasp (Schenker, 2006).
Additionally, Hanif (1994, p.339) explains that the tension between the Sunni and the Shiites is actually a time-consuming conflict which already began since the prophet of Muslim, Muhammad, passed away in 632 A.D. On that period of time, the Muslims were separated into two groups, the Sunni who choused Abu Bakr and the Shiite who believe in Ali as the next Caliph or leader of the Muslims instead of Abu Bakr. However, these two Islamic groups are not different in term of the spiritual manifestation. Both Sunni and Shiites believe in the five pillars of Islam: one God, Allah, and Muhammad as His prophet, the five compulsory prayers, fasting, charity, and the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Mecca. That is why; both Sunni and Shiites are sometimes engaging a similar action against those whom they think would opposed the foundation of Islam, particularly the Western. For example: the Shiites in Lebanon, which has support from Iran, has engage violence against the government and taking parts in the civil war, they also kidnapping the Western citizen. In other place, such as in Egypt and Syria, the Sunni has as well done the same as the Shiites does. These violence acts and kidnapping the Western citizens are not only the facts that the religion could turn the conflict worse, those acts could also triggering new conflicts with more globalize scale in the next decade, between the West and Islam, where it would brakes out in Middle East.
The reason for the possible future conflict between the West and Islam in the future is because most of the Muslims in Middle East have a negative sentiment against the Western. This negative sentiment arises because of the consequential of the Western colonialism since the beginning of the 20th century. Moreover, it is because the intervention of the Western countries in the political progress of the states in Middle East, such as when the CIA reinstated the Shah to the government power in 1953. The Muslims have also believed that the Western intervention in Middle East has disturbed the foundation of Islam and infringing the Muslim countries, mainly when it comes to the matter of conflict between the Israel and Palestine, where the Western, especially the United States, has given direct aid to Israel (Hanif, 1994, p.344). The Muslims are really concerned with the conflict between the Israel and Palestine, not just because the Palestinians are considered to be Arabs, but also because of the religious matter as the land of Jerusalem, where the conflict takes place, is one of the sacred places for Muslims. On the other hand, it is also a sacred place for Israel, who is originally Judaism believers. According to Tessler (1994, pp.315-316), the Israelis believe that Jerusalem is their land that God has promised them based on the Biblical prophecy in Psalm CXXXVII: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its cunning”. While the Muslims, believe Jerusalem as one of their sacred places after Mecca and Medina. They also believe that their prophet Muhammad made a journey in a single night from Mecca accompanied by the angel Gabriel visited the place of birth of Jesus, Bethlehem, and the Hebrew Temple on the Doom of Rock.
Furthermore, religious issue in the conflict of Israel and Palestine over Jerusalem, as the birthplace of three world monotheistic religions, is not a new issue; it is an old issue which has cause conflict in Middle East from time to time, even longer than the nationalism issue. For instance: the conflict between the Muslim and the Christians in the 12th century, known as the Crusades. This event; as said by ter Haar (2005, p.5), has given influence to the relationships between Muslims and Christians in the present day. Both Muslims and Christians would feel uneasy if the Crusades became the topic of a dialogue. The history of the Crusades has also shown that religion can be use as an instrument to justify the acts of violence. And it can be seen in the world today, there are numerous terrorism movements covering their actions of violence with the name of religion, such as the Al-Qaeda. The leader, Osama bin Laden, even made a declaration of war against the Western which obviously using religion to justify his words and actions. Some words in his declaration in 1996 are:
Praise be to Allah … I address now my brothers of the security and military forces and the national guards … and those pious companions who fought Jihad alongside them; you competed to join the army and the guard forces with the intention to carry out Jihad in the cause of Allah -raising His word- and to defend the faith of Islam and the land of the two Holy Places against the invaders and the occupying forces … That is the ultimate level of believing in this religion “Deen”.… (Osama bin Laden, 1996)
By using religion, Osama has slowly but surely gained his recognition in the global world, particularly in the Islamic world. Consequently, there are many Muslims around the world that support him and join his group, committing terrorism acts and threatening the global security. However; despite of its function in manipulating people and justifying the acts of violence, why does religion more essential rather than other issues next to nationalism? According to Fox and Squires (2007, p.89), it is not only because:
both religion and nationalism have a considerable impact on conflict in general … especially considering that religion and nationalism are the most common justifications for terrorism … but, also because b]oth religion and nationalism … constitute belief systems that can be essential elements of people’s identities that these people feel the need to defend … they both include guidelines for behavior that can lead to conflict … they are both associated with institutions … and … they are both traditional sources of political legitimacy”.
Further, Fox and Squires (2007. p.98) argued that both religion and nationalism are the two main basics of creating an ethnic identity, influencing one another, and sometimes religion is often more important than nationalism. The emotional factor of the nationalist in gaining independence added with the sensitive issue of religion would clearly turn the conflict into a further complicated situation. And based on many conflicts occurring because of these two main issues, particularly in Middle East, it seems to be that the main causes of war in the next ten years are still likely to be nationalism and religion.
Indeed, many scholars or even politicians regard religion as an outsider, they consider religion as an outside part of the conflict, and to talk about religion in matter to a conflict is inappropriate. This is because the political behavior since more than 50 years ago was dominated by the modernization paradigm, followed by the neo-Marxist and further fundamental perspectives, where “religion and other cultural phenomena were depicted as epiphenomena” (Haynes, 1994, p.6). In addition, Veer and Lehman (1999, p.3) argued that it was the Western, especially the American evangelicalism which expressed religion as fundamentalism when religion appearing in the modern world, because the American evangelicalism believe in nationalism as the proper element of the legitimate modern politics, and took nationalism for granted as secular, the feature which build modernization. In other words, religion in the political progress is often seen as an unconstructive social vigor which in opposition to the modernization process of the West. To think reasonably, perhaps the reason why most of people, including political scientist and politicians, or even the priests, would prefer to state that almost in every conflict, there was no influence from religion; in other words, there was no religious issue that causes conflict, is because religion is a sensitive issue, has a strong power in the political progress and could easily trigger a conflict.
The conflicts emerging in the next decade because nationalism and religion are as well due to the reason that nationalism and religion are the two main elements in making the national identity; not only in Middle East, but also in almost every part of the world, such as in Europe, predominantly in the United Kingdom. In 1829, the United Kingdom was a Protestant state. 31 years later, the national identity of the United Kingdom was still dominated by the influence of the Protestantism until the end of World War I. Since then, Protestantism began to fade away and turn into a more common Christianity as seen today. However, the Protestantism is sometimes still exist and influencing the life of the people of the United Kingdom (McCleod, 1999, p.44). In addition, based on the survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project (Pew Research Center, 2006), 28% of people in the United Kingdom think of themselves as Christians first rather than as English. And yet again, the fusion of nationalism and religion in forming the national identity is seen everywhere in the world today, including in America, where almost half of 100% of people feels more Christians rather than Americans. In the other part of the world, such as Nigeria, there can be found an even more striking finding, where 53% lays religion in the first place instead of nationalism. By looking at the statistics, nationalism and religion seems to be competing in getting into the heart of the people. However, it can also be an indication that nationalism and religion are both significant factors in the life of humankind.
To put it all briefly, nationalism, as previously described, is an element that builds a state where people in it have a common traditions, language, beliefs and values. However, it is difficult to find only one nation in one state because there are thousands of nations in the world, and there are only couples of hundreds of states in the world. This huge gap in numbers has given a way for a conflict to emerge because those nations who feel disregarded by their states are striving for independence and it seems to be that the only means they could only chose is by using violence. Furthermore, religion has added more complexities to the conflict. Not only because religion is an extremely sensitive feature in the human life, but also because religion can be use to justify the acts of violence. As a result, religion has turned the conflict into a more globalized conflict.
Nevertheless, if those conflicts would eventually emerge in the next decade, it would be wise if the international community starts preparing the preeminent way in preventing the conflict. As Carnegie Commission (1997, pp.39-102) explains in their report, there are two approaches in preventing the conflict, through operational prevention and structural prevention.
In operational prevention, there are four procedures in dealing with the upcoming conflict. First, by providing an early warning to the international community as well as reacting to the problems that could generate a conflict. This measure needs the cooperation between the government, the non-government organization and the mass media. Second, before any actions are taken, the use of diplomacy through bilateral, multilateral, or even private channels is a compulsory. This is because the conflict between states or non-states is not only the responsibility of one or two states, and the cost of the conflict is as well affecting the international community, especially the neighboring countries. In this case, each state has to find the most suitable and profitable way, and; yet, it is often difficult to formulate a cost-effective resolution because each state has different interest. If diplomacy is effortless, economic measures is the next option in preventing the conflict. For example: economic sanction against the country who would initiate a clash between states. However, economic sanction is not always effective because it is also distress the neighboring countries whom are not related to the conflict. The last measure in operational prevention is through the use of force, which can barely be in use if the three measures are not enough in preventing the conflict. In other words, the use of force is the last option and should only be use with the international agreement as well as following the international laws.
The other one is the structural prevention which has three different concentrations: safety measures, welfare and justice. Safety measures means the states needs to provide security to the international community by limiting the use of weapons and prevent the illegal distribution of weapons into the hands of irresponsible actors, such as the nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons, including the conventional weapons. Similar as the previous prevention method, this measure also needs the cooperation from the government, non-government organization and the mass media, particularly in providing information about the illegal movement which could threaten the security and the safety of the state. The second scheme of preventing the conflict in the structural prevention is by concentrating on the matter of welfare of the state. At this point, the international community should assist the countries which have a poverty problem, especially the poor countries that lack of water, food, shelter and other necessities. This method of prevention intends to develop the level of education and economy of the people by assisting direct aids. And if those levels are increasing; hopefully, it would prevent the emergence of resistance and rebellion within states, which could also lead to the conflict between states. The last measure is by providing and keeping the justice of human rights. More over, by developing the humanitarian law and provide the authorized foundation of the United Nations field operations. Because human rights belongs to every human in the world and it is one of the most basic needs; as Carnegie Commission believes, that “human rights are becoming, properly, a rationale for preventive diplomacy and collective security” (1997, p.93).
As a final conclusion, based on the whole analysis, nationalism and religion are likely to be the main causes of war in the next ten years, generally because of their importance and sensitiveness to the human life. And the conflicts on that period of time would emerge mainly in Middle East, because it is the place where three great world religions were born. Furthermore, the history and the conflicts emerging in this place, even since the 18th century, are often because of these two main issues. This means that the conflict in the next decade in Middle East is still dominantly because these both nationalism and religious issues. In the future, the conflicts would spread out from Middle East to the other parts of the world due to the emotional relation of people with common religious belief and the values of life they all share, followed by the emergence of rebellions and violence groups or terrorism organizations. As to prevent the conflicts from occurring or at least to minimize the impact of the conflicts in the next decade, there are two types of prevention that should be taken, the operational and structural preventions. However, the main part to prevent the conflict is by looking at the problem as a whole, not from one point of view because there are many issues and factors to the root of conflict in Middle East. Nearly all of the factors are connected to one another, and some of the factors are made by those who seek for their own interest. This is why, the government, the non-government organization, the mass media, and all of the international actors should work collectively in preventing the conflict, building peace and the most important part is, respect one another, especially in matter of nationalism and religion.
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R. Idris Musa adalah salah seorang contributor writer bagi Jangkang Research Institute.