Ethnoreligious group

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Yazidi girls in traditional dress

An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by a common religious background.

Defining an ethnoreligious group[edit]

In general, ethnoreligious communities define their ethnic identity not only by ancestral heritage nor simply by religious affiliation but normally through a combination of both. An ethnoreligious group has a shared history and a cultural tradition – which can be defined as religious – of its own. In many cases ethnoreligious groups are ethno-cultural groups with a traditional ethnic religion; in other cases ethnoreligious groups begin as communities united by a common faith which through endogamy developed cultural and ancestral ties.[1][2] The legal assignment what is an ethnoreligious group can differ from the above given definition.

Some ethnoreligious groups' identities are reinforced by the experience of living within a larger community as a distinct minority. Ethnoreligious groups can be tied to ethnic nationalism if the ethnoreligious group possesses a historical base in a specific region.[3] In many ethnoreligious groups 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.


Ethnic fusion Ethnic religion Religious ethnicity

The Jewish case[edit]

Prior to the Babylonian exile, the Israelites had already emerged as an ethnoreligious group, probably before the time of Hosea.[35]

Since the 19th century Reform Judaism has adopted theology that differs from traditional Judaism, although in recent years the reform movement has readopted some traditional practices. By the end of the 20th century, the reform movement had become dominant in the United States.[citation needed] In the United States, the increasing rate of mixed marriages has led to attempts to facilitate conversion of the spouse, although conversion to facilitate marriage is strongly discouraged by traditional Jewish law.[36] If the spouse does not convert, the reform movement will recognize paternal descent. Traditional Jewish law only recognizes descent along the maternal line. Many children of mixed marriages do not identify as Jews and the reform movement only recognizes children of mixed marriages as Jewish if they "established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people."[37]

Since the mid 1960s Israeli national identity has become inexorably linked with Jewish identity.[38][39] In recent years some anti-Zionists have adopted a variety of theories intent on proving that contemporary Jews are descendants of converts, which in their view would render Zionism a form of modern irrational racism, while at the same time severing Jewish ties to the Land of Israel.[40] In Israel, Jewish religious courts have authority over personal status matters, which has led to friction with secular Jews who sometimes find they must leave the country in order to marry or divorce, particularly in relation to the inherited status of mamzer, the marriage of males from the priestly line, persons not recognized as Jewish by the rabbinate, and in cases of agunot. The Israeli rabbinate only recognizes certain approved Orthodox rabbis as legitimate, which has led to friction with Diaspora Jews who for centuries never had an overarching authority.

The Anabaptist case[edit]

Other classical examples for ethnoreligious groups are traditional Anabaptist groups like the Old Order Amish, the Hutterites, the Old Order Mennonites and traditional groups of German speaking Mennonites from Russia, like the Old Colony Mennonites. All these groups have a shared German background, a shared German dialect as their every day language (Pennsylvania German, Hutterisch, Plautdietsch) and a shared version of their Anabaptist faith, a shared history of several hundred years and they have accepted very few outsiders into their communities in the last 250 years. Modern proselytizing Mennonite groups, like e.g. the Evangelical Mennonite Conference whose members have lost their shared ancestry, their common ethnic language Plautdietsch, their traditional dress and other typical ethnic traditions, are not seen as ethnoreligious groups anymore.[41][42]

As legal concept[edit]


In Australian law, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 of New South Wales defines "race" to include "ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin".[43] The reference to "ethno-religious" was added by the Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Act 1994 (NSW).[44] John Hannaford, the NSW Attorney-General at the time, explained, "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".[7][8]

The definition of "race" in Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) likewise includes "ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin".[45] However, unlike the NSW Act, it also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of "religious belief or affiliation" or "religious activity".[46]

United Kingdom[edit]

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 the definition of an ethnoreligious[47] group. Both Jews[11][12][13] and Sikhs[48][49][50] were determined to be considered 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 the case was that groups like Sikhs and Jews could now be protected under the Race Relations Act 1976.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Yang and Ebaugh, p.369: "Andrew Greeley (1971) identified three types of relationships in the United States: some religious people who do not hold an ethnic identity; some people who have an ethnic identity but are not religious; and cases in which religion and ethnicity are intertwined. Phillip Hammond and Kee Warner (1993), following Harold J. Abramson (1973), further explicated the “intertwining relationships” into a typology. First is “ethnic fusion,” where religion is the foundation of ethnicity, or, ethnicity equals religion, such as in the case of the Amish and Jews. The second pattern is that of “ethnic religion,” where religion is one of several foundations of ethnicity. The Greek or Russian Orthodox and the Dutch Reformed are examples of this type. In this pattern, ethnic identification can be claimed without claiming the religious identification but the reverse is rare. The third form, “religious ethnicity,” occurs where an ethnic group is linked to a religious tradition that is shared by other ethnic groups. The Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholics are such cases. In this pattern, religious identification can be claimed without claiming ethnic identification. Hammond and Warner also suggest that the relationship of religion and ethnicity is strongest in “ethnic fusion” and least strong in “religious ethnicity.” Recently, some scholars have argued that even Jews’ religion and culture (ethnicity) can be distinguished from each other and are separable (Chervyakov, Gitelman, and Shapiro 1997; Gans 1994)."
  2. ^ a b c d Hammond and Warner, p.59: "1. Religion is the major foundation of ethnicity, examples include the Amish, Hutterites, Jews, and Mormons. Ethnicity in this pattern, so to speak, equals religion, and if the religious identity is denied, so is the ethnic identity. [Footnote: In actuality, of course, there can be exceptions, as the labels "jack Mormon," "banned Amish," or "cultural Jew" suggest.] Let us call this pattern "ethnic fusion."
    2. Religion may be one of several foundations of ethnicity, the others commonly being language and territorial origin; examples are the Greek or Russian Orthodox and the Dutch Reformed. Ethnicity in this pattern extends beyond religion in the sense that ethnic identification can be claimed without claiming the religious identification, but the reverse is rare. Let us call this pattern "ethnic religion."
    3. An ethnic group may be linked to a religious tradition, but other ethnic groups will be linked to it, too. Examples include Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholics; Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Lutherans. Religion in this pattern extends beyond ethnicity, reversing the previous pattern, and religious identification can be claimed without claiming the ethnic identification. Let us call this pattern "religious ethnicity""
  3. ^ Andreas Wimmer. "Democracy and ethno-religious conflict in Iraq" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b Simon Harrison (2006). Fracturing Resemblances: Identity and Mimetic Conflict in Melanesia and the West. Berghahn Books. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-1-57181-680-1.
  5. ^ Ethno-Religious Communities Identity markers: "The Yazidism is a unique phenomenon, one of the most illustrative examples of ethno-religious identity, which is based on a religion exclusively specific for the Yazidis and called Sharfadin by them." – Victoria Arakelova (Yerevan State University)
  6. ^ Paul R. Ehrlich; Anne H. Ehrlich (30 June 2008). The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment. Island Press. p. 315. ISBN 978-1-59726-096-1.
  7. ^ a b "Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Bill: Second Reading". Parliament of New South Wales. 2007-05-12. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  8. ^ a b Gareth Griffith (February 2006). Sedition, Incitement and Vilification: Issues in the Current Debate (PDF). NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service. p. 52. ISBN 0-7313-1792-0. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  9. ^ Villalón, Leonardo A., Islamic Society and State Power in Senegal: Disciples and Citizens in Fatick, p. 62, Cambridge University Press (2006), ISBN 9780521032322 [1]
  10. ^ Diedrich Westermann, Edwin William Smith, Cyril Daryll Forde, International African Institute, International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, Project Muse, JSTOR (Organization), "Africa: journal of the International African Institute, Volume 63", pp 86–96, 270–1, Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute, 1993
  11. ^ a b "Are Jews a Religious Group or an Ethnic Group?" (PDF). Institute for Curriculum Services. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  12. ^ a b Ethnic minorities in English law – Google Books. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  13. ^ a b Edgar Litt (1961). "Jewish Ethno-Religious Involvement and Political Liberalism". Social Forces. 39 (4): 328–332. doi:10.2307/2573430. JSTOR 2573430.
  14. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 914
  15. ^ Ireton 2003
  16. ^ "Part I - Mormons as an Ethno-Religious Group - University Publishing Online". Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  17. ^ Janzen, Rod; Stanton, Max (2010-09-01). The Hutterites in North America. JHU Press. ISBN 9780801899256.
  18. ^ a b c Thomas 2006
  19. ^ Thiessen, Janis Lee (2013-06-17). Manufacturing Mennonites: Work and Religion in Post-War Manitoba. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442660595.
  20. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 2030
  21. ^ Desplat, Patrick; Østebø, Terje (2013-04-18). Muslim Ethiopia: The Christian Legacy, Identity Politics, and Islamic Reformism. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137322081.
  22. ^ Dekmejian, R. Hrair (1994). "Reviewed Work: Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust by Robert F. Melson". The International History Review. 16 (2): 377. JSTOR 40107201. ...both victimized groups [Armenians & Jews] were ethno-religious minorities...
  23. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 467
  24. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 209
  25. ^ a b c Marty, Martin E. (1997). Religion, Ethnicity, and Self-Identity: Nations in Turmoil. University Press of New England. ISBN 0-87451-815-6. [...] the three ethnoreligious groups that have played the roles of the protagonists in the bloody tragedy that has unfolded in the former Yugoslavia: the Christian Orthodox Serbs, the Roman Catholic Croats, and the Muslim Slavs of Bosnia.
  26. ^ Zemon, Rubin. "The development of identities among the Muslim population in the Balkans in an era of globalization and Europeanization: Cases of Torbeshi, Gorani and Pomaci".
  27. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 744
  28. ^ Ponna Wignaraja; Akmal Hussain, eds. (1989). The Challenge in South Asia: Development, Democracy and Regional Cooperation. United Nations University Press. p. 278. ISBN 9780803996038.
  29. ^ Timothy P. Barnar (2004). Contesting Malayness: Malay identity across boundaries. Singapore: Singapore University press. p. 7. ISBN 9971-69-279-1.
  30. ^ Frith, T. (September 1, 2000). "Ethno-Religious Identity and Urban Malays in Malaysia". Asian Ethnicity. Routledge. 1 (2): 117–129. doi:10.1080/713611705.
  31. ^ Richard J Ellings, Aaron L. Friedberg,Michael Wills (2002). Strategic Asia 2002-03: Asian Aftershocks. National Bureau of Asian Research. p. 368.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  32. ^ Touraj Atabaki, Sanjyot Mehendale, eds. (2004). Central Asia and the Caucasus:Transnationalism and Diaspora. Routledge. p. 165. ISBN 9781134319947.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  33. ^ Nothaft, C. Philipp E. (2014-05-23). Between Harmony and Discrimination: Negotiating Religious Identities within Majority-Minority Relationships in Bali and Lombok. BRILL. ISBN 9789004271494.
  34. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 1194
  35. ^ Kenton L. Sparks (1998). Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel: Prolegomena to the Study of Ethnic Sentiments and Their Expression in the Hebrew Bible. Eisenbrauns. pp. 146–148. ISBN 9781575060330.
  36. ^ "Conversion and Marriage".
  37. ^ "How does Reform Judaism define who is a Jew?". 6 June 2013.
  38. ^ Waxman, Dov (2006). The Pursuit of Peace and the Crisis of Israeli Identity: Defending/Defining the Nation. Springer. p. 115. ISBN 9781403983473.
  39. ^ Shlomo Fischer. "Israelis Are Divided Over Whether They Are 'Jewish' Or 'Israeli.'". Forward. Retrieved 25 Oct 2018.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  40. ^ Shlomo Sharan, David Bukay (2017). Crossovers: Anti-zionism and Anti-semitism. Routledge. p. 161–163.
  41. ^ John H. Redekop: A People Apart: Ethnicity and the Mennonite Brethren, 1987.
  42. ^ Royden Loewen: The Poetics of Peoplehood: Ethnicity and Religion among Canada's Mennonites in Paul Bramadat, David Seljak: Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada, 2008.
  43. ^ "Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 Section 4".
  44. ^ Cunneen, Chris; David Fraser; Stephen Tomsen (1997). Faces of hate: hate crime in Australia. Hawkins Press. p. 223. ISBN 1-876067-05-5. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  45. ^ "ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT 1998 – SECT 3". Tasmanian Consolidated Acts. AustLII. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  46. ^ "ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT 1998 – SECT 16". Tasmanian Consolidated Acts. AustLII. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  47. ^ policypaperdraft. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  48. ^ Immigrant Sub-National Ethnicity: Bengali-Hindus and Punjabi-Sikhs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  49. ^ a b "Mandla (Sewa Singh) and another v Dowell Lee and others [1983] 2 AC 548" (PDF).
  50. ^ Ethno-Religious Strife Closes Bridge of Hope Center – Gospel for Asia Archived 2009-10-17 at the Wayback Machine. (2008-08-05). Retrieved on 2010-12-23.


External links[edit]

Media related to Ethnoreligious groups at Wikimedia Commons