Are Muslim countries more violent?

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Source: The Washington Post

By Nils Petter Gleditsch and Ida Rudolfsen

Most recent civil wars have taken place in Muslim countries, and a large majority of the victims are Muslims. This is not a “clash of civilizations.” It is a battle within the Muslim world.

Interstate wars — wars between nations — are now rare, and civil wars are now largely concentrated in an arc from Central Africa to the Caucasus. As you can see in the map below, in most of the countries in this conflict zone, Muslims are in a majority. Smaller armed conflicts occur in 30-odd countries more widely spread over the globe.

War and civil war have decreased — leaving, primarily, fighting in Muslim countries

As the Human Security Report and books by Joshua Goldstein andSteven Pinker have compellingly argued, war around the world has been declining, both within and between countries. There’s been a recent uptick in violence, particularly in Syria, but the violence in Syria doesn’t match what we saw in Korea and Vietnam.

The remaining civil wars — which scholars define as armed conflicts that claim more than 1,000 battle deaths in a calendar year — are fewer in number but more concentrated geographically, as we show in a recent article in Research & Politics. Although armed violence has been declining overall since the end of the Cold War, violence has spiked since 2011 — particularly in Muslim countries.

In 2012, there were six civil wars worldwide. All took place within Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Of the nine rebel groups in these conflicts, seven had an Islamist ideology.

While 2012 was an extreme year, a large majority of all civil wars in the past decade have taken place in Muslim-majority countries. That’s recent. It wasn’t true during the Cold War, when Muslim countries were no more likely to host civil wars than other nations.

But since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, civil wars have declined sharply in most parts of the globe — although less so in Muslim countries. Many of the civil wars that ended after the end of the Cold War were stimulated by rivalry between the two superpowers.

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