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Ethnoreligious group

This article is about groups that share both an ethnic and a religious background. For religions that are closely tied to a particular ethnic group, see ethnic religion.

An ethnoreligious group (or ethno-religious group) is an ethnic group of people whose members are also unified by a common religious background. Ethnoreligious communities define their ethnic identity neither exclusively by ancestral heritage nor simply by religious affiliation, but often through a combination of both[1] (a long shared history; a cultural tradition of its own; either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors; a common language, not necessarily particular to the group; a common literature particular to the group; a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups; being a minority or being an oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community).[1]

Examples of ethnic groups defined by ancestral religions are the Assyrians, the Armenians, the Druze, the Copts, the Yazidis, the Shabaks, the Zoroastrians, the Huguenots, the Jews and the Serer.[2]

In an ethnoreligious group, particular 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.[3] This adherence to religious endogamy can also, in some instances, be tied to ethnic nationalism if the ethnoreligious group possesses a historical base in a specific region.[4]

As a legal concept


In Australian law, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) defines "race" to include "ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin".[5] The reference to "ethno-religious" was added by the Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Act 1994 (NSW).[6] John Hannaford, the NSW Attorney-General at the time, explained that "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".[9] However, unlike the NSW Act, it also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of "religious belief or affiliation" or "religious activity".[10]

Development of definition from United Kingdom law

Main article: Mandla v Dowell-Lee

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 definition of ethnoreligious[11] group. Both Jews[12][13][14] and Sikhs[15][16][17] were determined to be 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 this case was that groups like Sikhs and Jews could be protected under the Race Relations Act 1976.[16]


The term "ethnoreligious" has been applied by at least one author to each of the following groups:

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 Section 4". 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Anti-Discrimination (Amendment) Bill: Second Reading". Parliament of New South Wales. 2007-05-12. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  8. ^ 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. ^ "ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT 1998 – SECT 3". Tasmanian Consolidated Acts. AustLII. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT 1998 – SECT 16". Tasmanian Consolidated Acts. AustLII. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  11. ^ policypaperdraft. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  12. ^ a b "Are Jews a Religious Group or an Ethnic Group?" (PDF). Institute for Curriculum Services. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Ethnic minorities in English law – Google Books. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  14. ^ a b Edgar Litt (1961). "Jewish Ethno-Religious Involvement and Political Liberalism". Social Forces 39 (4): 328–332. JSTOR 2573430. doi:10.2307/2573430. 
  15. ^ Immigrant Sub-National Ethnicity: Bengali-Hindus and Punjabi-Sikhs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Ethno-Religious Strife Closes Bridge of Hope Center – Gospel for Asia. (2008-08-05). Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  18. ^ a b c Thomas 2006
  19. ^ a b Harrison, p. 121
  20. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 209
  21. ^ Changing Contexts and Redefinitions of Identity among Bosniaks in Slovenia. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  22. ^ Anti-Turkish obsession and the exodus of Balkan Muslims – Patterns of Prejudice. (2009-07-04). Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  23. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 467
  24. ^ a b 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. 
  25. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 744
  26. ^ Sean Ireton (2003). "The Samaritans – A Jewish Sect in Israel: Strategies for Survival of an Ethno-religious Minority in the Twenty First Century". Anthrobase. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  27. ^ Levey, Geoffrey Brahm. "Toward a Theory of Disproportionate American Jewish Liberalism" (PDF). 
  28. ^ J. Alan Winter (March 1996). "Symbolic Ethnicity or Religion Among Jews in the United States: A Test of Gansian Hypotheses". Review of Religious Research 37 (3). 
  29. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 914
  30. ^ "The Diaspora Malay". Bethany World Prayer Center. 1997. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  31. ^ Anthony Hearle Johns, Nelly Lahoud (2005). Islam in world politics. New York: Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 0-415-32411-4. 
  32. ^ Barbara Watson Andaya, Leonard Y. Andaya (1984). A History of Malaysia. Lonndon: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 55. ISBN 0-333-27672-8. 
  33. ^ Timothy P. Barnar (2004). Contesting Malayness: Malay identity across boundaries. Singapore: Singapore University press. p. 7. ISBN 9971-69-279-1. 
  34. ^ Frith, T. (September 1, 2000). "Ethno-Religious Identity and Urban Malays in Malaysia" (FEE REQUIRED). Asian Ethnicity (Routledge) 1 (2): 117–129. doi:10.1080/713611705. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  35. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 1194
  36. ^ Ehrlich, p. 315
  37. ^ Ireton 2003
  38. ^ Minahan 2002, p. 2030