chapter  1
18 Pages

Terms of Analysis and Problems of Definition

ByMario Apostolov

The definitions of the three key elements in this study are, as any definitions, conventional. They are designed to serve the purpose of this study: investigate the relationship between religious minority problems and international security in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. The difficulties in giving definitions are primarily epistemological. For instance, the modern Western episteme, which focuses on individualism and expresses confidence in science, proves insufficient to explain the complex causes of the conflicts involving religious minorities in the non-Western world. In the European context, the problem of minorities is a fruit of the division of the world into nation states. Yet for many Muslims, the “in-group” has traditionally been the undefined umma, of which they consider themselves a part, while the “out-group” can be the non-Muslim community next door. Tzvetan Todorov (1982, p. 191) argues that the epistemological problem stems from a gnostic distinction: “one either knows or ignores the identity of the other”, and the problem comes when ignorance runs parallel to a conscious attitude of superiority. This, rather than an opposition between two distinct concepts of human and minority rights (one Western and the other Eastern or Muslim) is the problem. Rooting the examination of minorities only in the Western experience would be a departure from the principle that social science has to be based on the whole body of valid knowledge.