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Restoring Routine by Debating Tolerance? Discursive Responses to Jihadist Terrorist Attacks


politics religion & ideologyJournal abstract

Terrorism provokes not only policy responses in terms of security but also public narratives aimed at restoring routine in shattered societies. This paper investigates the relevance and meanings of ‘tolerance’ in the discursive response to jihadist terrorist attacks. We ask how ‘tolerance’ as a value of liberal societies and a key concept of religious pluralism functions as a tool to facilitate this process of reassurance in the immediate aftermath of religiously motivated violence. We examine this question in a comparative case study of the discursive responses in Austria to the jihadist terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November 2015 based on the empirical analysis of media articles, press releases and speeches by political and civil society actors. We find that very different meanings are attributed to ‘tolerance’, from a praise of pluralism and freedom of rights to the justification of restrictive and exclusionary policies. We argue that this variety of usage is rooted in broader contextual developments, such as increased migration and politicization thereof, and reveal the ambivalent effects of ‘tolerance’ as a concept to restore routine in liberal democratic societies. Thus, this empirically oriented paper contributes to the mostly theoretical debate on presupposed common values, including tolerance, in liberal democracies.

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