Do intense religious experiences increase or decrease terrorism? We argue that fasting during the month of Ramadan offers an ideal setting for studying this question empirically. Reasons are twofold: first, daily fasting from dawn to sunset during Ramadan is considered mandatory for most Muslims. Second, the Islamic Hijri calendar is not synchronized with the solar cycle. Therefore, the daily fasting duration during Ramadan is exogenous once we control for latitude and the seasonality of Ramadan, which we can do by using district and country-year fixed effects. Focusing on predominantly Muslim countries, we document three main findings: first, longer and more intense Ramadan fasting has a robust negative effect on the likelihood of local terrorist events and terror deaths over the next year. Second, this negative effect is particularly pronounced for operationally more difficult attack types, which are more dependent on public support for terrorism. Third, using survey data, we show that longer and more intense Ramadan fasting lowers the share of respondents who consider religiously motivated violence to be justified. These findings imply that intense religious experiences may not be a breeding ground for terrorism. Quite the opposite, they can decrease public support for terrorism and, consequently, terrorist attacks.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.