Religion, politics and ‘soft power’

Submitting Institution

London Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Political Science
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies

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Summary of the impact

Today, religion has great social and political influence. Religion `returned' to politics and international relations following the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s. The case study focuses on a key expression of religion's influence: `religious soft power'. Religious soft power is the ability to wield influence in politics and international relations, despite the fact that religion has few conventional or `hard' attributes of power and influence (such as, financial, diplomatic or military resources). The research sets out strategies to enhance public understanding of religious soft power, including broadcast and internet dissemination, publishing ventures, and research seminars and conferences open to the public.

Underpinning research

`Religious soft power' is conceptualised as the use of religious ideas, norms and values to spread and embed a particular understanding of the world. It often has both social and political impacts, influencing various outcomes, including: democratisation and democracy; conflict and conflict resolution; international development; and gender relations.

Professor Jeffrey Haynes has undertaken research at London Metropolitan University (LMU) into the political impact of religious soft power since the mid-1990s. Recognition of the impact of his national and international research achievements was marked in February 2008 by the creation, under his direction, of LMU's Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation (CSRCC).

Mentored by Professor Haynes, Dr Tamsin Bradley worked on the issue of religious soft power between 2005 and September 2011, when she left LMU. Bradley examined the role of religious soft power in the context of gender relations in India, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. During 2006-2010, Bradley was Component coordinator and research associate on the Department for International Development-funded `Religions and Development Research programme', located at the University of Birmingham, UK, led by Professor Carole Rakodi.

Haynes and Bradley have produced many relevant scholarly publications, regularly attend national and international conferences, frequently accept invitations to speak at events at home and abroad, and contribute to blogs, videocasts and podcasts. Overall, Haynes research outputs have received around 1,300 citations since the mid-1990s, with over 650 since 2008 (

Haynes' and Bradley's research into religious soft power aims to further scholarly, policy-related and public understanding of religious soft power, especially its political and social impact. Haynes and Bradley's research addresses issues which extend beyond scholarly concerns, to include vital policy and popular topics. These include highly controversial issues such as the consequences of the West's intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq and, in May 2013, the murder of a British soldier in Woolwich, south-east London, allegedly by UK-based Islamist militants. Such concerns focus on a wider issue: `Why does religion influence politics and society and what happens when it does?' What is the role of religious soft power in facilitating the social and political influence of religion in societies and cultures around the world?

Haynes' research on `religious soft power' has been translated into at least seven languages (Farsi, German, Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish). Overall, since the mid-1990s, Haynes' numerous appearances at public events, and contributions to blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts, adding to a plethora of relevant research publications on religious soft power — including 20 books, nearly 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, more than 60 book chapters, and two specially-commissioned working papers — have served significantly to disseminate and explain the concept, theory and practice of `religious soft power' both nationally and internationally. The impact of Haynes' research outputs and public appearances is further evidenced by the fact that between 2009 and 2013, Haynes was external examiner for 10 PhD theses (six from the UK, two from Malaysia, and two from Australia). All these theses were concerned with some aspect of `religious soft power' including in relation to al-Qaeda's `religious terrorism' and World Bank policy, and interactions between religion and politics in Bosnia Herzegovina, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Somalia and the United States.

Key researchers:

(i) Professor Jeffrey Haynes: research carried out mid-1990s to present. Senior Lecturer, London Guildhall University (LGU), 1990-1997; Reader, LGU, 1997-2000; Professor of Politics, LGU/LMU, 2000-date; Director, Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation, 2008-date.

(ii) Dr. Tamsin Bradley: research carried out 2005-2011; Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, LMU; Senior Lecturer in International Development Studies, University of Portsmouth, 2011-date

References to the research

Haynes, Jeffrey, Religion and Politics in Africa, London: Zed, 1996 (monograph) (120 citations in Google Scholar at 4 October 2013)

Haynes, Jeffrey, Religion in Global Politics, Longman: London, 1998 (monograph). (179 citations in Google Scholar at 4 October 2013)

Haynes, Jeffrey, Religion and Development: Conflict or Cooperation?, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 (monograph) (62 citations in Google Scholar at 4 October 2013)

Haynes, Jeffrey, Religious Transnational Actors and Soft Power, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-4094-2508-3 (hb) ISBN: 978-1-4094-2509-0 (e-book)

Bradley, Tamsin, `Does Compassion Bring Results? A critical Perspective on Faith and Development', Culture and Religion, 6, 3, July 2005, pp. 337-351 (19 citations in Google Scholar at 4 October 2013)


Bradley, Tamsin, `A call for clarification and critical analysis of the work of faith-based development organizations (FBDO)', Progress in Development Studies, April 2009, vol. 9 no. 2, pp. 101-114. (19 citations in Google Scholar at 4 October 2013)


Details of the impact

Haynes and Bradley have exploited their research on religious soft power to enhance the wider public understanding of the impact of religion in politics and international relations. Their research findings have been disseminated through various means including: broadcast and internet dissemination, publishing ventures, and research seminars and conferences open to the public.

CSRCC organised international conferences in June 2011, June 2012 and January 2014. Their collective aim was to examine the effects of religious involvement in politics and international relations, with emphasis on religious soft power. CSRCC also organises regular research seminars and workshops, open to LMU and external academics, policy-makers, NGO activists and members of the public. Research findings are disseminated via: broadcast media, web-based media, blogs, scholarly publications and public events.

Haynes also disseminates his research findings via specially commissioned publications. For example, at the behest of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva, in 1995 he wrote a 17,500 word Discussion Paper, `Religion, Fundamentalism and Identity. A Global Perspective'. In 2013, Haynes wrote a 17,500 word Working Paper, `Religious Actors at the United Nations', published by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence.

Haynes's research also has public impact via his role as sole consultant for a major ITV series, `Faultlines', broadcast in 2003, featuring the former Beirut hostage, John McCarthy. `Faultlines', a series of six programmes broadcast on primetime terrestrial television in the UK, examined the complex relationship between religion, human development, politics, and international relations in relation to six countries: USA, Brazil, Russia, India, Iran, and Israel. The series was released worldwide on DVD in 2006. (`Faultlines' review at:

In August 2013 Haynes was approached by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to produce a series of three 20-minute videos for use in a new on-line course aimed at `professionals' (`to help current and future leaders explore the place of religion in the modern globalised world')

National and international impact of Haynes's research on `religious soft power' is also evidenced by the numerous requests he receives — around a dozen each year — to speak at various public events, organised by universities, governments, think tanks, NGOs, and professional organisations. Such invitations provide in the following ways clear evidence of the impact of Haynes' research on religion, politics and international relations in general and religious soft power in particular. First, they emphasise that Haynes is an internationally significant figure on the basis of his research on religious soft power. Second, the variety of invitations that Haynes receives — from universities, governments, think tanks, NGOs, and professional organisations — collectively indicate the public impact of his research on religious soft power extends beyond universities to a variety of international, non-academic contexts, including: (1) a development association (2) a political science research body (3) a foundation, (4) an NGO, and (5) a think-tank.

(1) In November 2010, Haynes gave a keynote address at the International Research Department of the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research annual conference on the topic `Rethinking crises — addressing vulnerability'

(2) In January 2011, Haynes was invited by the European Consortium for Political Research to give the annual Capital Lecture in Rome. His topic was `Religion, Democracy and Civil Liberties: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Ramifications',

(3) In April 2011, Haynes gave the keynote address to the Temasek Foundation/Asian Journalism Forum, Singapore, on the topic: `Religion and Politics in Asia: Cooperation or Conflict'

(4) In November 2011, Haynes was invited by an NGO, the World Faiths Development Dialogue, to be a keynote speaker at an international conference (`Faith-Inspired Development Work. Lessons Learned and Next Steps'), held at The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA

(5) Haynes accepted an invitation to speak on religious soft power at an event (`Realities of Gulf Security and Transregional Concerns') organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI; `an independent think tank engaged in cutting edge defence and security research') and Derasat (`the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies'), in Bahrain, on 12-13 June, 2012. Haynes was also an invited speaker at another RUSI event, a closed-doors roundtable, `Britain and Soft Power', London, 21 November 2012.

Sources to corroborate the impact

The following individual users/beneficiaries at the following organisations may be contacted to verify the impact of Haynes' research on `religious soft power': (1) Researcher, Royal United Services Institute (London, UK) (2) Academic Director, Dialogue Society (London, UK) (3) Director, Centre of Religious Sciences, Bruno Kessler Foundation (Trento, Italy) (4) Assistant Editor, Insight Turkey (Ankara, Turkey) (5) Director, Uluslararasi Politika Akademisi (Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus)

In April 2012, Routledge announced that, over the next nine months, it was celebrating the work of some of the most popular authors in political science in a new `Super Author' collection. IHaynes was named Routledge `Super Author' for August 2012
( Of the dozen peer-reviewed articles and one monograph mentioned in the Routledge citation, all but is concerned with `religious soft power' in politics/international relations contexts. A peer-reviewed article by Haynes' (`Conflict, Conflict Resolution and Peace-building: The Role of Religion in Mozambique, Nigeria and Cambodia', Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 47, 1, February 2009, pp. 52-75) was the second most read article in the journal's history, with over 1,000, mainly paid-for, views by the end of 2013.

A selection of Haynes' recent podcasts, videocasts, YouTube films and blogs include the following public lectures in Canada, Italy, USA, and the UK: (1) `Religion and Global Politics', McGill University, Canada, October 2010 (287 views at 4 October 2013) (2) `Religion, Democracy and Civil Liberties', Rome, Italy, January 2011 (368 views at 4 October 2013) (3) `Defining Concepts: Religion and Secularization', University of California, Santa Barbara, January 2012 (no counter); (4) `Religion, Spirituality and Global Governance', Oxford, UK, May 2012 (no counter) and (5) `The Role of Religion in Democratic Transformations', Provo, Utah, USA, October 2012 (no counter). Haynes has also contributed to a popular blog, based in Hong Kong: `Twenty years after Huntington's `clash of civilisations', e-International Relations (`the world's leading website for students of international politics'), February10, 2013. Available at at `The Glocal', `Hong Kong's No. 1 network': (the latter received 640 views within a week of posting, and 917 views at 4 October 2013)