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This article is an inquiry into understanding why supranational religious identity often fails to act as a conflict resolution tool in religiously homogenous ethnic conflicts. Narrowing its focus down to the role of religious elites as potential peacemakers in such conflict zones, it proposes the divergence in their conceptualizations of religious and ethnic identities as an explanatory factor. Building on 62 in-depth interviews conducted in Turkey with Sunni Muslim Kurdish and Turkish religious elites, it identifies a three-fold typology of religious and ethnic identities, as conceptualized by these elites: 1) religio-ethnic; 2) ethno-religious; 3) religious. After exemplifying each category with interview data it demonstrates the role these distinctions play in preventing the successful implementation of “Muslim fraternity” as a solution to the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. With these findings, the article contributes to both the literature on religion in conflict resolution and that on identity formation and boundary making. While it invites the former to turn its gaze from macro-level structural factors to meso- and micro-level cultural factors in analyzing religious elite involvement in conflict resolution, it invites the latter to stop employing “ethnicity” as an all-encompassing term (that covers a vast array of identity markers including religion) and focus, instead, on the gradations between religion and ethnicity as sources of identity.
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