Politicizing Islam: Exploring Means and Objectives


The role of Islam in government continues to be a pressing issue in many Muslim societies, The Stimson Center reports.

Since the Arab Spring that began in 2010, the world has witnessed a volatile struggle in the Arab world in particular, as well as in other Muslim majority countries, to address popular demands for change.  Some countries have seen Islamist parties rise in prominence, but that rise has created powerful reactions by leaders and societies who favor a clear separation of religion from state authority. Even more destabilizing has been the emergence of Islamic extremism, from al-Qaeda to Daesh, with its cruel and violent imposition of what is claimed to be Islamic law and the reestablishment of the caliphate.

Religious scholars and experts on Islam and Muslim politics continue to explore competing concepts and theories about Islam as the foundation of government and authority, or even the sole source of legitimacy and authority in a society. Movements seeking to politicize Islam vary in their methods for bringing this objective about. There is the extremist violence being conducted by Daesh/Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and others. Organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated groups have taken a more gradual approach, trying to work within existing political structures towards their long-term goals of pure Islamic societies.

Movements that politicize Islam through the use of violence as their primary means are being challenged through military and security measures. More challenging is the politicization of religion through non-violent means where movements are not necessarily engaging in illegal activity, but are seeking to implement the forces of exclusion, intolerance, and discrimination as the basis of government. In both the Middle East and the wider world, it is imperative to examine not only the means used, but also the overall objectives of movements that politicize religion. When objectives are based on ideas of exclusion, intolerance, and discrimination it is necessary to examine these objectives in light of the political, social, and cultural contexts in which they operate in order to determine what responses are needed.

A forthcoming discussion will explore the difficult, and often delicate, debate about religion and politics.

Featuring: Opening Remarks: Ahmed Al Hamli, President and Founder, TRENDS


Geneive Abdo, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council

Mokhtar Awad, Research Fellow, Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, George Washington University.

Richard Burchill (Moderator), Director of Research & Engagement, TRENDS.

Hillel Fradkin, Director, Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, Hudson Institute

Radwan Masmoudi, President, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

Closing Remarks: Ellen Laipson, Distinguished Fellow and President Emeritus, Stimson Center.

WHERE: Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave., NW 8th Floor.

WHEN: Thursday, November 3, 2016, 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

LIVESTREAM: A link to the event will be available on this page prior to the start of the event.

Click here to RSVP for the event. FOLLOW@StimsonCenter on Twitter for event news and use #StimsonToday to join the conversation.

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