Globalizing Official Islam?
The Center on Law and Security is pleased to announce the launch of its project: Globalizing Official Islam?, which will be led by the Center’s Spring 2013 Fellow, Dr. Ahmed al-Rahim. The project will explore a topic of critical importance to this country’s foreign policy, and to the American understanding of the proper relationship between government and religion—to what extent the United States must and/or should make determinations about the influence of Islamic religious doctrine in the foreign policy of Middle Eastern countries as it considers how to adjust its strategy towards the region in response to the “Arab Spring.”
The answer to this question depends, in turn, on an understanding of the role that political Islam is playing in shaping the foreign policy outlook and strategies of Middle Eastern countries in transition. While the parties in control of Egypt and Tunisia, and some Syrian opposition groups identify as Islamist, it is not clear how religious doctrine, as opposed to secular considerations, is responsible for their foreign policy choices. The project will therefore explore the influence of religion on the policy choices made by Islamist political actors in the Middle East, and how the United States should respond to their ascendance.
The way that the United States understands the changes taking place in the Middle East is significant because it prompts important questions about how the U.S. should make decisions about sensitive questions regarding the role of religion in foreign policy; questions that implicate the First Amendment to the Constitution. For this country’s Constitutional traditions, and its strategic interests, counsel in favor of caution before making sensitive determinations about the role of Islam in the foreign policy choices of Middle East states.
Generous support for this project has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.