Islam as Statecraft: How Governments Use Religion in Foreign Policy

Islam as Statecraft: How Governments Use Religion in Foreign Policy Video Player

Showing the Islam as statecraft: How governments use religion in foreign policy Video

January 8, 2019
9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Location: Brookings Institution

In nearly every major Muslim-majority country, Islam is an important—and sometimes the only ideological currency that mixes effectively with realpolitik. The discussion of Islam in world politics in recent years has tended to focus on how religion is used by a wide range of social movements, political parties, and militant groups. However, less attention has been paid to the question of how governments—particularly those in the Middle East—have incorporated Islam into their broader foreign policy conduct. Whether it is state support for transnational religious outreach, the promotion of religious interpretations that ensure regime survival, or competing visions of global religious leadership, they all embody what has been termed the “geopolitics of religious soft power.”

On January 8, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution launched a report entitled “Islam as Statecraft: How Governments Use Religion in Foreign Policy.” Authors Shadi Hamid and Peter Mandaville assessed how various governments incorporate religion and outreach into their broader foreign policy, from the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, to how the governments of prominent Muslim-majority countries have positioned themselves as the purveyors of a “moderate Islam.” Following a discussion with Geneive Abdo and Indira Lakshmanan, the panelists took questions from the audience. Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, introduced the event.

This event was sponsored by the Brookings Institution as part of a joint Brookings Institution-Berkley Center multiyear project that will explore the global impact of transnational religious propagation activities sponsored by several countries in the Middle East, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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Related Publication

Report November 14, 2018

Islam as Statecraft: How Governments Use Religion in Foreign Policy

In the inaugural publication in a Berkley Center-Brookings collaboration, Peter Mandaville and Shadi Hamid explore the religious dimensions of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, looking at how government Islamic outreach strategies have evolved in response to changing regional and global environments.