The Islamic Reformulations Research Agenda

Two fundamental research areas within the Global Uncertainties Programme will be investigated:

  1. How might ideologies and beliefs contribute to "global uncertainty", and what response is appropriate if they do?
  2. As some modern Muslim intellectual trends are viewed as creating "global uncertainty" through legitimising global terrorism and violence, what are the potential future directions for legitimate violence in Islamic thought?

The prime focus of these discussions in recent years has been the ideology of radical Muslim groups - though the wider methodological questions are not limited to Islam. The role of ideology as an explanatory factor in motivating action which causes "uncertainty" has come under renewed scrutiny, partly because of government initiatives in the post-9/11 environment. The PREVENT agenda, now forming the ideological element of the wider counter-terrorism policy (CONTEST) is built upon the assumption that 2extremist" ideology has a direct causative effect on action, and therefore has initiated a government sponsored battle of ideas, with the aim of promoting "moderate" ideological formations, and delegitimising those viewed as "extremist". Similarly the deradicalisation strategy of various European states, in which former "extremists" are subjected to a form of counter-indoctrination places ideology as a central element in any analysis of the "threa" to global security.

In the Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellowship, we aim to take a step back from these initiatives, in order to convene interdisciplinary exchange on the question of the role of ideas a motivating factors (not only in justifying violence in itself, but the form that action might take), and the policy orientated question of whether, and how, ideas might become the subject of state control.

There are numerous other avenues for understand what does and what does not constitute legitimate violence for Muslims (both intellectuals and others who "create ideas”) through history. This leads directly into a consideration of where Islamic thought might go following the recent developments in the Muslim world, and within the “Muslim diaspora". The current context may be peculiar, but its elements are not unprecedented. The (so-called) Arab Spring has indeed created new possibilities for Islamism generally, and Islamic ideology specifically. The governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which self-identify as "Islamic", are experiencing challenges; in each case the debated use of force forms a central element of the challenge. These developments are best understood in the context of previous Muslim notions of violence and its legitimacy, belief and its proper expression and the operation of good governance; by examining them against this background, the current intellectual landscape of the Muslim world, and its potential ideological trajectories, can be better understood. In this way, the manner in which Islamic ideologies may (or may not) form a source of "Global Uncertainty" can be explored, and possibly, predicted. 

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