In this webinar, Rahaf Aldoughli will talk about her recent research on how Islam has become a matter of intense national interest in recent years under the Asad regime in Syria.
The webinar will discuss how Sunni ulama have become the primary audience for Asad’s religious securitisation discourse—which recruited the ulama to combat popular political dissidence, while also holding them responsible for establishing public unity and stability. By drawing sharp boundaries between approved vs. unacceptable religion, the practices of faith were reconceptualised as an issue of national security and as an aspect of national identity. This securitisation of religion was deemed unnecessary or undesirable prior to the current Syrian war, but the crisis of legitimacy that the Ba‘athist state has undergone led the regime to adopt a new kind of relationship with Islam, marking a significant change from the clientelism and accommodation that had previously left religious institutions relatively independent of the state. Such investigation of state-religion relations prompts us to examine in more detail how the conscription of ulama as “security agents” in support of the regime has affected religious communities, and in particular how it has impacted sectarian schisms.
What are the long-term effects of Asad’s efforts to securitise religion? Will this trajectory lead to a greater empowerment of certain religious factions and a more intimate integration between religion and state power (as has been seen, for example, in Iran)? Or alternatively, will the outcome be a more constrained religious sphere in which the clergy become subordinated to state power?
Dr Rahaf Aldoughli is a Lecturer at Lancaster University, teaching courses on Politics and History of the “Middle East”. She was a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre and won a fellowship with WIIS (Women in International Security) in Washington DC. Aldoughli has also been granted the highly competitive and prestigious fellowship by Kroc Institute at Notre Dame University to do research on peace and justice in the Syrian context. Her areas of research expertise include identifying the ideological borrowings between European and Arab nationalism, the rise of the nation-state in the Middle East, the Syrian crisis, militarism and the construction of masculinity in the Arab world. Aldoughli has been working on two research projects in the last two years investigating state Islamism in Syria, the relationship between authoritarianism and religion, sectarianism and nationalism. She is currently working on a book entitled Constructing the Nation: Masculinism and Gender Bias in Syrian Nationalism, which looks at the idealisation of militarism in the Syrian culture and constitutions with particular focus on the origin of the Ba‘ath ideology in the thought of Syrian nationalists.
Dr. Rim Turkmani (@Rim_Turkmani) is the Principal Investigator of the Legitimacy and Citizenship in the Arab World project and the Research Director of the Syria Conflict Research Programme at LSE IDEAS.
The hashtag for this event is #Levant100.
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