How Sunni Clerics in State and Religious Institutions within Arab Countries Engage with Counterterrorism Concepts
The global "war on terrorism" is commonly understood as a project that essentially originated in the Western security community and became part of the institutions and practices of the liberal world order. Less attention has been paid to the question of how "counter-terrorism" is dealt with in world regions that themselves often become the object of these measures, for example through intervention, prevention, or security cooperation. Mustafa Karahamad's dissertation project explores how Sunni clerics working in major Islamic universities or national religious institutions in Arab countries engage with counter-terrorism concepts.
The aforementioned religious institutions are closely intertwined with both religious groups and governments in many states in the MENA region. The ideological location of religious institutions in the Arab region is especially important after the so-called "Arab Spring" since the importance of religious institutions in society has grown: on the one hand, religious institutions have become more independent; on the other hand, these institutions are under triple pressure: first by society (clerics must secure their religious legitimacy in society), further by the state (clerical support helps legitimize the regime), and Islam itself (clerics must find an interpretation that is coherent with religion). Religious institutions play a central role, considering the impact of different interpretations of religious scriptures. Moreover, they are increasingly perceived by Western actors as cooperating partners in the development of counterterrorism strategies. Exploring their positions is therefore crucial to better understand: 1) their understanding of counterterrorism and how they relate this to Islamic principles; 2) how their discourses on counterterrorism relate to the counterterrorism policies of the respective state on the one hand, and 3) to Western/global counterterrorism norms on the other. Exploratory and comparative case studies of counter-terrorism discourses provide the empirical basis for addressing these questions. Globalization theories provide the theoretical framework for the analysis. This research is highly relevant not only in the academic context, but also in practice in the context of the structural "fight" against global terrorism and its critique.