The discussion of Islam in world politics recently 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.
On January 8, the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted the launch of a report titled “Islam as Statecraft: How governments use religion in foreign policy,” authored by two senior fellows, Shadi Hamid and Peter Mandaville. Geneive Abdo—resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation and author of several books on Egypt, Iran, and the broader Middle East—joined Hamid and Mandaville on the panel. Executive editor at the Pulitzer Center and Boston Globe columnist Indira Lakshmanan moderated the discussion.
SAUDI ARABIA: HAVE THINGS REALLY CHANGED?
Following introductions by Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow and deputy director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, the event began with a discussion of Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabism. Mandaville pointed out that while the Saudi government plays an active role in disseminating its ideology abroad, there are also a number of smaller actors, such as Islamic charities, that have been involved in the same sort of activity.