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In countries stretching from the UK through the Middle East to Indonesia, the central themes in extremist Muslim discourse are shifting from Salafi Jihadism aimed at building a global Caliphate, toward issues of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and sectarianism directed against Shia, other Islamic minorities, and non-Muslims. This reconfiguration is potentially more destabilizing than Salafi Jihadism because it draws on potent symbols of Muslim identity, religious teachings, and symbols that resonate widely across social, cultural, theological, and political lines within and across nations. Combined, the two have contributed to the emergence of virulent forms of identity politics. Iraq and Syria demonstrate how intractable conflict can become when driven or justified by sectarian hatred. There are concerns that sectarianism will spread to other predominantly Muslim countries and to countries in which there are substantial immigrant populations.

Utilizing a combination of qualitative and computational methods, this project will explore the discursive dynamics of those that are promoting this agenda. Research will be conducted in five countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Turkey, and the UK that are large geopolitically and economically important Muslim majority countries and centers of important Muslim cultural traditions that are located outside major conflict zones. There is well-documented concern with sectarian and Shari’ah issues in all five countries. This research will yield new insight into important developments in Muslim discourse, including deeper understanding of the politics of Shari’ah and sectarianism, their sources, and the networks through which they are disseminated.

Project Director and Principal Investigator

Mark Woodward, Arizona State University