Previous Session: The Politics of the Sect – Friday, 19 August

Part II of Islam Sessions: The Politics of the Sect 

In our second roundtable focusing on Islam we return to the question of sectarian politics. Building on our first more theoretical session, we inquire about the sectarian dynamics within key international conflicts. In Iraq , for example, the conflict is seen by many as a function of Shia-Sunni intractability reinforced by Iranian interference and tribal competition, or classic power political competition superficially justified and fuelled by sectarian identity. The sect, then, becomes alternatively a primordial source of conflict or an epiphenomenon of politics. It is in relation to the so-called Islamic State, and their Shia enemies in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, that this debate has taken on a special virulence. Should we consider the Islamic State outside of Islam, a heterodox sect within Islam, or a representative of something essential to Islam itself? What about the Shia? What about the Alawites and the Yazidis?

To begin unravelling this issue, we propose to approach the sect from two angles. We ask firstly, what is a sect? Secondly, we ask what role has sectarianism played in the current Iraq and Syria conflict? Do prospects for peace rely on a transcendence of sect, or a Lebanon-style compromise?

Suggested readings:

Suggested viewing:

Joining us for the discussion is Dr Raihan Ismail. She is the author of Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam (2016), and holds a Masters in International Relations from the International Islamic University of Malaysia and a PhD from ANU. Dr Ismail’s research interests include: Sectarianism in the Gulf region, Political Islam with a strong focus on Egypt and South East Asia, and studies of religious institutions in the Middle East. She has also published in the Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies, has written for The Canberra Times and openDemocracy, and has presented at a number of international conferences, including the British Middle East Society’s annual conference in Dublin 2013.

Session will be held on Friday, 19 August in the Centre for Arab Islamic Studies Tutorial Room at 11am.

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