CEDAR part of Bridging Voices Dialogue

CEDAR is proud to partner with the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), George Washington University, and the University of Exeter in organizing a two-part conference on “Islam, Secularism and Security in Central Asia and Beyond,” as part of a British Council USA Bridging Voices dialogue. CEDAR Program Development Director David Montgomery is a principal investigator for the conference, which will take place in London in November 2014 and Washington, DC, in April 2015.

At a time when the world’s attention is focused on the impact of Islamic radicalization, this dialogue will consider the place of political Islam in Muslim-majority states that have undergone significant secularization. The conference will explore how thinking about religion and security raises the possibility that isolated pockets of radicalism and acts of violence are not simply outgrowths of the social environment and theological precepts of certain brands of Islam, but rather are relational: borne out of the confrontation between political Islamic groups and the assertive Islamic secularism they face from supposedly moderate governments and their international allies.

“It is exciting that CEDAR can bring its unique pedagogic perspective to such a prestigious gathering, and I hope that the discussions will particularly highlight our work on difference and advance our understanding of religion’s role in public life,” notes Montgomery.

The purpose of the dialogue is to begin a public debate about the implications of Islam and secularism for security relations in Central Asia and beyond. Provisionally, it will examine case studies from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The conference will specifically address the following questions: How do governments in Muslim-majority secular states draw the line between ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ Islam in both policy discourse and state practice? How do foreign states and international actors address the relationship between radical Islam and more secular iterations of Islam? How do civil society organizations negotiate the relations between political Islam and more privatized variants of Islam? How far is political Islam identified as a threat in popular discourse and practice? And how do the security responses of the state to perceived threats impact secularized Muslims?

The dialogues will be structured to optimize collaboration and discussion in both workshops and public sessions. Montgomery will co-lead the public event before an audience drawn from the policy and civil society communities of London and Washington. In London, this session will be used to launch Heathershaw and Montgomery’s Chatham House briefing paper (November 2014), “The Myth of Post-Soviet Muslim Radicalization in the Central Asian Republics.”

For more information about the conference contact montgomery@cedarnetwork.org.

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