Civil Democratic Islam: Prospects, Comparisons, and Policies for a Changing Muslim World

Making up more than one billion of the earth’s people, Muslim societies today are in the throes of a great social and political transformation. Competition between rival visions of Islam is likely to remain a key feature of Muslim politics around the world for years to come. Global policymakers have come to recognize that few issues on the global horizon rival this one in the scale of its impact on the possibilities for peace and problems of conflict in international relations. Equally serious, transnational movements and growing immigration from Muslim lands to Europe and the United States guarantee that that intra-Islamic debates and cleavages will have a deep impact on range of societies and interests, both within and outside the Muslim world. Indeed, recent events have tragically underscored the fact that competition between rival visions of Islam is both a key feature of Muslim politics and a crucial security concern with transnational origins and implications. Understanding the prospects for democracy and pluralist freedom in the Muslim world, then, is a scholarly and policy issue of global relevance.

Beginning in 2003, CURA undertook a multi-year project on Civil Democratic Islam: Prospects, Comparisons, and Policies for a Changing Muslim World. The main purpose of the project was to carry out comparative research to determine the policies and circumstances that can best promote the consolidation of a civil and democratic Islam. In particular, the project sought to identify the ways in which international policymakers, media actors, and public can best understand and contribute to the prospects for democracy and pluralist freedom in the Muslim world. In short, by assessing the Muslim world from the vantage point of democracy and pluralism, the project provided policy analysts and Muslim democrats alike with the insights required to support democratization in a concrete, targeted, and effective manner.

The project will communicate the results of this research to policy makers and the general public. Through research, conferences, and targeted publications, the project provided, first, comparative data for policy makers interested in the prospects for a democratic Islam, and, second, two state-of-the field books (one edited and more specialized, the other single-authored and aimed at a broader audience) to provide policy makers and the public with a sense of the diversity and challenges of the modern Muslim world. The principal investigator and director of the project is Professor Robert W. Hefner, who will also edited the collected volume publication noted above.

Publication resulting from this project:

Shari’a Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World