Securitization of Religion as a Tool of Survival in the Syrian Conflict
In this webinar, Rahaf Aldoughli will talk about her recent research on how Islam has become a matter of intense national interest in recent years under the Assad regime in Syria. It discusses how Sunni ulama have become the primary audience for Assad’s religious securitization discourse—which recruited the ulama to combat popular political dissidence, while also holding them responsible for establishing public unity and stability. By drawing sharp boundaries between approved vs. unacceptable religion, the practices of faith were reconceptualized as an issue of national security and as an aspect of national identity. This securitization of religion was deemed unnecessary or undesirable prior to the current Syrian war, but the crisis of legitimacy that the Ba‘athist state has undergone led the regime to adopt a new kind of relationship with Islam, marking a significant change from the clientelism and accommodation that had previously left religious institutions relatively independent of the state. Such investigation of state-religion relations prompts us to examine in more detail how the conscription of ulama as “security agents” in support of the regime has affected religious communities, and in particular how it has impacted sectarian schisms. What are the long-term effects of Assad’s efforts to securitize religion? Will this trajectory lead to a greater empowerment of certain religious factions and a more intimate integration between religion and state power (as has been seen, for example, in Iran)? Or alternatively, will the outcome be a more constrained religious sphere in which the clergy become subordinated to state power?
Dr. Rahaf Aldoughli
Dr. Rim Turkmani