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Fall 2018 - MIIS
Dec 11, 2019
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NPTG 8511 - WKSH: From Islam to Islamism

From Islam to Islamism: Exploring the Link between Ancient Religions and Modern Extremisms

What drives Muslim violence? Is there a link between Islam as an ancient tradition and Islamic extremism as a modern political movement? How should we understand the relationship between the Islamic faith and Islamist violence? In this workshop, we will explore the linkages and disjunctures between Islamic traditions and modern extremist practices. We will delve deeply into such concepts as sharia (Islamic law), jihad (holy war), istishhad (martyrdom), and takfir (excommunication). All these ancient concepts are central to modern-day extremism, including their justification of Islamic theocracy, violent rebellion, suicide terrorism, and sectarian genocide. These historic concepts are complex and subject to multiple interpretations, resulting in intense debates about their applicability in the modern era. In this workshop, we will put ourselves in the shoes of classical Islamic jurists, contemporary extremists, and Muslim moderates seeking to debunk present-day radicalism. This dialectic of the ancient and the modern should help us shed light on when religion drives political violence, and when it takes a back seat to worldly causes of extremism.

By the end of this workshop, you should be able to:

1. Identify the major sources of Islamic law (sharia), and explain how classical Islamic jurists developed interpretive approaches to resolve textual controversies in the Quran and the Prophetic traditions (Sunna).

2. Explain the three manifestations of jihad in the Quran, and how early Islamic scholars resolved tensions between peaceful and violent conceptions of jihad.

3. Discuss the difference between martyrdom (istishhad) and suicide in Islam, and how the two concepts were merged into suicidal martyrdom by present-day extremists.

4. Articulate historical and contemporary controversies over takfir (excommunication), and how this concept facilitates Muslim-on-Muslim violence today, including sectarian genocide.

5. Participate in a Red Team (ISIS propagandist) to understand the mindset of ideological extremists and how they deploy ancient texts to motivate modern-day violence.

6. Participate in a Blue Team (State Department Strategic Communication Center) to formulate a counter-ideological campaign to win the war of ideas against violent extremists.


1.000 Credit hours
1.000 Lecture hours

Levels: MIIS Graduate
Schedule Types: Workshop

Intl Policy & Management Division
Nonproliferatn&Terrorsm Stdies Department


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