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The Battle for the Soul of Islam

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, July 2021

The battle for the soul of Islam is about much more than countering political violence and suppressing political Islam. It is a long-drawn-out, decades-long battle for religious soft power in which multiple Middle Eastern and Asian states compete for recognition as leader of the Muslim world and to be drivers of a largely undefined “moderate,” tolerant, and pluralistic interpretation of an Islam that at a minimum engages in interfaith dialogue. The rivals employ religion to garner favor, empathy, and goodwill in the corridors of power in the United States and Europe as well as among influential Jewish and Christian communities. At the same time, the battle for the soul of Islam is also a struggle to redefine what Islam represents in a 21st-century world.

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