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"Controlling Islam– colonial and postcolonial policies compared"

Organized by Chanfi Ahmed (ZMO)

Controlling Islam was a highly controversially issue from the early beginning of the modern territorial based state. Islamic movements were with its trans-territorial decentralized organizational structures seen at one hand as a potential danger to state sovereignty, and on the other hand as a possibility to reach political goals in and beyond the territorial borders. For controlling this potentially dangerous religion, the French Empire as a "Muslim Empire" developed strategies of manipulating the religious field, for example by incorporating chosen religious leaders into the patronage system of the colonial administration while exiling, imprisoning or simply excluding others. Even if the French Islamic policy was maybe more radical than the British, we can say, that the British Colonial administration followed comparable strategies. Using Islam as a vehicle for political propaganda was a pattern which existed on both sides of the colonial states: the rulers and the ruled. Independence struggles were often using Islamic arguments and Islamic symbolic for claiming their political rights. The postcolonial state was thus inheriting these patterns of politicized Islam. They saw themselves in a need of controlling, manipulating and using Islam for their own purposes.
This panel seeks to discuss in a comparative perspective how the colonial and the postcolonial state tried to control Islamic institutions and Islamic movements. The line of comparison could be a historical perspective. We are especially interested in studies about colonial or postcolonial Islamic policies with the prospect of finding points of continuity and rupture. This could be done by considering, for instance, how the two states have tried to control Islam in the following two areas, first, Islamic institutions like law, mosques or schools, etc. or second, Movements and Associations aiming to bring religious, social or political change.


Michael Provence (University of California, San Diego)
The Colonial Legacy of Sectarianism in Syria and Lebanon

Thomas Pierret (University of Edinburgh)
The Management of Islam in Post-Colonial Syria: From Institution Building to “Indirect Rule”

Hauke Feickert (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)
Western Interventions in Iraq. The British Iraq-Policy from 1914-1922 and the American Iraq-Policy from 2003-2009. A Comparison

Chanfi Ahmed
(Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient)
Controlling Islamic Teaching in Saudi Arabia. The Beginning of the wahhabiyya teaching in the Hijaz after the conquest of the region in (1924-26) by Ibn Sa´ûd