Why Reforming Islam to Fight Violent Radicalization is a Bad Idea

"Political participation in its “extreme” Middle Eastern context" webinar | Thursday, November 18th 2021
5:00 pm
6:30 pm

New session of the "Political participation in its “extreme” Middle Eastern context" webinar, organised by the FMSH and Ifpo for the PAVE project. Intervention by Georges Fahmi.


Following a resurgence of Islamist terrorism over the last decade, many political leaders have called for an ‘Islamic reformation’ as an approach to face this wave of religiously inspired violent radicalization. This is the case in both Muslim majority as well as Muslim minority countries. In France for example, President Emmanuel Macron has called last year for the reform of Islam in France. He wants to build an ‘Islam of Enlightenment’, a project which would include training for imams that combines knowledge about Islam with the values of the Enlightenment, as well as in-depth teaching of progressive Muslim thinkers such as Averroes and Ibn Khaldun from the 12th and 14th centuries. Macron’s project coincides with other calls for reform of the Islamic tradition in Muslim societies over the last few years such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, to what extent can this state call to ‘reform’ Islam, both in terms of rules governing the religious sphere, as well as deciding on/ reforming the religious discourse, prevent violent radicalization within Muslim communities? How is the state management of the religious arena impacting the phenomena of violent radicalization? And vice versa, does violent radicalization have implications for the state management of religion?

Georges Fahmi: Associate Fellow, the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House. Previously, Fahmi was a research fellow at the Middle East Directions Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, at the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy. His research focuses on religious actors in democratic transition in the Middle East, the interplay between state and religion in Egypt and Tunisia, and religious minorities in Egypt and Syria.

Published at 18 November 2021