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Dynamics of Islamic Politics

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This conference is part of a larger, joint project undertaken between the National Intelligence Council and the University of Maryland. This project aims to build alliances between scholars and practitioners in the field of national security, broadly defined. The project has helped produce a dialogue between the academic and intelligence communities, and with the policy community more broadly defined, by providing a portal through which members of these different communities can exchange information and discuss pertinent issues.

This conference focused on the role of Islamic politics in the Middle East and in other Muslim countries around the globe. Presenters and participants discussed the development of Islam as a political force in the region, the numerous intersections of Islam with politics, economics and culture in the region, and ultimately the implications of these dynamics for U.S. national interests and national security.

The first panel focused on questions about the relationship between politics and economics in the region. Discussion centered on the economic and demographic drivers of political liberalization and economic growth. The second panel focused on the cultural drivers of political change in the region. Questions centered on the seeming rise in anti-American sentiment and the potential for a
future clash of civilizations. Dr. Francis Fukuyama gave the keynote address, which provided insights into the relationship between democratization and modernization, as well as the prospects for the spread of democracy in the Islamic world and the potential obstacles such political liberalization faces in the region. The third panel addressed the role of Islam, more broadly speaking, in the political processes and discussions in the region. The final panel
provided some summary remarks and addressed some of the geopolitical strategic implications of Islamic politics and their impact on U.S. national security and foreign policy. This paper provides a summary of the panel presentations, the issues discussed, the points of contention, and the varying opinions about the role of Islam and the prospects for political change in the Middle East.

John Steinbruner is the Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.