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January 25, 2017. In the last two decades, the role of religion in international affairs has become more prominent, and has attracted the academia’s and publics’ attention. However, many questions regarding how and why religion influences international relations remain unanswered. Is religion a motivation for action by state and non-state actors or merely a justification? Which actors are more influenced by religion? In what ways does religion influence international relations? In her latest book God on Our Side: Religion in International Affairs Dr. Shireen Hunter looks into these questions and tries to explain why and how religion affects international relations. By using three case studies-Russia’s Policy towards the Bosnia War, Turkey’s Policy towards the Bosnia War, and the European Union’s policy towards Turkey’s membership in the EU, Dr. Hunter demonstrated how, why, when and through what channels religion most influences international relations.

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October 1, 2015. Austria was the first Western European country to legally recognize Islam in 1912 and was for a long time known for its tolerant policies towards the Muslim community. After 9/11, the far right has discovered the topic of Islamophobia and used it strategically in election campaigns. When the 1912 Islam-law was renewed in 2015, the dominant Islamophobic discourse had made its imprint on public debates about the 2015 Islam-law. In this talk, Farid Hafez gave an overview over the most contested issues throughout the debate, the various stances of the parties in power and in opposition as well as the many possible implications of the law for the future of the Austrian Muslim community. 

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Over the past decade sectarianism has emerged as a major fault line in Middle east politics. Tensions between Shias and Sunnis have found new meaning in light of the Arab uprisings of the past year to define regional rivalries from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. The conflict in Syria, tensions in Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen, simmering violence in Iraq and the larger regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia all tell of the growing importance of the sectarian divide.

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This panel discussion, co-sponsored by the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association (EARLA), and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), explored the political and legal implications of Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections and forthcoming presidential elections. The discussion brought together experts who analyzed post-revolution legal reforms and election laws, specifically asked how these laws affected minority groups and parties, and offered recommendations for future reforms to help ensure free, fair, and accessible elections. Panelists also examined the results of the parliamentary elections: why did the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour party win such a large majority while the secular and liberal parties performed so poorly? Finally, panelists considered the elections’ impact on democracy in Egypt and relations with the United States, with special attention paid to U.S democracy-promotion efforts in the country.

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In the midst of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia alone seems to have escaped public protests over corruption, authoritarianism and the quest for more equitable sharing of benefits. This impression masks the realities of life and reform within the Kingdom. Dr. DeLong-Bas’s presentation explored some of the ways in which Saudi Arabia is working to address the challenges of the Arab Spring from a long-term perspective, offering analysis of areas of both stability and uncertainty for the future.

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Journalist and historian Paola Caridi discussed the Palestinian Islamist movement's political strategy from the participation in the 2006 elections up to the Second Arab Awakening. Caridi contributed to the founding of the press agency Lettera22 and has worked with several Italian dailies, weeklies, and reviews. Hamas: From Resistance To Government, her second book, was published in Italy in 2009 and in Palestine in March 2010.

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Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America. Before joining the Embassy, his most recent positions have included Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, Special Advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa and Premier (governor of the Western Cape Province). Ebrahim Rasool has a long history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle starting at High School and including leadership in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the African National Congress (ANC).

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