TOI: Bringing in the Other Islamists

- comparing Arab Shia and Sunni Islamism(s) in a sectarianized Middle East

TOI: Bringing in the Other Islamists - comparing Arab Shia and Sunni Islamism(s) in a sectarianized Middle East. Research on Islamism has remained predominantly Sunni-centric. This project brings ‘the Other Islamists’ – Shia Islamists – into the debate on Islamism in the Arab Middle East. It will use a cross-disciplinary theoretical approach which takes religion seriously without essentialising it, to explore whether, and if so, how and why, Shia Islamism(s) differ from their Sunni counterparts. The project will focus on three research puzzles drawn from the Islamism and sectarianization debates: 1) to what extent are Islamist movements shaped by their context, to what extent by their religious identity/ideology/institutions; 2) to what extent and how does the importance of sect-coded identities for Islamist movements change over time and how has this affected/been affected by the process of sectarianization; 3) what role does sectarian othering play in intra-sect competition within the current sectarianized milieu. These questions are examined through three WPs made up of comparative and within-case-studies of key Islamist movements in Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Bahrain. The studies will be carried out by a team of internationally leading experts.

The TOI Project is funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark (5.383.987 DKK) and will be running from September 2019 till the summer 2024.


- TOI workshop (co-funded by the Danish Inst in Damascus) on "Shia and Sunni Transnationalism" with presentations from four research projects (Alterumma, Transjihad, SEPAD and TOI). Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, November 10 2022. 

- Raphaël Lefèvre receives the “2022 Best Book Award” from the American Political Science Association’s section for MENA Politics.

- TOI Double panel "Beyond Sunni-centrism: Shia and Sunni Islamism in the Middle East”, at the 12th Nordic Conference for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, September 2022.

- In-person TOI workshop (funded by the Carlsberg Foundation) on "What is so Shia about Shia Islamism" with presentations by Raphaël Lefèvre, Morten Valbjørn, Benedict Robin-D’Cruz, Courtney Freer, Fanar Haddad, Younes Saramifar, Toby Matthiesen, Jeroen Gunning. Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, July 26-27 2022.

- Members of TOI team (Fanar Haddad, Courtney Freer, Toby Matthiesen, Morten Valbjørn) have contributed to Marc Lynch, Jilllian Schwedler & Sean Yom (eds.) The Political Science of the Middle East - Theory and Research Since the Arab Uprisings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- First in-person TOI panel on comparing Shia and Sunni Islamists at the annual BRISMES conference with presentations by Benedict Robin-D’Cruz, Raphaël Lefèvre, and Morten Valbjørn. University of St. Andrews, July 4-6 2022.

- First in-person TOI workshop (in cooperation with POMEPS) on Islamists in Warscapes with presentations by Jeroen Gunning, Mohammed Hafez, Michael Gabbay, Raphael Lefevre, Marc Lynch, Inna Rudolf, Younes Saramafir, Jérome Drevon, Morten Valbjørn. Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, June 29-30 2022.

- Benedict Robin-D’Cruz and Fanar Haddad have presented papes at  the workshop "New Perspectives on Security in Iraq”, Royal Danish Defence College, Copenhagen, June 5-6 2022.

- New publication by Robin-D’Cruz (with Renad Mansour)  Iraq’s populist leader quit parliament. What happens now? Washington Post – The Monkey Cage, June 22, 2022.

- New publication by Courtney Freer on "Kedourie, nationalism, Islamism, and the umma" in Middle Eastern Studies, vol 58, 3.

- Morten Valbjørn presents paper on transnational dynamics of Shia Islamist armed groups at Transjihad workshop “Jihadism: a particular form of conflict, governance and theology?”, Danish Inst. for International Studies (DIIS), Copenhagen, May 23-24, 2022

- Raphaël Lefèvre has talked about 'Jihad in the City' in his "2022 Paul Wilkinson Memorial Lecture" at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St Andrews, United Kingdom. March 3 2022.

- New article by Jeroen Gunning and  Dima Smaira on "Who you gonna call? Theorising everyday security practices in urban spaces with multiple security actors – The case of Beirut's Southern Suburbs". in Political Geography.

- Morten Valbjørn and Jeroen Gunning have received a grant (DKK 100.000) from the Danish Institute in Damascus for an innovative research pilot project exploring ‘everyday Islamistness’ among Shia and Sunni Muslims in Greater Beirut to be carried out in cooperation with Dima Smaira.