GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Sectarianism, Terrorism and Security Dilemmas in the Gulf
Paper Proposal Text :
Since the Middle East upheavals, sectarianism - which is typically characterized by high politicization of sectarian tensions and sectarian identities - has become a key means for Gulf states to formulate their domestic policy and foreign policy in order to stabilize regime and fight for regional dominance, but meanwhile sectarianism has proved to be a strong political instrument utilized by terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia and Iran have been deeply involved in Bahraini uprisings, Syrian crisis, Yemeni conflicts, the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and other regional hot issues to build their sectarian discourses, transnational ideologies and identities, political connections as well as to foster and mobilize local support forces, sectarian tensions are inflamed then utilized by regional powers to expand their influences. The ‘Islamic State’ and other terrorist groups seized the opportunity of sectarian tensions to strengthen their extremist ideologies, in particular, takfir - the act of declaring someone to be a non-believer or an apostate - has been widely used to strengthen the religious legitimacy of extremist violence, which constitutes a special manifestation of impacts of sectarian tensions on regional politics. Through alteration and distortion by terrorist and extremist groups, sectarianism has been dissimilated into an extremist discourse which initiates religious fanaticism, incites religious hatred and encourages religious violence.
The Gulf region is now facing three main security dilemmas. First, sectarianism has become a key political logic for Gulf states in their strategic decision, regional international relations defining and regional order building, and has brought about many negative effects on local economic, energy and social security. Second, when sectarian animosities driven takfiri ideology became a prevailed mode of mobilization for regional terrorist groups which use a wide range of social media platforms to disseminate extremist ideologies by developing a sophisticated and well-targeted social media strategy, mainstream values in the Islamic world are being seriously challenged, it highlights the reality that terrorist groups are competing with the mainstream Islamic world for ordinary Muslims. Third, U.S. is changing its policy towards the Middle East, and maintains cautious restrained and negative in dealing with regional sectarian conflicts, with the decline of U.S. strategic interests and investments in the region, the Arab Gulf States has started to look for alternatives of U.S. role in shaping a new regional security order, and gradually reduce their dependence on U.S. in security affairs.