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DPE Tuesday Talk Series: Giorgi Areshidze, “How the West Thinks about Radical Islam.”

The Division of Politics & Economics invites the CGU community to attend this week’s Tuesday Lunch Talk featuring Giorgi Areshidze, Claremont McKenna College. Lunch will be provided.

Giorgi Areshidze is an Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Talk title: How the West Thinks about Radical Islam.

Talk Description:
Since the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, the democratic West has been engaged in “an inter-generational struggle” for the hearts and minds of peaceful Muslims to stem the tide of religious-inspired radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East. But underneath the Western commitment to defeating radical Islam and promoting democracy lies a troubling and profound uncertainty. Having inherited the Enlightenment’s relatively successful effort to secularize political life in the Christian world, the West remains uncertain about whether Islamist political violence is essentially religious in its motivations or whether it is a byproduct of Western colonialism, modernization, or other external factors.

Giorgi Areshidze

Some Westerners conclude that the problem is with Islam itself as a religion, and that the West (however defined) is engaged in a “clash of civilizations.” Others, most notably Barack Obama and Francis Fukuyama, argue that we are at a veritable “end of history” and that whatever temporary obstacles terrorism and fundamentalism may pose, the forces of democratic liberalism are poised to triumph in the Middle East. Finally, recent trends in political science and international relations theory have culminated in a philosophical attack on the foundations of Western universalism–including especially on the universal applicability of modern notions of religious freedom. Drawing on my recent book project, How the West Thinks about Radical Islam, I evaluate these perspectives and argue that they fail to confront the continuing relevance of the theological-political problem within the West. The Enlightenment’s failure to conclusively resolve this problem helps illuminate why the cultural and religious prerequisites of liberalism continue to be challenged not just in the Middle East but also in the West, not just among extremists and radicals, but even among moderate believers who want to preserve their faith in the modern secular world.

More information about the DPE Tuesday Talk Series can be found here.