The past few decades—since 9/11 in particular—have seen the increasing prominence of ‘moderate Islam’ in the public sphere. But who gets to define what this term means? How are these different definitions projected to wider Muslim, and non-Muslim, audiences? And what are the political implications of these varied versions of ‘moderate Islam,’ whether locally or internationally?

In this episode, we focus on three major players in the geopolitical competition to define ‘moderate Islam,’ namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia, while also bringing in Qatar, Turkey, and Iran. By paying special attention to Indonesia—and its huge civil society organization called Nahdlatul Ulama—we see how Asian Muslims are becoming increasingly important arbiters of Islam for the twenty-first century.  

Nile Green talks to James M. Dorsey, author of The Battle for the Soul of Islam: Defining the Muslim Faith in the 21st Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2024).

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By James M. Dorsey

is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.