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Explaining Interfaith Dialogue in the Muslim World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 June 2015

Turan Kayaoglu
University of Washington Tacoma
E-mail address:


In the last two decades, several Muslim states and civil society groups have embraced interfaith dialogue as a means of engagement with non-Muslims, especially with Christians. Why do these actors initiate interfaith dialogue? Why do they follow different interfaith dialogue strategies? This article argues that Islamic actors initiate interfaith dialogue to signal their moderate stance to powerful others who are concerned with Islamic radicalization and violence. These Islamic interfaith actors follow different strategies because of their interfaith theology (ideas about the legitimacy of religious others) and the nature of state-religion interaction (secular versus religious states) in their home countries. To support its argument, this article examines three Muslim interfaith initiatives: the Gülen Movement in Turkey and beyond (Sunni-Sufi, a civil society-led project), Jordan's A Common Word initiative (Sunni, a semi-governmental project), and Saudi Arabia's interfaith efforts (Sunni-Wahhabi, a state-led project).

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2015 

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The author would like to thank Katie Baird, Ramazan Kılınç, Kate Marshall, Arianna Shorey, Nükhet Sandal, Etga Uğur, co-editor of Politics and Religion, Paul A. Djupe, and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on various versions of the manuscript. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the annual meetings of the Society for Scientific Study of Religion (2013), the American Political Science Association (2014), and the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies (2015).


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