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Muslim Politics and Governance of Islam: Interactions of Structure and Culture in Multi-religious Europe

This project addresses how Muslim political thought in Europe is affected by societal structures, and, conversely, how the development of societal structures in Europe is affected by Muslim politics and activism.

We pursue this goal by undertaking a historically oriented, multidisciplinary and comparative case study of three countries: France, England and Norway. In each of the countries we will study the development in two fields. On the one hand: Muslim political thinking on the elite level, concerning how religious elites envision the integration of Islam and Muslims into secular democracies. On the other: the development of national models for governance of Islam and Muslims. Additionally, we will study how European Muslim women experience their room for political participation today, at the crossroads of both culture and structure.
Interacting fields
Our goal is to understand the interaction between the two fields: How is Muslim political thought and activism affected by different modes of national governance? Are the regimes for governance of Islam in these countries influenced by Muslim political action or Muslim initiatives in the civil sphere?
Conflicts and dilemmas
Finally, the project will also address the normative and ethical issues at stake. How do different kinds of rights and normative considerations come into conflict with each other in the different models for governing Islam? How does Islamic political thought relate to broader conceptions of justice or fairness? Answers will be sought through legal analysis as well as discussions of ethical and human rights dilemmas, focusing particularly on dilemmas constituted by conflicts between various human rights, and also informed by consequential ethical approaches.

Work Package 1: Religio-Political Thought and the Governance of Islam

Jon Rogstad
Researcher, Fafo, and project leader
Olav Elgvin
Researcher, Fafo, and project coordinator
PhD student, University of Bergen
Ragna Lillevik
PhD student, Fafo

Work Package 2: Governance of Islam and Muslim Action

Sindre Bangstad
Affiliated researcher, faculty of theology, University of Oslo, and coordinator of WP2

Beret Bråten
Researcher, Fafo

Jonathan Laurence
Associate Professor of Political Science, Boston College
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center on the US and Europe, Brookings Institution

Marcel Maussen
Assistant professor in political science, University of Amsterdam

Cher Steinfeld
Researcher, University of Amsterdam

Work Package 3: State policies and Islamic politics: Ethical, juridical and normative dilemmas

Ingvill Thorson Plesner
Researcher, Norwegian centre for human rights, University of Oslo, and coordinator of WP3
Oddbjørn Leirvik
Professor, faculty of theology, University of Oslo

The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and is led by the research institute Fafo in Oslo.


  • Project manager:
  • Jon Rogstad

Project period

  • Start:
    September 2014
  • End:
    December 2019

Commissioned by