Building resilient inter-ethnic peace: Hindus and Muslims in South Asia

A key challenge that many nations face in the 21st century is to build societies that not only are able to peacefully accommodate increasing ethnic diversity but also to leverage its potential benefits. This is not a straightforward task. Ethnically diverse communities tend to provide fewer public goods to their citizens (e.g. Alesina et al. 2004, Alesina and La Ferrara 2005) and are less likely to voice common priorities (e.g. Ban et al. 2012). With ethnic identities often coordinating political competition as well, it is perhaps not surprising that violent conflict is more likely in ethnically polarised countries and regions (e.g. Montalvo and Reynal-Querol 2005, Esteban et al. 2012, Jha 2023 and Figure 1). With 82.1 million people around the world forcibly displaced due to persecution and conflict in 2020, and widespread economic migration, the challenge of building resilient inter-ethnic peace is one faced not only by societies that have been diverse historically but increasingly in nations and communities with less experience navigating a diverse setting.

What can economic theory, in combination with the historical experiences of these communities, tell us about the necessary conditions for resilient inter-ethnic peace, and how these can be fostered?

This book presents a synthesis of key recent advances in political-economy research on the various approaches and strategies used in the process of building nations throughout modern history. It features chapters written by leading scholars who describe the findings of their quantitative analyses of the risks and benefits of different nation-building policies. The book is comprised of 26 chapters organized into six sections, each focusing on a different aspect of nation-building. The first chapter presents a unified framework for assessing nation-building policies, highlights potential challenges that may arise, provides a summary of each of the other chapters, and draws out the main lessons from them. The following chapters delve into the importance of social interactions for national identification, the role of education, propaganda and leadership, external interventions and wars, and the effects of representation and redistribution. The book offers a nuanced understanding of effective nation-building policies.

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Chapter in Nation Building: Big Lessons from Successes and Failures, edited by Dominic Rohner and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Saumitra Jha
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CEPR Press
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In a talk hosted by the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy on October 31, 2022, Hicham Alaoui, founder and director of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation, discussed his latest book – Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).

During the event, co-sponsored by Stanford’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Center for African Studies, Alaoui presented a new theory for how democracy can materialize in the Middle East, and the broader Muslim world. He explained that one pathway to democratization lays not in resolving important, but often irreconcilable, debates about the role of religion in politics. Rather, it requires that Islamists and their secular opponents focus on the concerns of pragmatic survival—that is, compromise through pacting, rather than battling through difficult philosophical issues about faith.

You can purchase the book online, and watch a recording of the event below:

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To mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of CDDRL, the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy (ARD) at CDDRL hosted a talk featuring Hicham Alaoui, founder and director of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation, who discussed his latest book – Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).

Hicham Alaoui Pacted Democracy in the Middle East event

To mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of CDDRL, Hicham Alaoui joins ARD to discuss his recently released book, Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022). Click here to order a copy of the book.

Pacted Democracy in the Middle East provides a new theory for how democracy can materialize in the Middle East, and the broader Muslim world. It shows that one pathway to democratization lays not in resolving important, but often irreconcilable, debates about the role of religion in politics. Rather, it requires that Islamists and their secular opponents focus on the concerns of pragmatic survival—that is, compromise through pacting, rather than battling through difficult philosophical issues about faith. This is the only book-length treatment of this topic, and one that aims to redefine the boundaries of an urgent problem that continues to haunt struggles for democracy in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.


hicham alaoui
Hicham Alaoui is the founder and director of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation, which undertakes innovative social scientific research in the Middle East and North Africa. He is a scholar on the comparative politics of democratization and religion, with a focus on the MENA region.

In the past, he served as a visiting scholar and Consulting Professor at the Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University.  He more recently served as postdoctoral fellow and research associate at Harvard University. He was also Regents Lecturer at several campuses of the University of California system. Outside of academia, he has worked with the United Nations in various capacities, such as the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. He has also worked with the Carter Center in its overseas missions on conflict resolution and democracy advancement. He has served on the MENA Advisory Committee for Human Rights Watch and the Advisory Board of the Carnegie Middle East Center. He served on the board of the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University and has recently joined the Advisory Board of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

He holds an A.B. from Princeton University, M.A. from Stanford University, and D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. His latest book is Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave, 2022). His memoirs, Journal d'un Prince Banni, were published in 2014 by Éditions Grasset, and have since been translated into several languages. He is also co-author with Robert Springborg of The Political Economy of Arab Education (Lynne Rienner, 2021), and co-author with the same colleague on the forthcoming volume Security Assistance in the Middle East: Challenges and the Need for Change (Lynne Rienner, 2023). His academic research has been widely published in various French and English journals, magazines, and newspapers of record.

This event is co-sponsored by ARD, the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, and the Center for African Studies at Stanford University.​

ARD and Abbasi Program logos


Larry Diamond

Encina Commons Room 123
615 Crothers Way, Stanford, CA

Hicham Alaoui
CDDRL Postdoctoral Fellow, 2022-2023

Ahmed Ezzeldin Mohamed is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law (CDDRL). He holds a Ph.D. (with distinction) in Political Science from Columbia University. He was a research fellow at the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School in the academic year (2021-2022). He is a junior fellow of the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS).

Mohamed’s research focuses on the role of religion in political and economic development, with a special focus on the Middle East and the Muslim World. He utilizes a diverse set of tools for data collection and rigorous analysis. His work received several awards, including APSA 2022 Weber Best Conference Paper Award and MPSA 2019 Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for Best Paper in Comparative Politics. 


Feyaad Allie is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Stanford University focusing on comparative politics. Feyaad’s dissertation project examines the sustained exclusion of marginalized groups in multi-ethnic democracies with a focus on Muslims in India. In other ongoing research, he focuses on majority-minority relations, the intersection of technology and politics, and migration. To study these topics, Feyaad takes a mixed-methods approach, leveraging administrative data, original surveys, archival materials, in-depth interviews, and participant observation. Regionally, most of Feyaad’s work is focused on South Asia, primarily India.

Feyaad is a graduate fellow with Stanford’s Immigration Policy Lab and affiliated with the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. He is also a 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a Stanford EDGE Doctoral Fellow, and an APSA Minority Fellow. Prior to graduate school, Feyaad worked on an international development project in Nairobi, Kenya. He received his B.A. summa cum laude in Government from Dartmouth College.

CDDRL Predoctoral Fellow, 2022-2023
Rethinking Modern Sunni-Shii Relations: The State, Revolution, and Foreign Intervention

What explains the turn towards more politically relevant Sunni and Shii identities in the modern period? How do we account for a shift from Sunni-Shii cooperation against colonialism, for example, or in defense of the Ottoman Caliphate, towards polarisation? This lecture will look especially at the role of the modern state in regulating religion more broadly, coopting certain cultural groups and alienating others, and fostering sharpened sectarian identities. It will also look at the impact of the 1979 revolution in Iran, and reactions towards it, and of foreign intervention, especially the Iraq war of 2003 in sectarianizing the Middle Eastern regional system.

This event is sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies in partnership with the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at CDDRL.


Toby Matthieson
Toby Matthiesen is a scholar of Comparative Politics and International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. He is currently a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Stanford University and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, leading a project on Sunni-Shii Relations in the Middle East.

Toby's aim in research and teaching is to study the Middle East in a global context. His research is characterized by the use of primary sources, archives, fieldwork, and engagement with social science and historiographical debates. He is the author of Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t (Stanford University Press, 2013), a book on the impact of the Arab Spring on the Gulf States. His second book, The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2015) dealt with the relationship between the Shii community in the Eastern Province and the Saudi state, and with transnational movements and Iran. It is based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and the wider region, and hitherto unused Arabic archives.

His forthcoming book, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, is a global history of Sunni-Shii relations and is published by Oxford University Press. Toby's work has also been translated into Arabic and Persian and apart from English, he publishes in German. His other research interests relate to the history of Leftist movements and the use of Islam as anti-Communism during the Cold War.

Encina Commons 123 or online via Zoom

Toby Matthiesen
Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa

Khalid Mustafa Medani joins ARD to discuss his recently released book, Black Markets and Militants Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Understanding the political and socio-economic factors which give rise to youth recruitment into militant organizations is at the heart of grasping some of the most important issues that affect the contemporary Middle East and Africa. In this book, Medani explains why youth are attracted to militant organizations, examining the specific role economic globalization, in the form of outmigration and expatriate remittance inflows, plays in determining how and why militant activists emerge. The study challenges existing accounts that rely primarily on ideology to explain militant recruitment.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Medani offers an in-depth analysis of the impact of globalization, neoliberal reforms, and informal economic networks as a conduit for the rise and evolution of moderate and militant Islamist movements and as an avenue central to the often violent enterprise of state-building and state formation. In an original contribution to the study of Islamist and ethnic politics more broadly, he thereby shows the importance of understanding when and under what conditions religious rather than other forms of identity become politically salient in the context of changes in local conditions.


Khalid Medani
Dr. Khalid Mustafa Medani is currently associate professor of political science and Islamic Studies at McGill University, and he has also taught at Oberlin College and Stanford University. Dr. Medani received a B.A. in Development Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in Development Studies from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the political economy of Islamic and Ethnic Politics in Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Medani is the author of Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and he is presently completing another book manuscript on the causes and consequences of Sudan’s 2018 popular uprising and the prospects and obstacles for Democracy in that country. In addition, he has published extensively on civil conflict with a special focus on the armed conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. His work has appeared in Political Science and Politics (PS), the Journal of Democracy, the Journal of North African StudiesCurrent HistoryMiddle East ReportReview of African Political EconomyArab Studies Quarterly, and the UCLA Journal of Islamic Law.

Dr. Medani is a previous recipient of a Carnegie Scholar on Islam award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (2007-2009) and in 2020-2021 he received a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to conduct research on his current book manuscript on the democratic transition in Sudan.

This event is co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Center for African Studies at Stanford University.

Hesham Sallam

Online via Zoom

Khalid Mustafa Medani Associate Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies McGill University
CDDRL Postdoctoral Scholar, 2021-22

I am a political scientist (PhD degree expected in July 2021 from Harvard) working on political parties, social welfare policies and local governance, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. My dissertation project focuses on secular parties in the region and explores why they could not form a robust electoral alternative to the Islamist parties in the post-uprisings period. In other projects, I explore voters' responses to executive aggrandizement (focusing on Turkey), and social welfare in the context of ethnic and organizational diversity (focusing on Lebanon). Prior to PhD, I worked as an education policy analyst in Turkey, managing several research projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, World Bank and UNICEF. I hold a BA degree in Political Science from Boğaziçi, and Master's degrees from the LSE and Brown. 


This event is cosponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University and the Ten Years On Project, 



During the height of the mass uprisings against authoritarian rule, excitement about the prospects for a more just and representative political order across the Arab region was often tempered by questions concerning the role that Islamist parties would play in post-authoritarian transitions. Movements that maintained deep social roots but were often on the margins of state power were poised to implement an Islamist political project decades in the making. The outcomes of the subsequent transitions, particularly the legacy of destructive civil conflicts, foreign interventions, and authoritarian resurgence, have frequently obscured attempts to understand the impact of the Arab uprisings on Islamism. 

This talk examines these recent developments by placing them within a broader historical analysis that traces the evolution of Islamist thought and activism from its tentative embrace of the nation state to its wholehearted entry into national party politics. It argues that, by the eve of the uprisings, the posture of Islamist movements reflected a set of political commitments that had emerged largely at the expense of their ideological program and social mission. Rooted in the historical and recent acceptance of state institutions and political structures, expressions of Islamism by parties across the Arab region reflected a shift that subsumed long held beliefs beneath the needs of (alternately or in combination) democratic pluralism and political expediency, most clearly visible in the transformation of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party. That tension has been exacerbated in the wake of political defeats experienced by many of these movements, particularly Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. While the “Islamist idea” is likely to endure its current bout with state repression, its survival as a political force in the future will depend on its determination to complete this evolution, a process that was both accelerated and interrupted during the critical moments of the Arab uprisings.


Abdullah Al Arian

Abdullah Al-Arian is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar where he specializes in the modern Middle East and the study of Islamic social movements. He is the author of Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat's Egypt (Oxford University Press). His upcoming book compares the historical experiences of Islamist movements in six different Arab states and will be published by Cambridge University Press. He is also editor of the Critical Currents in Islam page on Jadaliyya ezine.


*Note: Event time listed above is PST.

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Abdullah Al-Arian Associate Professor of History Georgetown University in Qatar


This talk is based on the speakers’ recently published edited volume The Unfinished Arab Spring: Micro-Dynamics of Revolts between Change and Continuity. Adopting an original analytical approach in explaining various dynamics at work behind the Arab revolts and giving voice to local dynamics and legacies rather than concentrating on debates about paradigms, we highlight micro-perspectives of change and resistance as well as of contentious politics that are often marginalized and left unexplored in favor of macro-analyses. First, we re-examine the stories of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Algeria through diverse and novel perspectives, looking at factors that have not yet been sufficiently underlined but carry explanatory power for what has occurred. Second, rather than focusing on macro-comparative regional trends – however useful they might be – we focus on the particularities of each country, highlighting distinctive micro-dynamics of change and continuity. ​


Fatima el Issawi
Fatima el Issawi is a Reader in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Essex. Her research focuses on the intersection between media, politics and conflicts in transitional contexts to democracy in North Africa. She is the Principal Investigator for the research project “Media and Transitions to Democracy: Journalistic Practices in Communicating Conflicts- the Arab Spring” funded by the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme, looking at media’s impact on communicating political conflicts in post uprisings in North Africa. Since 2012, el Issawi has been leading empirical comparative research projects on the interplay between media and political change, funded by Open Society Foundation and the Middle East Centre/LSE, covering Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Algeria. El Issawi’s expertise crosses journalism, public communication, policy and academia. She has over fifteen years of experience as international correspondent in conflict zones in the MENA region. She is the author of “Arab National Media and Political Change” investigating the complex intersections between traditional journalists and politics in uncertain times of transitions to democracy.

Francesco Cavatorta
Francesco Cavatorta is full professor of political science and director of the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur l’Afrique et le Moyen Orient (CIRAM) at Laval University, Quebec, Canada. His research focuses on the dynamics of authoritarianism and democratization in the Middle East and North Africa. His current research projects deal with party politics and the role of political parties in the region. He has published numerous journal articles and books.

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Fatima el Issawi University of Essex
Francesco Cavatorta Laval University
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