The contemporary Muslim world is in motion, and the revival of ‘Islam’ as a political, socio-economic, and religious factor in this part of the world receives a great deal of attention. Within the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and particularly at a number of Dutch Embassies in the Muslim world a need has arisen for more knowledge of societal trends and movements in the Muslim world.
Investing in knowledge of the Muslim world is, considering the developments in relations between Muslim and non-Muslim countries and between Muslims and non-Muslims within countries, of great importance. The increased importance of religion and development in foreign policy further increases the need for this knowledge.The Islam Research Programme catered for this need by matching scholars and Embassies, whereby the former carried out academic research projects that answered questions relevant to policy formation at the diplomatic mission involved. The research projects were implemented by (Dutch) researchers or research institutions, in cooperation with local researchers and in consultation with the Dutch diplomatic missions concerned. Interaction between the diplomatic mission and the researcher were an integral part of the project. Participation of researchers from countries that were part of the Programme have contributed to capacity building in these countries.
The general aim of the Programme was to strengthen knowledge of and dialogue with the Muslim world. The Programme concentrated on research on contemporary developments in the Muslim world that were relevant to Dutch policy developments in the field of international cooperation. Subjects of research fell within the areas of Islamic law, political and socio-economic developments, and culture and religion. The research projects were planned in close consultation with Dutch policy officers at Embassies in various Muslim countries and were aimed at gaining, sharing and using knowledge of developments in the Muslim world. In this way, the Programme has contributed to further strengthening the quality of Dutch policy and to the linking of scientific research and policy-making.
Besides research activities ‘knowledge activities’ such as discussion meetings, seminars and working visits were organised. At a regional and international conference, diplomatic missions and researchers exchanged results: the conferences provided a platform for meaningful exchange between policy officers and scholars.