Selling God: Al-Azhar, UAE and transubstantiation of religious capital
The paper offers an original intervention on the circuits of religious capital and their relationship to systems/interlocutors of power. By examining al-Azhar – Egypt’s official religious establishment – as a site of global politics, it shifts our view from national to transnational terrain. Its rich empirical investigation of the UAE’s material, financial and political engagements with al-Azhar opens space for rethinking the entanglements between religious institutions, foreign policy goals, political leadership and financial circuits. We had several excellent submissions to this year’s paper prize, but Mohamed Mohamed’s paper stood out as conceptually innovative and empirically rigorous. We were amazed at the precision and depth of the paper and expect it to offer an important contribution to Middle East Studies, as it literally changes the way we think about domestic religious establishments and their global partners and influence.