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Ed Husain

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

Expertise

Islamist ideologies; Islamist political movements in the greater Middle East; civil society counterradicalization strategies; government counterterrorism policies; Salafism; Sufism; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

Programs

Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative , Middle East Program

Bio

Ed Husain is an adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he focuses on trends within Arab Islamism, perceptions of the West in the Arab world, and U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

Formerly an activist of Jamat-e-Islami, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and Muslim Brotherhood front organizations in the United Kingdom, Husain has now become a strong critic of extremism and Islamism. He writes and speaks extensively on international threats from radicalization and terrorism. He has lived in Syria and Saudi Arabia, and speaks Arabic.

Husain is the author of The Islamist (Penguin, 2007), which was a finalist for the George Orwell prize for political writing. His next book is The Sufis and Me (forthcoming). He has appeared on CNN, Fox, NPR, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and has been published in the New York Times, Financial Times, Guardian, National Review, and Jewish Chronicle, among other media outlets.

Husain holds an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Countering Violent Extremism

Islamist radicalism and violent extremism continue to threaten the United States, both at home and in the greater Middle East. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda, and their ideological affiliates do not operate in a vacuum; rather, they feed off of a combination of religious literalism and conspiracist politics. These ideas, developed over decades, include the beliefs that democracy is man-made, that only extremist understandings of God's law should be enforced, and that violent jihad is a Muslim obligation until "God's law" is manifest. Unless such ideas are challenged and discredited, extremist groups will continue to regenerate no matter how many terrorists are killed. On-the-ground Muslim groups that counter these false narratives do exist, and my work highlights how the United States and its Western allies can support and promote these initiatives. My policy innovation memorandum, "A Global Fund to Counter Violent Extremism," suggests such tactics as educating Muslim thought leaders in mosques and on university campuses through testimonies from former radicals about why Islamist hard-liners threaten Muslim communities and supporting the publication and dissemination of reading materials on normative Islam.

Islamist Politics and U.S. Foreign Policy

The debate within Muslim-majority societies over the role of Islam in government is long-standing, but more important today than ever before. Recent developments in the Middle East and beyond have many Muslims questioning the role of Islamist movements in their societies, whether in countries like Egypt, where Islamists have been pushed out of government, or in Turkey and Tunisia, where they still play an active role in government. Through op-eds and interviews, my work addresses these questions, and, moreover, how the United States should respond to the complex challenges Islamist politics pose in areas such as economic policy, women's and minority rights, and relations with Israel.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Ask CFR Experts

Why have many Muslim states struggled to achieve democracy?

Asked by Farah, from University of Karachi

If "democracy" is achieved when governments rule by consent through free and fair elections, then some of the world's largest Muslim nations are democratic: Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey. In the Arab world, experiments to achieve democratic governance are underway in Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunisia, and are beginning in earnest in Egypt. Arguably, Pakistan has just witnessed its first democratic transition of power.

Read full answer

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Democratization

Events

Roundtable Series on the Rise of Islamist Political Movements and U.S. Foreign Policy

Director: Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
July 1, 2012—Present

The debate within Muslim-majority societies over the role of Islam in government is long-standing, but more important today than ever before. Recent developments in the Middle East and beyond have many asking how Islamist movements will shape the future of the societies in which they exist, and how the United States should respond to the complex challenges they pose in such areas as economic policy, women's and minority rights, and relations with Israel. This roundtable series, made possible through the generous support of the Smith Richardson Foundation, explores these questions and more.

CFR Events

Roundtable Meeting ⁄ New York

The Rise of Islamist Radicalism: What to Do?

Speakers:

Charlotte Keenan, Chief Executive, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
December 2, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

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Media Conference Call

ISIS and Islamic Extremism

Speakers:

Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator:

Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor, CFR.org
August 27, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Breaking Out of Islamist Extremism

Speaker:

Maajid Nawaz, Chairman, Quilliam Foundation; Co-Founder, Khudi; and Author, Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 18, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God

Speaker:

Matthew Levitt, Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence; Senior Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and author, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 9, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

A Conversation With Rached Ghannouchi

Speaker:

Rashed Ghannouchi, Cofounder and President, Nahdha Party, Tunisia

Presiders:

Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director, Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, Council on Foreign Relations, Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
May 30, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Arab Uprisings: Trends and Prospects

Speaker:

Bernard Haykel, Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
February 8, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Islamists, Secularists, and the Future of Egypt

Speaker:

AbdulMawgoud Dardery, Member and Foreign Relations Committee Spokesperson, Freedom and Justice Party

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
February 7, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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National Program Meeting ⁄ Chicago

Chicago Meeting: The Role of Religion in Foreign Policy

Speakers:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Monica D. Toft, Professor, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
November 16, 2012 4:00-6:00 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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Media Conference Call

Attacks on Libya and Egypt

Speakers:

Isobel Coleman, Council on Foreign Relations, Ed Husain, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator:

Bernard Gwertzman, Council on Foreign Relations
September 12, 2012

This meeting is on the record.

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Media Conference Call

The Crisis in Syria

Speakers:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

Presider:

Toni Johnson, Deputy Editor
August 9, 2012

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Pakistan on the Brink: A Conversation with Ahmed Rashid

Speaker:

Ahmed Rashid, Correspondent, Far Eastern Economic Review

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
May 3, 2012

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium

Session Three: Islam and Politics

Speakers:

Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East, Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Willis, Director, Middle East Centre and H.M. King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

Presider:

Deborah Amos, Foreign Correspondent, National Public Radio
March 29, 2012 - March 30, 2012 9:00-9:30 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Roundtable Meeting

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Foreign Policy and Extremism

Speaker:

Ruth Turner, Chief Executive, Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
January 19, 2012

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Roundtable Meeting

The Al-Qaeda Factor: Assessing Al-Qaeda's Role in Attacks on the U.S. Homeland

Speaker:

Mitchell Silber, Director, Intelligence Analysis, New York Police Department

Presider:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
December 13, 2011

This meeting is on the record.

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Corporate Meeting

Egypt's Elections: A Report from Cairo

Speaker:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Toni Johnson, Senior Staff Writer, CFR.org
November 29, 2011 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Global Prospects for the Muslim Brotherhood

Speaker:

Lorenzo Vidino, RAND Corporation

Presider:

Ed Husain, Council on Foreign Relations
April 25, 2011

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Symposium

Panel Three: “Reaching Out” – Promoting Community Engagement

Speakers:

Ed Husain, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Suhail Khan, Former Adviser, George W. Bush Administration, Abdal Ullah, Councillor, Tower Hamlets; Former Member, London Metropolitan Police Authority

Presider:

Craig Whitlock, National Security Correspondent, Washington Post
April 1, 2011

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Video Interview

MSNBC: Putin Berates American "Exceptionalism"

Following Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times, Ed Husain and a panel of experts weigh the Russian president's arguments and discuss U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria.

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Video Interview

Fox News: Syrian Rebels Have No Coherent Strategy

With the threat of U.S. military action in Syria on hold, Ed Husain evaluates the strategy of the Syrian opposition and the consequences of a possible Assad victory for the Middle East.

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Video Interview

CNN: A Look at Syria's Weapons Plan

As Syria submits to agreements to surrender its chemical weapons, Ed Husain emphasizes the continued need for diplomacy in the Middle East.

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Video Interview

MSNBC: How Syria's History Plays into Current Crisis

While President Obama mulls military strikes on the Syrian government following alleged chemical attacks, Ed Husain and a panel of experts discuss the possible future of U.S. and European involvement in Syria.

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Video Interview

CNN: Sarin Gas in Syria -- Waiting for Proof

Ed Husain argues that the ongoing conflict in Syria is not a "war of necessity" for the United States and that military action risks stoking further anti-American sentiment.

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Video Interview

MSNBC "NOW": A Tipping Point in Syria?

As UN inspectors investigate the sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Damascus, and the pressure for international intervention against President Bashar al-Assad mounts, Ed Husain calls for moderation.

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Radio Interview

Is It Time for the U.S. to Intervene in Syria?

Presented with the possibility of U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict, Ed Husain argues that the United States has no moral or political responsibility to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power.

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Video Interview

CNN: Victory, or a Sad Day for Egypt?

Following the military coup that removed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi from power, Ed Husain predicts violence from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters and from more violent Salafi activists.

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Video Interview

Is It Crazy to Arm the Syrian Rebels?

Ed Husain discusses the ongoing crisis in Syria, the likelihood of regime change, and the costs and benefits of supporting the armed opposition.

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Radio Interview

NPR "Interfaith Voices": Egypt in Crisis

On the eve of the Egyptian constitutional referendum, Ed Husain discusses the motivations of various political parties and the implications of the vote for Egyptian democracy.

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Video Interview

Fox News "Happening Now": Ceasefire in Gaza?

Is there a renewed desire for a two-state solution among Israelis, Palestinians, and the wider Arab world? Ed Husain and Jonathan Schanzer discuss the prospects for long-term peace.

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Video Interview

Digital Age: The Ongoing Crisis in Syria

Though the impulse of the international community may be to advocate for regime change in Syria, Ed Husain sits down with Jim Zirin to discuss possible unintended consequences of the removal of Bashar al-Assad.

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Radio Interview

NPR: Conservative Wins Make Liberal Egyptians Wary

Following the first round of parliamentary elections in Egypt, Ed Husain discusses the surprising irruption of Salafi and Islamist parties onto the political scene and the nature of their goals in government.

Radio Interview

NPR: Saudi Women Can Vote but Still Not Drive

King Abdullah has promised Saudi women the right to vote, but what is the real significance of the declaration and what does it mean for women's rights in that country? Ed Husain puts the story in historical and political perspective.

Video Interview

CNN: Can the Syrian Regime Survive?

Will Bashar al-Assad in Syria share the same fate as Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya? Ed Husain argues why Assad will survive the Arab Spring.

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