On this week’s podcast, Marc Lynch speaks with Michael Farquhar about the history of the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, where more than 11,000 young men have studied religion in Saudi Arabia.

“There were obviously suggestions and not always ill-founded suggestions that this had fed into the rise of a very morally conservative Salafi understanding of Islam in lots of context around the world, and that that in turn kind of fed into dynamics of sectarianism and intolerance and communal conflict, and perhaps even violence in some contexts,” said Farquhar.

“My feeling was that there was room for a lot more attention to some more theoretical questions. So, questions about what it really means in practice to kind of export a particular cultural framework like Wahhabism. To kind of pick it up and move it to another location, and what that really looks like in practice. And questions about how ideas — religious ideas — can perhaps transform as they cross borders, and can perhaps be put to new uses and new contexts.”

Michael Farquhar is a lecturer in Middle East politics at King’s College London. His new book is from Stanford University Press and called Circuits of Faith: Migration, Education and the Wahhabi Mission.

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Saudia Arabia’s global religious influence: A conversation with Michael Farquhar