Hanlie’s main research interest concerns the relationship between Islam and politics. Her PhD thesis explained the moderate platform of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB), against the inclusion-moderation hypothesis.
Currently, Hanlie is working on Qatar’s sponsorship of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the context of the Syrian uprising. Of interest is Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s different interpretations of Wahhabi Islam, and the influence thereof on the two countries’ respective foreign policies.
Hanlie is also exploring the challenge that researchers have to determine if Islamists are “essentially” democratic rather than autocratic. This project is of interest to scholarship on the secularization of political Islam, Islamic militants, and democratization in the Middle East.
Hanlie’s research interest in the Arab Middle East has been served well by her former career as a diplomat to Jordan (1993-1997), Chargé d'affaires to Palestine (2000 – 2004), and Deputy Head of Mission to Syria (2009 – 2012).