Tag Archives: Islamist Groups

Chalcraft, “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East”

In March, Cambridge University Press released “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East,” by John Chalcraft (London School of Economics). The publisher’s description follows:

The waves of protest ignited by the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi in Tunisia in late 2010 highlighted for an international audience the importance of contentious 9781107007505politics in the Middle East and North Africa. John Chalcraft’s ground-breaking account of popular protest emphasizes the revolutionary modern history of the entire region. Challenging top-down views of Middle Eastern politics, he looks at how commoners, subjects and citizens have long mobilised in defiance of authorities. Chalcraft takes examples from a wide variety of protest movements from Morocco to Iran. He forges a new narrative of change over time, creating a truly comparative framework rooted in the dynamics of hegemonic contestation. Beginning with movements under the Ottomans, which challenged corruption and oppression under the banners of religion, justice, rights and custom, this book goes on to discuss the impact of constitutional movements, armed struggles, nationalism and independence, revolution and Islamism. A work of unprecedented range and depth, this volume will be welcomed by undergraduates and graduates studying protest in the region and beyond.

  • Surveys protest movements from Morocco to Iran, from the eighteenth century to the present
  • Based on an original conceptual framework that challenges both socioeconomic determinism and power-lite theories of contentious politics
  • Challenges top-down views of politics in the modern Middle East, giving a narrative of overall transformation that includes popular politics

Bergen, “United States of Jihad”

This month, Penguin Random House released “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists,” by Peter Bergen.  The publisher’s description follows:

Christians, the State Department, and Genocide

syrian christians

Photo from The Guardian

At USA Today, columnist Kirsten Powers writes about the State Department’s apparent reluctance to refer to ISIS’s persecution of Iraqi and Syrian Christians as a genocide. The reluctance is puzzling. According to press reports, the Department is poised to declare a genocide ISIS’s persecution of another religious minority, the Yazidis. If Yazidis are the victims of genocide, she asks, why not Christians? The situation of these two persecuted minorities is quite similar.

Powers makes a very good point. The 1948 Genocide Convention defines “genocide” as, among other things, “deliberately inflicting on” a religious group “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Obviously, what ISIS is doing to the Yazidis qualifies. So does what ISIS is doing to Christians. ISIS is driving Christians from their homes, seizing their property, and, quite often, killing them in the most horrible ways. How does that not qualify as a genocide?

Apparently, the State Department is hesitating because, unlike Yazidis, Christians have a way out. As “People of the Book” under classical Islamic law — which ISIS has purported to restore in its newly declared caliphate — Christians can choose to abide by the terms of the Dhimma, the notional contract that governs the treatment of Christians, Jews, and some other minorities. As dhimmis, Christians may remain in the new caliphate as long as they follow the rules – paying the jizya tax, for example, and accepting social subordination. (I detail the dhimmi restrictions ISIS has imposed on the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria here).

As Powers point out, however, on many occasions, ISIS has disregarded the dhimmi rules. Moreover, even at their best, the rules are punishing. The jizya is often set at a level where many Christians cannot pay it. These Christians have no choice but to leave. More fundamentally, how is it acceptable to tell religious minorities that things are comparatively good for them because they can “choose” to accept oppressive and demeaning treatment and manage to survive? Quite obviously, ISIS’s goal is to eliminate these ancient Christian communities. And it is largely succeeding: those Christians who can do so are fleeing. Some experts believe that Christianity will disappear from Iraq and Syria – places where Christians have lived the religion began – within one or two generations.

Last Friday, a group of Christian leaders, human rights advocates, and scholars sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a meeting on this question, at which they hope to persuade him that Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis, should be included in any designation of a genocide. (Full disclosure: I am one of the signatories). Secretary Kerry has not yet responded.

Osman, “Islamism”

In February, the Yale University Press will release “Islamism: What it Means for the Middle East and the World,” by Tarek Osman.  The publisher’s description follows:

A political, social, and cultural battle is currently raging in the Middle East. On one side are the Islamists, those who believe Islam should be 9780300197723the region’s primary identity. In opposition are nationalists, secularists, royal families, military establishments, and others who view Islamism as a serious threat to national security, historical identity, and a cohesive society.

This provocative, vitally important work explores the development of the largest, most influential Islamic groups in the Middle East over the past century. Tarek Osman examines why political Islam managed to win successive elections and how Islamist groups in various nations have responded after ascending to power. He dissects the alliances that have formed among Islamist factions and against them, addressing the important issues of Islamism’s compatibility with modernity, with the region’s experiences in the twentieth century, and its impact on social contracts and minorities. He explains what Salafism means, its evolution, and connections to jihadist groups in the Middle East. Osman speculates on what the Islamists’ prospects for the future will mean for the region and the rest of the world.

Abdel-Samad, “Islamic Fascism”

In January, Prometheus Books will release “Islamic Fascism,” by Hamed Abdel-Samad.  The publisher’s description follows:

This polemic against Islamic extremism highlights the striking parallels between contemporary Islamism — as exemplified by ISIS, islamicfasicism_coverBoko Haram, al Qaeda, and others — and the twentieth-century fascism embodied by Hitler and Mussolini. Like those infamous European ideologies, Islamism today touts imperialist dreams of world domination, belief in its inherent superiority, contempt for the rest of humanity, and often a murderous agenda. Author Hamed Abdel-Samad, born and raised in Egypt, not only explains the historical connections between early twentieth-century fascist movements in Europe and extremist factions in Islam but also traces the fascist tendencies in mainstream Islam that have existed throughout its history.

Examining key individuals and episodes from centuries past, the book shows the influence of Islam’s earliest exploits on current politics in the Islamic world. The author’s incisive analysis exposes the fascist underpinnings of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Shia regime in Iran, ISIS, Salafi and Jihadist ideologies, and more.

Forcefully argued and well-researched, this book grew out of a lecture on Islamic fascism that the author gave in Cairo, which resulted in a call for his death by three prominent Egyptian clerics. This American edition contains two new chapters, one on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and one on the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Lauzière, “The Making of Salafism”

In December, the Columbia University Press will release “The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century,” by Henri Lauzière (Northwestern University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Some Islamic scholars hold that Salafism is an innovative and rationalist effort at Islamic reform that emerged in the late nineteenth century but disappeared in the mid twentieth. Others argue Salafism is an anti-innovative and antirationalist movement of Islamic purism that dates back to the medieval period yet persists today. Though they contradict each other, both narratives are considered authoritative, making it hard for outsiders to grasp the history of the ideology and its core beliefs.

Introducing a third, empirically based genealogy, The Making of Salafism understands the movement as a recent conception of Islam projected back onto the past, and it sees its purist evolution as a direct result of decolonization. Henri Lauzière builds his history on the transnational networks of Taqi al-Din al-Hilali (1894-1987), a Moroccan Salafi who, with his associates, oversaw Salafism’s modern development. Traveling from Rabat to Mecca, from Calcutta to Berlin, al-Hilali interacted with high-profile Salafi scholars and activists who eventually abandoned Islamic modernism in favor of a more purist approach to Islam. Today, Salafis claim a monopoly on religious truth and freely confront other Muslims on theological and legal issues. Lauzière’s pathbreaking history recognizes the social forces behind this purist turn, uncovering the popular origins of what has become a global phenomenon.

Bokhari, “Voices of Jihad: New Writings on Radical Islam”

In December, I.B.Tauris will release “Voices of Jihad: New Writings on Radical Islam” by Kamran Bokhari (Howard University). The publisher’s description follows:

The 21st century has seen an unprecedented radicalisation of Muslims across the world. In some cases, this has led to terror and violence. Yet as the West pours huge military resources into the ‘war on terror’, we still know very little about the ideology which drives the terrorists. Now, for the first time, Kamran Bokhari has made it possible to hear and to digest today’s militant Islam in its own words. He presents a range of ideologues from across the globe, including Bin Laden’s own deputy, Ayman Zawahari. Bokhari’s carefully contextualised selection introduces us to radical Islamist thinking on a range of issues such as their perception of Western concepts of democracy, their scepticism towards the Middle East peace process and how to deal with the West. For anyone who wants to understand the phenomenon of contemporary militant Islam, or who wants to know what motivates terrorist thinking, this book is essential reading.

Baker, “One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds”

This month,  Oxford University Press releases “One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance across Islamic Lands,” by Raymond William Baker (Trinity College).  The publisher’s description follows:

By all measures, the late twentieth century was a time of dramatic decline for the Islamic world, the Ummah, particularly its Arab heartland. Sober Muslim voices regularly describe their current state as the worst in the 1,400-year history of Islam. Yet, precisely at this time of unprecedented material vulnerability, Islam has emerged as a civilizational force strong enough to challenge the imposition of Western, particularly American, homogenizing power on Muslim peoples. This is the central paradox of Islam today: at a time of such unprecedented weakness in one sense, how has the Islamic Awakening, a broad and diverse movement of contemporary Islamic renewal, emerged as such a resilient and powerful transnational force and what implications does it have for the West? In One Islam, Many Muslims Worlds Raymond W. Baker addresses this question.

Two things are clear, Baker argues: Islam’s unexpected strength in recent decades does not originate from official political, economic, or religious institutions, nor can it be explained by focusing exclusively on the often-criminal assertions of violent, marginal groups. While extremists monopolize the international press and the scholarly journals, those who live and work in the Islamic world know that the vast majority of Muslims reject their reckless calls to violence and look elsewhere for guidance. Baker shows that extremists draw their energy and support not from contributions to the reinterpretation and revival of Islamic beliefs and practices, but from the hatreds engendered by misguided Western policies in Islamic lands. His persuasive analysis of the Islamic world identifies centrists as the revitalizing force of Islam, saying that they are responsible for constructing a modern, cohesive Islamic identity that is a force to be reckoned with.

Atwan, “Islamic State”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate,” by Abdel Bari Atwan (editor of the Rai al-Youm news website).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.

Based on extensive field research and exclusive interviews with IS insiders, Islamic State outlines the group’s leadership structure, as well as its strategies, tactics, and diverse methods of recruitment. Atwan traces the Salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al Qaeda and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. He also shows how the group’s rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the “dark web,” Hollywood blockbuster-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have reemerged in cyberspace.

As Islamic State continues to dominate the world’s media headlines with horrific acts of ruthless violence, Atwan considers the movement’s chances of survival and expansion and offers indispensable insights on potential government responses to contain the IS threat.

Cook, “Understanding Jihad”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Understanding Jihad,” by David Cook (Rice University). The publisher’s description follows:

First published in 2005, Understanding Jihad unravels the tangled historical, intellectual, and political meanings of jihad within the context of Islamic life. In this revised and expanded second edition, author David Cook has included new material in light of pivotal developments such as the extraordinary events of the Arab Spring, the death of Usama b. Ladin, and the rise of new Islamic factions such as ISIS.

Jihad is one of the most loaded and misunderstood terms in the news today. Contrary to popular understanding, the term does not mean “holy war.” Nor does it simply refer to an inner spiritual struggle. This judiciously balanced, accessibly written, and highly relevant book looks closely at a range of sources from sacred Islamic texts to modern interpretations, opening a critically important perspective on the role of Islam in the contemporary world.

David Cook cites from scriptural, legal, and newly translated texts to give readers insight into the often ambiguous information that is used to construct Islamic doctrine. He sheds light on legal developments relevant to fighting and warfare and places the internal, spiritual jihad within the larger context of Islamic religion. He describes some of the conflicts that occur in radical groups and shows how the more mainstream supporters of these groups have come to understand and justify violence. He has also included a special appendix of relevant documents including materials related to the September 11 attacks and published manifestos issued by Usama b. Ladin and Palestinian suicide-martyrs.