The upsurge of political Islam and the prevailing antisecular sentiments throughout the Muslim world are a challenge to the West. Yet the response of sociopolitical Islam to Western politics and culture has been ineffective. What does it take for Islam as a political religion and civilization to be a viable alternative to Western capitalist democracy? Khalid Bin Sayeed, professor emeritus of political science and history at Queen's University, argues that Islam would benefit if there were a systematic effort by Muslim societies to reinterpret and reorganize their values, traditions and politico-economic structures. Sayeed's main contention is that "are constructed Islamic system can perhaps provide more energy for purposes of national and human development than it has so far as a rallying cry for opposing Western dominance" (p. 1). The task before the Muslims is to reformulate some Islamic principles and implement an Islamic ideology that is more sensitive to the complexities and exigencies of the modern world.
Central to Sayeed's thesis is the distinction between sociopolitical Islam, which entails a dynamic program and strategy, and traditional fundamentalism, which rigidly adheres to what are believed to be the original principles and rituals of Islam. Sayeed is lucidly clear about his distinction: "It is sociopolitical Islam in its broader programmatic and intellectual sense and not Islamic fundamentalism that provides the possibility for Muslims to launch a more effective response to Western dominance" (p. 3). The challenge that the Muslims face is to develop an understanding of the increasing complexity of the world and glean from the Islamic heritage those principles and values that can tackle the challenges presented by that complexity(pp. 33-49).
Through a political and historical analysis of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan--countries that represent the religious, ethnic and ideological diversity of the Muslim world-Sayeed advances the notion that Islamic modernization can reconstruct social and political systems in Muslim countries. Quoting Leonard Binder, Sayeed notes that the nature of Middle Eastern resistance to Western hegemony has been primarily religious, intellectual and cultural(p. 5). Further, sociopolitical Islam faces both a global and an Islamic crisis in that internal and external problems can no longer be separated(p. 9).
The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, led in part by the Shii clergy, was a response to the so-called Western ideological and cultural challenge. The shah's raid modernization and aggressive secularization had two goals: transforming Iran s agricultural economy into an industrialized one, and eliminating certain pillars of Islamic and Iranian traditionalism (p. 55). These policies generated a backlash from the Bazaaris, the intelligentsia and the clerics. Intellectuals like Ali Shariati argued that such a process of de-Islamization was more dangerous than the frontal assault of leaders such as Ataturk of Turkey or the two shahs of Iran (pp. 56-57). Quite understandably, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's success lay in mobilizing and maximizing some of the new forces, including the lower middle class and the urban working class that emerged as a result of the shah's policy of rapid industrialization (p. 59).
One of the most important conclusions that emerges from Sayeed's analysis is his challenge to the conventional theory of modernization advanced by political scientists such as Daniel Lerner, Karl Deutsch and Samuel P. Huntington. These scholars believe that "rapid industrialization leading to rapid urbanization leads to erosion of traditional loyalties...." (p. 60). Sayeed cites as evidence that they are wrong the fact that in Iran under the shah, rapid urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s was accompanied by an increased interest in religion. In addition, the clerical militants created new organizational capabilities with an ideology able to attract the intelligentsia and provide leadership and authority to those thousands of individuals who had migrated to the urban areas (p. 60).
A growing number of scholars have questioned the merits of arguments put forward by the first theories of modernization. Jeff Haynes's Religion in Third World Politics (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994) offers a conclusion similar to Sayeed's. Haynes argues that "the Iranian experience indicated that the structural changes accompanying modernization do not necessarily bring about secularization, either at the level of political institutions and processes or in the attitudes and values of individuals who have been exposed to modernizing experiences"(Haynes,1994: 80). The pragmatism of the post-Khomeini era is a much later development that is both politically and economically driven. Even this later economic pragmatism, which has emphasized components like the Islamic work ethic, the role of the private sector, or the usefulness of developing private banks, has been sharply criticized by militant or radical strategists within Iran.
Saudi Arabia, having undergone phenomenal urbanization as well as economic, educational and technological development, has Proven that traditional Islamic societies are not so fragile as to be completely destabilized by modern pressures. Many Saudi Islamic groups, although subscribing to different ideological persuasions, share the view that Islam can support a new and modern economic system(p. 85). The 1991 Gulf War weakened the royal family's position. Many questioned the presence of foreign troops on the peninsula. Ever since Juhaiman's seizure of the Grand Mosque in 1979, radical Islamism and periodic Shiite unrest in the eastern region have been ascendant in Saudi Arabia. In the period after the Gulf War, the Islamic opposition groups have vigorously pursued Islamic objectives and political legitimacy. They appear bent on overthrowing the House of Saud. Additionally, the Saudis' continued enjoyment of U.S. support has been based on acute awareness of Saudi needs and interests. The United States has been a major source of confidence as well as consolidation for the Saudis. Islamic radicals and Arab nationalists view such ties as anathema. Sayeed writes that
Muslims do not seem to realize clearly that the "friendly tyrants" they face in their countries are not only supporters of the West but are integral components of the Western international political and economic systems. Therefore, when Khomeini removes one tyrant in Iran, the West can regroup itself and construct other and even more formidable pillars of its strategy (p. 100).
In the Pakistani case, conflict between the advocates of an Islamic state and liberal secularists, power struggles, ethnic tensions and external pressures (mostly of a geopolitical nature)have created a unique situation. The external influences led Pakistan to become a conduit for covert American military aid ($3 billion) funneled to Afghanistan to dislodge the pro-Soviet government(p. 105). Internally, the power struggle between the prime minister, the president and the army has shaped the country's political dynamics. In this supposedly Islamic state, Sayeed notes, no political party has presented a coherent Islamic sociopolitical program to tackle some of the major issues that Pakistan's political system faces (p. 120). Likewise, the religious leaders have failed to measure up to the task of changing the feudal elements of rural society and unifying the ethnically divided Pakistanis through an Islamization that involved a progressive agenda: "They talked only of instant Islamization. They could think only of [the] Islam of ibadat (religious worship). They neither knew how the complex world worked nor were they acutely aware of the actual concrete society of Pakistan that existed at the mass level" (p.126).
Sayeed argues that the social and political fabric of Pakistan cannot be built on a long-term basis through existing military and bureaucratic structures. Rather, it is only through new vibrant Islamic and political movements that Pakistan can build a national accommodation between the elites and the common people and between Islam and a badly needed federalism(p. 129).
The task of converting Islam's fundamentalist ideas into sociopolitical programs remains the unfinished job of the Muslim world. Thus far, Islamic thinkers have not provided new intellectual initiatives that could resolve the contradictions of Islamic societies through innovative social and political agendas with Islamic underpinnings. The talk of the unification of the umma (the Muslim community) has produced lofty rhetoric about the glories of an ideal Islamic state. In the struggle between asabiya(tribal solidarity, pride or nationalism) and an Islamic order, which aspires for an international umma, asabiya has edged out the confederal tendencies of creating an umma-that is, the creation of a community of believers (pp. 134-135).
Ultimately, any movement toward democratic governance in the Muslim world must come from within. But Sayeed insists that Muslim countries cannot strengthen their societies and state structures unless they commit themselves to representative democracy. If Muslim societies fail to develop proper social and political institutions, they are certain to remain "soft states," unable to mount an effective response to the challenge of Western dominance (p. 141).
Overall, Sayeed is right on two counts: (1) in questioning the relevance of Western modernization for the Muslim world and (2) in arguing that, while the core of religious practices and beliefs can and must remain intact, change within a framework of continuity would allow progress and constructive alteration.
In many ways, this book seeks to establish a middle ground between two positions: one stressing the Islamization of knowledge and what is "modern," and the other maintaining that the Muslim world must concede the central values of Western society, namely, rationality and secularism. While Sayeed rejects wholesale emulation of Western values and norms, he seems to equate the Islamization of modem knowledge with Islamic orthodoxy, which he questions. What he calls for is the reconstruction and enlightened reinterpretation of Islamic history, traditions, values and texts.
Sayeed's arguments, however, do not explain how cultural conflicts can be reconciled in the post-Cold War world. If reconciliation ever occurs, will it be as a result of intercultural dialogue and interaction or because of globalizing_ pressures from economics, technology and communication? Is reconciliation too far from reality? How will the disparities of economic globalization impact the Muslim world? Will global economic integration, rather than economic self-sufficiency and political isolation, better prepare Islamic societies in their endeavor to present themselves as a viable rival to the Western political, economic and social system? These critical questions are not fully addressed here.
On balance, this book contains valuable perspectives and is a welcome addition to the studies on political Islam. Its general, but by no means original, contribution is to demonstrate the utter failure of the theory of modernization to account for the wide variations in sequences of social change. Future research, one hopes, will further elucidate the theory's flaws and also elaborate the ways in which careful alternative models can be constructed.