R. Hrair Dekmejian's Islam in Revolution, which first appeared in 1985, has been expanded in a new edition a decade after its first release. It remains both a useful overview of political Islam in the Arab world and an attempt at a systematic classification of lslamist movements. Being a political science professor, Dekmejian naturally loves to systematize, but only occasionally does he lapse into dense professonal jargon. (Chapter 11, on Lebanon, is subtitled "Islamism in a Consociational Polity," but most of the book is in English.) While using the tools of his profession, Dekmejian has generally written a work which any educated reader should have no trouble understanding. While sometimes the systematization may seem a bit much for the non-political scientist (as when Dekmejian defines 11 different dialectics operating in contemporary Islamic society), Dekmejian's system does permit considerable nuance in discussing very different groups and very different societies.
Dekmejian's approach is to begin with a conceptual and typological analysis of the roots of Islamic resurgence, in Part One, followed by case studies in Part Two. A new Part Three in this second edition, called "New Frontiers of Islamism," looks at additional countries and carries the story forward into the 1990s.
Dekmejian recognizes from the beginning that there are problems of definition, and he surveys the terms used by lslamist groups to describe themselves as well as terms others use to describe them. (The list has naturally grown since the first edition.) He notes that his own work will use the terms ''fundamentalist, lslamist, and revivalist" interchangeably (p. 5).
Dekmejian notes that the Islamic revivalist movement possesses "three general attributes: pervasiveness, polycentrism, and persistence" (p. 3). Throughout the book he is careful to recognize the differences among various groups, both ideologically and in terms of their origins and agendas.
He also attempts to place contemporary Islamist revivalism within its historical context, something far too few such studies (at least by Westerners) do. This recognition that throughout Islamic history, religious revivalism has been a standard response to political decline or weakness, is often missing from modern analyses of Islamist movements, though they themselves often identify with earlier revivalist efforts. Dekmejian in effect uses a historical model not unlike that of many Islamist groups themselves, one which-regardless of whether or not one accepts its objective validity-helps in understanding many Islamists' view of their own place in history. This can be a valuable insight for the outsider unfamiliar with the history of revivalist movements in Islam, since while reminding us that there is nothing new under the sun, it also serves to remind us that we are dealing with a phenomenon with deep roots in Islamic culture and history.
Dekmejian uses two different typologies to categorize Islamist leadership. In the first, he sees four types based on categories of reformism in Islam: the mujaddidi or renewer (a category in which he places such diverse personalities as lbn Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad Abduh and Hasan al-Banna), the Mahdi (most of whom are the obvious ones), the marji (all of whom are naturally Shiite), and the Murshid or guide (most of the current figures like Rashid Ghannushi, Abbasi Madani and Hasan al-Turabi). In a second typology, Dekmejian distinguishes between "charismatic" and "bureaucratic" leadership types.
All of this systematization-and he goes on to provide typologies of adherents and governing regimes-is interesting, but this reviewer (who must analyze these movements on a day-to-day basis rather than with academic detachment) found its application to existing movements (the practical application of the theoretical framework) the more valuable part of the book. In Part Two, the countries dealt with in the first edition are retained-Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf-while Lebanon has been added. The Saudi chapter has been admirably updated; the Iraqi chapter surprisingly less so. In Part Three, which Dekmejian calls "New Frontiers of Islamism," he begins with one of his old frontiers, Egypt, again, but looking at the transformation of the Islamist challenge there since the death of President Anwar Sadat. In other new chapters, Dekmejian looks at Sudan, Libya and Yemen in one chapter; Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza in another; and North Africa in a third. One may quibble at this judgment or that, but overall the analysis seems well-informed and balanced.
Dekmejian offers a new concluding chapter which draws together his interpretation of much of the data presented throughout the book, and is one of the more valuable contributions of this new edition. He sees the emergence of "mainstream Islamism" or al-wasatiyyah as a common manifestation in recent years: the emergence of a sheikhly- or clerical-led Islamism which is less doctrinally radical and more gradualist than the extremist groups. Given the failure of such movements to achieve unity of purpose and goals, Dekmejian feels that despite the lack of legitimacy and growing economic and social problems facing many existing regimes, the weaknesses of the Islamist movements may "abort the staging of an Iranian-style grass-roots Islamist revolution in the Arab sphere" (p. 218) in the near term, though he clearly does not rule out the success of individual movements in certain countries. Still, the emphasis on the emergence of the more gradualist, traditionalist types of Islamism-wisely, Dekmejian scrupuously avoids the word "moderate"-may call into question the book's title, Islam in Revolution. But the conclusion seems valid.
Dekmejian's table of Islamist movements in the Arab world from the 1970s to the present, provided as an appendix, is a valuable short guide to some of the players, past and present. He now categorizes 175 movements, up from 90 in the first edition.
Dekmejian's book, like any attempt at a synthesis and systematization of a complex phenomenon, will no doubt provoke disagreement or quarrels from specialists on specific movements. And his own analysis has altered and shifted its emphasis somewhat since the first edition, as new realities and new movements have arisen. But this being said, the book is still a valuable attempt to define, categorize and analyze the very different Islamist movements in various Arab countries. (The decision to limit the study to the Arab world may also limit its value to those dealing with Islamist movements in Asia and Africa, but many of the factors involved in Islamic revivalism in the Arab world are valid elsewhere as well. Needless to say, Dekmejian must also make frequent reference to Iran, especially in analyzing Arab Shiite groups, but Iran is not a major subject of his analysis.)
Those who are familiar with the first edition should be aware that Dekmejian has expanded his analysis as well as his case studies, and that the new book, while clearly an outgrowth of the old, reflects the many changes in the Islamist movements and their fortunes in the intervening decade.