In the last quarter of the twentieth century, democratization, liberalization and human rights have become the cornerstone of the global debate. During this time, the Muslim world has seen the resurgence of the political Islam in a variety of guises: revolution, radicalism and reform. Are these developments in any way connected? To the extent that pressures for greater popular participation have fostered the Islamic revival, the answer is in the affirmative. The issues of political legitimacy, authority, national identity and democracy are surely not entirely unrelated. Nowhere are such linkages more pronounced than in the Middle East and North Africa, where Islamic revivalism has dramatically shaped the political discourse. At first glance, many observers see the rise of political Islam as part of revolutionary and populist politics. Yet closer examination reveals that the conditions and issues that have inspired political Islam are multifaceted and vary from one country to another.
The book under review provides a conceptual framework for the analysis of the contemporary Islamic movements; it is divided into three parts. The first part of the book looks at the relationship between political Islam (as illegal opposition) and the state. The incorporation of Islamists into the political process is examined in the second part. Concern with international scope and impact of political Islam and its connection to international terrorism are analyzed in the subsequent part.
In part one, Lisa Anderson explains the Islamist opposition in North Africa. Her study supports two broad hypotheses: First, the absence of a transparent institutional framework for political opposition to work within the society not only hinders the routinization of opposition of all kinds but also magnifies the profile and broadens the constituency of "rejectionist" or "disloyal" parties. Second, the "illegalization" of the Islamist opposition fosters radical and violent backlashes and programs on the part of such parties or movements (p. 19). In practical terms, Anderson adds, the exclusion of the Islamist movements from the electoral process has added to the confusion and ambiguity of their platforms, which have never been given an opportunity to be tested, at the polls or in power. Disenchanted by their historical experience of mistrust, duplicity and failed institutions, Anderson writes, "few of the disappointed were natural constituents of democratic programs or parties" (p. 28). In a similar vein, all opposition is treated as dangerous and dealt with harshly by the ruling regimes. This is, Anderson argues, the cruel paradox that these regimes have created for themselves and their opposition.
Investigating Algeria's civil war, Dirk Vandewalle argues that this conflict typifies the identity crisis of a country coming to terms with its past. Secular nationalists' rule, which has been unopposed since 1962, is now challenged by the Islamists. The 1988 riots precipitated a crisis of legitimacy, culminating in an identity crisis, or as Vandewalle puts it, "a crisis of national culture" (p. 33). Economic crisis alone, he argues, does not explain the nature of the conflict there. The civil war is ultimately about the nature of the modern state and what precisely the state should do for its citizens. Algerians are faced, Vandewalle continues, with "an intensely nationalistic debate that involves political, economic, and highly symbolic issues and references that have been left unresolved since independence" (p. 49).
Focusing on the Gulf region in the aftermath of the war, John L. Esposito argues that the rise of Islamist movements in the heartland of the Arab Muslim world has increasingly challenged, if not threatened, the security of Gulf states. While Kuwait and Yemen have allowed Islamists to participate in elections and serve in Parliament and cabinet positions, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have denied such opportunities. The Gulf Cooperation Council states have yet to find a way out of the impasse: whether to suppress or expand civil society (p. 72).
The second part of this book examines the Islamists' involvement within the context of Iranian, Sudanese, Egyptian and Pakistani politics. Iran and Sudan, which epitomize Islamic radicalism, provide instructive cases of the Islamists in power. Mohsen M. Milani maintains that a restricted version of popular sovereignty and factional rivalry within Iranian parliamentary politics has contributed to a high level of political participation (p. 78). In recent years, civil society, minority groups and women have exerted considerable pressure on the Islamic Republic to ease political and social restrictions. The May 1997 presidential elections, which resulted in the ascendancy to power of the moderate and reformist cleric Mohammed Khatemi within the context of Iranian politics, lends credence to Milani's views. The dispute - or, more accurately, power struggle - between liberals and conservatives among Iran's clerical hierarchy over the role of velayat-e-faquih (Supreme Leader), which took a new turn in late 1997, underscores the fact that the clergy today confront a very different political and social reality than did the revolutionary era's leaders and that new forms of political discourse have found their way into the lives of Iranians. These developments are consonant with Milani's prediction: "The crude form of elite pluralism has ... opened a space to express political views. This opening ... can be used, among other things, to slowly pressure the governing elites to open up the political process to those critical of the present regime" (p. 92).
Recognizing that post-independence Sudan has never seen secular government, Peter Woodward explains how the Muslim brotherhood (1964) and the National Islamic Front (1989) facilitated the Islamization of the Sudanese society. While the former exalted the Islamists into social prominence, the latter grounded them firmly in the political domain. Woodward, however, concludes that the Islamists' mixed political record since 1989 invites controversy.
In Egypt, Raymond William Baker asserts, Islamic revivalism has informed a more centrist social and political activism. Islamists' success in providing social services has constituted a quiet indictment of the government's inability to do so. Advocating programs of peaceful reform, the centrist Islamists (the New Islamic Trend) have mobilized social and political action for the larger purposes of freedom, development and sound ecological policies (pp. 128-129).
Pakistan's Jamaat-I-Islami (Islamic party) serves as a valuable case study of the inclusion of Islamic movements in the political process, which has prevented their marginalization and dampened their revolutionary zeal. The lesson learned, according to S.V.R. Nasr, is obvious: inclusion breeds moderation in politics. Today, Jammat is in a position to influence state policy but far from launching a successful bid for power. Pakistan's seeming paradox, as Nasr aptly concludes, is worth pondering:"... one of the most Islamic countries is also one of the most open and democratic" (p. 154).
In the book's last part, Jean-Franrçois Legrain argues that Palestinians are now facing the impossibility of recovering their territory and the threat of social disintegration. Islamic ideology may prove to be the most efficient recourse and the "natural" solution to social collapse (p. 175). In "Arab Islamists in Afghanistan," Barnett R. Rubin reminds us that Arab Islamists continue to be active in Afghanistan so long as the international community is not providing Afghans with any reliable alternative to the aid they provide (p. 201). Rubin's reasoning concerning the internal logic of violence in the Arab world is well established: the omnipresent violence in some parts of the Arab world is traceable neither to a handful of activists returning from Afghanistan nor to other exogenous sources; rather, its roots are indigenous. In the post-Cold War world, Rubin warns, one needs to be aware of the illusion as well as the danger of replacing the Soviet Communist threat with the "undifferentiated image of the fundamentalist terrorist" (p. 202).
Turning to the uncertainties and frustration surrounding the peace process, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad argues that Islamist rejection of the peace accords is not restricted to the Arab world. The accords do not translate into the end of the Israeli occupation and the creation of a nation-state for the Palestinians. The instrumentality of the Oslo agreement is now brought into question by Arab and non-Arab Islamists alike (p. 224). Haddad's point is particularly germane to the current stalemate, casting a shadow of doubt over the stumbling peace process.
In the book's final chapter, John O. Voll draws a promising portrait of the meaningful links among Muslim activists/scholars in the contemporary world. Taking a post modernist view, Voll points to a profound change: "Great networks of intellectual and ideological exchange are transforming the very foundations of the worldviews of political Islam in its many different forms" (p. 231). Specific actions of terrorists, Voll insists, should not blind us to the cause of the broader transformations underway in the Muslim world (p. 244).
In general, the cases and issues covered in this volume provide both depth and breadth. The treatment of the issue of globalization, however, should have been expanded. For instance, a distinction between democratic globalization and neoliberal globalization would have critically sharpened the book's focus. Democratic globalization has pressured Muslim states to respond to modernizing and secularizing pressures. But at the same time, Islamism has thrived on the adversarial effects of neoliberal globalization and their negative impact on the region's poor. Neoliberal globalization runs counter to Muslim social ethics of protecting the interests of the most vulnerable. In addition, the Muslim world is bound to guard against the social disintegration caused by globalization and its accompanying by-products, including drug abuse, increasing rates of crime and violence, juvenile delinquency, and prostitution. Faced with socioeconomic marginalization, Muslim states are likely to seek internal stability. In response to the costs of neoliberal globalization, resurgent Islamic movements promote a vision of modernity that combines ethical and political dimensions in an alternative world order. This order protects the powerless and gives the disinherited Muslims an identity denied to them in a globalized world. Jams H. Mittelman's Globalization: Critical Reflections (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996) offers a valuable insight along these lines.
Moreover, it is unclear why Turkey has been excluded from this book's otherwise rich analysis of case studies. The addition of Turkey, a quasi-secular society bent on seeking influence among the Central Asian republics, would have greatly benefited the book's central thrust. Turkey serves as an example of a Muslim country in which secularists and Islamists have been set on a collision course ever since the latter proved themselves at the polls in 1995. The military's role in dislodging Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan after being in office for less than a year proved how fragile Turkey's democratic institutions were and how dispensable civilian authorities were in the army's eyes. The military continues to be the real power broker in Turkish politics. Further, Turkey's secularization experience since the mid-1920s has failed to generate a mass secular culture; the country remains a land of contradictions. ·
On balance, the book's organizing themes are well supported: (1) that the multifaceted and global impact of political Islam must be viewed within the context of the region's mounting inequities, corruption and demographic pressures; (2) that the Western policy of promoting democratic standards selectively throughout the region, coupled with the secular regimes' inability to put the economy on a sound footing, has fueled Islamist opposition; and (3) that while Islamists in power lack a coherent political program, those out of power present doctrines and ideologies but little in the way of operational guidelines. In a rigorous account of what continues to be a little-understood subject, Professor Esposito and the other contributors to this volume have sparked a lively discussion in both academic and policy circles about the impacts, both real and potential, of political Islam. This book is a must-read for anybody eager to probe beneath the surface of this challenging subject.