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Future of Political Islam, The Hardcover – Apr 1 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition edition (April 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403961360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403961365
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.1 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,125,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Fuller, a former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, sets out to de-mystify Islam and its relationship to affairs of state in this broad survey of Islamic political movements. Attributing the rise of militant and fundamentalist Islam to centuries of Western colonialism, imperialism and cultural domination, Fuller points out that in most Middle Eastern countries, politicized Islam is often the only alternative to repressive, authoritarian regimes. To his credit, he treats this as neither an excuse nor a justification, but a simple reality. As with any other religion or political movement, Islam takes on a variety of forms: "Islamism is really a variety of political movements, principles and philosophies that draw general inspiration from Islam but produce different agendas and programs at different times." While Fuller succeeds in explaining that Shari'a, or Islamic law, is less a form of governance (as many fundamentalists argue) than a personal code of conduct, he brings a powerful argument to bear against many radical and repressive interpretations of the Koran. Fuller's narrative doesn't always pack the cogent punch of that section of the book, which as a whole can feel somewhat scattershot. Although Fuller manages to include much valuable and clearly presented information in these pages, he occasionally repeats himself, especially towards the end of the book. Nonetheless, this is an illuminating read and a welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary Islam, and Fuller's prognosis-of increased tensions between international Islam and the U.S.; a focus on revenge rather than growth; the potential obsolescence of more liberal Islamic political movements, among other predictions-is sobering.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...an illuminating read and a welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary Islam..."--Publishers Weekly Annex

"After September 11, 2001, the discussion around Islam has often been shrill and usually sterile that is why Graham Fuller's measured, scholarly and eminently sensible voice needs to be heard. Read Fuller's new book The Future of Political Islam to make sense of the dangerous, changing and complex relationship between the West and the world of Islam."--Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, D.C. is author of Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World (I.B.Tauris, 2002)

"This is the most insightful book on developments in political Islam since the Iranian revolution shook the world. Having lived myself many years in the shadow of a mosque, I can say without hesitation that Fuller has captured the core and nature of Islamism. Importantly, he casts the movement as part of the solution to the looming confrontation between the United States and what we call the Islamic world, not just the cause of the confrontation. The Future of Political Islam is a must read, both for those shaping U.S. policy toward one-fifth of mankind and for America's own religious leaders who themselves have a hand on the political tiller."--Milt Bearden is a former senior CIA official and author of The Black Tulip (Random House, 2002) and co-author of The Main Enemy (Random House, 2003)

"Graham Fuller is supremely qualified to provide rich insight into contemporary Islamic thinking on politics, economics and international relations. Here his sensitivity to differences among Muslims combines with an impressive discussion of contemporary developments, resulting in an important contribution to understanding. Fuller argues persuasively that Islamic political movements are, above all, an engagement with the modern world, not a flight from it, and that it is possible to reason critically with their ideas. Fuller's hope that Islamist movements will engage in participatory politics, and his belief that they should be tested by the experience of government, underpin his cautiously optimistic analysis that the future of political Islam can be peaceful." --Fred Halliday, London School of Economics, author 0Nation and Religion in the Middle East

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Format: Hardcover
"The Future of Political Islam" is a tightly organized and strongly presented overview of the important role of liberal-minded Muslim intellectuals in the ongoing, often contentious interface of the earliest of globalisms --- Islam --- with its contemporary capitalist, technocratic and secular variant. The strengths of this book are its brevity and a certain hard-nosed objectivity. Fuller avoids resting his arguments on the weak but all-too-common generalization of "many Muslims feel that ..." by richly citing "eye-opening" and often provocative statements by leading liberal Islamists such as Laith Kubba and Muhammed Shahrur, among many others. These well illustrate the broad range and reflectiveness of contemporary liberal Islamist thinking. Fuller, after a professional lifetime spent throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, offers some cogent thoughts of his own on how US policymakers can beneficially respond to this vast ferment of "Islamized" social and political agenda-making. In Fuller's view, the struggle -- for this what it is -- between radicals and liberals, conservatives and modernists, to define the role of Islam in modernizing societies has an essential life of its own quite apart from Western policymaking. Nonetheless, the West's ability to understand and empathize with the many nuances of "political Islam" will influence the course of this struggle and the future interplay of these two globalisms.
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Format: Hardcover
Graham Fuller has written an illuminating and important book on the relationship between Islam, a religion, and Islamism, a "religous-cultural-political framework for engagement on issues." Most Americans, it would seem, associate Muslims with fanatic bomb-throwers. Fuller points out the diversity of Islam and its adherents and examines some of the reasons why Muslim states and political movements are so often failures in the modern world -- when 1,000 years ago they were in the vanguard of civilization.
Amidst many other ideas, Fuller cites, from a UN study, three crisis areas for the Arab world. Lack of political freedom, low level of education, and the low social status of women. He postulates a choice among Islamists. They can continue to ossify or they can find ways to use Islam constructively to confront these crisis areas. This is the challenge of Islam, and the challenge of the U.S. and the West is to help ensure that the choice is the latter and not the former.
In his last chapter, Fuller gives two scenarios for the future. One is dark, foreseeing continued conflict between political Islam and the West; the other is more hopeful.
The best parts of the book in my view are Fuller's insights into what the U.S. might do to encourage the more liberal Islamists. These include a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and support for positive movements in the Islamic world. It hardly seems in the U.S. national interest to have the Muslim world as an antagonist and thus this book is worth a careful reading for its insights and its policy suggestions.
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By A Customer on Jan. 28 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a peculiar and troubling book. The author says that secularism is "the rigid control of religious life by the state." That's sure not the way we think of secularism in the US. Furthermore, I can't imagine that many would dismiss the Magna Carta as blithely as the author does on pg. 25 of the hardcover. Bottom line: I found Paul Berman's book Terror and Liberalism far more logical about what's going on in Islam.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Whither the Muslim World? July 1 2003
By Smallchief - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Graham Fuller has written an illuminating and important book on the relationship between Islam, a religion, and Islamism, a "religous-cultural-political framework for engagement on issues." Most Americans, it would seem, associate Muslims with fanatic bomb-throwers. Fuller points out the diversity of Islam and its adherents and examines some of the reasons why Muslim states and political movements are so often failures in the modern world -- when 1,000 years ago they were in the vanguard of civilization.
Amidst many other ideas, Fuller cites, from a UN study, three crisis areas for the Arab world. Lack of political freedom, low level of education, and the low social status of women. He postulates a choice among Islamists. They can continue to ossify or they can find ways to use Islam constructively to confront these crisis areas. This is the challenge of Islam, and the challenge of the U.S. and the West is to help ensure that the choice is the latter and not the former.
In his last chapter, Fuller gives two scenarios for the future. One is dark, foreseeing continued conflict between political Islam and the West; the other is more hopeful.
The best parts of the book in my view are Fuller's insights into what the U.S. might do to encourage the more liberal Islamists. These include a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and support for positive movements in the Islamic world. It hardly seems in the U.S. national interest to have the Muslim world as an antagonist and thus this book is worth a careful reading for its insights and its policy suggestions.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Overview, and a "Must" for Beginners Sept. 9 2003
By George A. Fowler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Future of Political Islam" is a tightly organized and strongly presented overview of the important role of liberal-minded Muslim intellectuals in the ongoing, often contentious interface of the earliest of globalisms --- Islam --- with its contemporary capitalist, technocratic and secular variant. The strengths of this book are its brevity and a certain hard-nosed objectivity. Fuller avoids resting his arguments on the weak but all-too-common generalization of "many Muslims feel that ..." by richly citing "eye-opening" and often provocative statements by leading liberal Islamists such as Laith Kubba and Muhammed Shahrur, among many others. These well illustrate the broad range and reflectiveness of contemporary liberal Islamist thinking. Fuller, after a professional lifetime spent throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, offers some cogent thoughts of his own on how US policymakers can beneficially respond to this vast ferment of "Islamized" social and political agenda-making. In Fuller's view, the struggle -- for this what it is -- between radicals and liberals, conservatives and modernists, to define the role of Islam in modernizing societies has an essential life of its own quite apart from Western policymaking. Nonetheless, the West's ability to understand and empathize with the many nuances of "political Islam" will influence the course of this struggle and the future interplay of these two globalisms.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Refuting the Neocons: March 21 2005
By Tahir Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Tahir Ali - author of book "Muslim Vote: Counts and Recounts"

Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA analyst, who has written many books and monographs on Islam, builds his case with a simple but telling remark. "The issues are not what Islam is, but what Muslims want, and not whether Islam will play a central role in politics, but which Islam."

In the concluding chapter of his book, Fuller offers "A Prognosis" about the Muslim world and the US: We need to contemplate, he argues, the possible future(s) that await political Islam and the courses of action available to the United States.

While he anticipates further deterioration of the US relations with the Muslim world, he also believes that this dark scenario can be averted if the U.S. is willing to arrest this rapid deterioration by taking a number of concrete steps that include: 1) "A more benign, less confrontational international order and the diminution of terrorism in general, 2) The abandonment by Washington of relentlessly harsh, peremptory, and unilateralist policies toward the Muslim world in the context of War against Terrorism, and adoption of more sympathetic cooperation and engagement with the Muslim world, 3) The attainment of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, 4) Significant reform and political change in the Muslim world, supported actively by the United States, 5) Improved conditions in most of the developing world, and especially in the Muslim world, that ameliorate the current mode impotence and anger and offer hope and sense of progress, 6) High domestic incentives for populations in the Muslim world to reject any sympathies for potential terrorism against the United States as irresponsible, unproductive, and damaging to clearly more promising alternatives before them."

A must read for truth seekers.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Informative and well-written overview of political Islam today Dec 1 2005
By Tim F. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In _The Future of Political Islam_, author Graham E. Fuller sought to answer the fundamental questions of what is the nature and future of political Islam. Does political Islam represent the "last heroic stand" of Muslim culture against (largely American-led) globalization or does it instead represent a dynamic new synthesis of Islam and contemporary Western political thinking?

Early on Fuller established that political Islam (or Islamism) is not the same thing as fundamentalism. Political Islam is a very broad term and includes everything from radical to moderate, violent to peaceful, traditionalist to modernist views and policies. In reality, political Islam is not an "exotic and distant phenomenon," but one that is linked to a variety of contemporary social, moral, economic, and political issues of almost universal concern, not limited to issues that are profoundly religious and moral in content.

In chapter one, Fuller looked at important issues in Islamic history. A key political reality of the Muslim world today is the "fabled memory" of Islamic glory, one that "mocks" present Muslim impotence, an epic "stunning reversal of fortune." For Islamists key to this tragedy was an internal moral and spiritual decline of Muslim society, though most Islamists recognize that other cultural, intellectual, geopolitical, cyclical, and environmental factors were at work. Political Islam may represent the beginning of an intellectual reformation in Islamic thought, a reversal of marginalization of the Islamic world as it comes to accept the Western vocabulary of politics and its inherent values (democracy, pluralism, etc.) and become a social and political force to be reckoned with.

In chapter two, he analyzed the very diverse roles that political Islam plays today. Islamism is filling a vacuum in the Muslim world, one that such forces as communism and socialism failed to fill, one driven by the needs of the people of the Islamic world. Political Islam is here to stay until either those conditions are weakened or have disappeared and/or some other force or ideology has arisen to meet those needs more effectively. A key thesis of the book is that political Islam represents the only viable alternative movement to most of today's authoritarian regimes, dominating the current field by "default." The chapter looked at three main areas political Islam addresses; issues of identity and self-perception (Islamism is strikingly inclusive rather than divisive, though functionally it is broadly similar to a nationalist movement, differing in that it has a strong moral component), internal political roles (key among them, critiquing the authoritarian state and corruption and providing social services), and foreign policy. Fuller concluded that the actions of Islamists may, ironically to many in the West, greatly increase the chances for not only democracy in the Muslim world but for a functionally private and secular society, as Islamists get away from the state-controlled `ulama and create civil society institutions.

Chapter three looked at the various categories of political Islam, ranging from fundamentalists (who seek rigorous adherence to the rules of the faith) to Modernists (who seek a contemporary interpretation of the Qur'an and the Traditions, looking at these writings in their historical context). Interesting points are that some Islamists think truly secular states are the best form of government for Islam in society, free from the state, autocrats, or state controlled religious experts, and who believe that democracy is the only way to satisfy one of the requirements of the Qur'an, that of shura (consultation).

In chapter four Fuller looked at how political Islam fits in the context of global politics, maintaining it is not an "exotic aberration" but a close relation to most of the mainstream political movements at work today. One should not view political Islam as a movement for conservation of the present or the past, but rather as a modernizing movement looking for change. Also, Islamism can be viewed as a very strong force working against the authoritarian state in the name of democracy, Fuller comparing it to the actions of some evangelical Protestants and "liberation theology" Catholics in Latin America in their work to push for human rights and democracy.

Chapter five discussed the links between Islamism and terrorism. He made some interesting points; for instance there is a historically based anti-Western bias in Muslim culture that would likely exist even if the Middle East were not Islamic; one should not always look at conflicts as religious but rather as regional.

Chapter six examined three examples of Islamist governments in power - Iran, Sudan, and Taliban Afghanistan - and what these examples revealed about the nature and future of political Islam.

Chapter seven looked at the nature of Islamism and democracy and three types of Islamic movements, those involving the use of armed struggle and terrorism, da'wa and non-political movements (concentrating on changing society rather than running for office), and those involving building civil organizations and political parties.

Chapter eight dealt with the problem of Islam and the West; again, the differences between the Muslim world and the West are almost never about religion but rather have economic, military, and political roots.

Chapter nine examined the key international and domestic factors that will influence the future of political Islam, including rising ethnicity, the individualization of religion, and the challenges of Western anti-religious secularism and materialism.

Finally, chapter ten examined the overall future of political Islam. Political Islam should not be seen as an alternative to ideologies such as democracy, fascism, or communism; it is more useful to see it is a cultural variant with an alternative vocabulary, a "religious-cultural-political framework." It will survive only if it continues to integrate Western political thought and experience while still incorporating Islamic political thoughts and traditions. Fuller closed with two alternative futures, one dark, with increased tension between Muslims and the West, more support of national liberation movements, Islamism failing if it cannot meet the multiple social forces and grievances that it faces. Alternately, it may create a more peaceful Middle East with better living conditions in the Muslim world and an end to the War on Terrorism.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic explanation of the rise of political Islam July 10 2007
By Nate Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In "The Future of Political Islam", Fuller engages two broad questions: what is political Islam and how should it develop in the future? In answering the first, he has done an excellent job of contextualizing his subject, locating its development within a historical trajectory, and clearly and convincingly outlining those problems for which Islamists claim to have solutions.

In his introduction, he makes it clear that his goal in writing the book is to counter those analyses which view the rise of political Islam purely as an injection of religious irrationality into the political realm. Instead, he claims that political Islam is a rational response to modernity and all its attendant problems. It is an engagement with modernity, not a rejection of it. Islamists, he claims, whether they are liberal and more openly "modernizing" or more conservative, are incorporating the language and structures of modernity - political representation, human rights, civil society - into Muslim culture.

This explanatory account of political Islam is the book's strength. Fuller's attempt at the second question - how should political Islam develop in the future - is less convincing. It is informed fully by his desire to incorporate the Muslim world as seamlessly as possible into the liberal-democratic ethos of the West. This desire infects the more descriptive aspect of his book as well, possibly resulting in an overemphasis on liberal Islamists and their compatibility (or, indeed, adoption) of Western political values.

While an accusation of an Orientalist attitude might not be entirely wrong, it would be misplaced. Fuller is sincere in his respect for the Muslim world and its ability to solve its own problems. Instead, I think his approach in this regard is more of an outgrowth of the disbelief in alternatives to the current world order, the kind of assumptions which underpin Francis Fukuyama's assertion that liberal democracy as practiced in the developed world is the last evolution of the political system, the "end of history".

This position, from which he sets out his recommendations for Islamists, unfortunately leaves unexamined the degree to which Islamists are attempting to establish a unique system that may incorporate much of the language and institutions of liberal democracy, but could establish new relationships between political, economic, social and cultural institutions. As a result, the concluding chapter, from which the book's title is taken, is the most disappointing, its conclusions obvious and lacking originality (or maybe they only seem so now, four years after the invasion of Iraq and the publication of this book).

Perhaps I am asking too much. Fuller's book might best be described as a "thorough overview", with each chapter broken down into small sections, some only a paragraph long. This makes it easy to dip in and out of, but can also serve to compartmentalize the information and disconnect some of the broader arguments, leaving me with a sense of shallow analysis, despite how thoroughly he has tackled so many of the different aspects of political Islam.

The writing quality is also a problem. Perfect prose is not crucial for this kind of book, but barely a page went by without a glaring mistake. Some editing is sorely needed.

Despite these criticisms, Fuller's book is incredibly useful and important. His description of the political, social and economic conditions from which political Islam has arisen is informed, honest and, above all, encouraging. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.


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