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Future of Political Islam, The [Hardcover]

Graham E Fuller
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 2003
September 11....vitriolic rhetoric against the United States by prominent Muslims....the war against terrorism shifting from Afghanistan to the Philippines and Indonesia. While it is easy to believe Islam and Muslims are enemies of the West, it is also wrong. This sweeping survey of trends in the Muslim world con-tends that the issue is not whether Islam plays a central role in politics, but what Muslims want. To focus on radicalism and extremism blinds us from another trend: liberal political Islam. Proponents of liberal political Islam emphasize human rights and democracy, tolerance and cooperation. They face an uphill struggle as authoritarian regimes oppress opposi-tion and use Islam to justify their undemocratic rule. As people are denied avenues to participate and criticize, as secular ideologies have failed, religion has come to play a central role in politics. The outcome of the struggle between extremists and liberals will determine the future of political Islam.

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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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WHAT IS POLITICAL ISLAM? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars peculiar Jan. 28 2004
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview, and a "Must" for Beginners Sept. 9 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Whither the Muslim World? July 1 2003
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.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding!!! July 27 2010
By Robert W. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
here we go again ... another book written by a brilliant, highly insightful author about an extremely timely topic! (HA!) i've been in awe of this "sage" for the past 20 something years, since well before he predicted the fall of the soviet union and the rise of global terrorism. never met the guy, but, i've read now every one of his public writings (and would love to read his other writings as well). i can think of a dozen islamic authors who have their fingers on the pulse of islam and political islam better than graham fuller, but, none better in the western hemisphere. he delves into the diversity of religious expression in islam and he discusses some of the challenges that that diversity now poses for contemporary islam. fuller discusses the unique relationship between the religion and political governance. resolution of the israeli - palestinian conflict might very well, indeed, lead to winning the hearts and minds of many more moderate muslims. i think that fuller has always included astute observations on the predicament of palestinians (read "sense of seige"). the last two secretaries of state in the usa have been women and, i suspect, that can serve as a model for many women in muslim countries. much more is needed in order to advance the role of women in islamic nations. i greatly respect that many traditional islamic schools devote incredible resources to the study of islam and the qu'ran, but, i wish that more time would also be devoted to teaching, say, water purification, petroleum engineering, agriculture, medicine ... the absence of educational opportunities ties the people involuntarily to a religion. personally, as an american, i believe that education leads to voluntary embracing of the Truth. his writing is not especially full of frivolity nor is it especially light. it is very well written, full of sound arguments, very thought provoking, and very insightful. i waffle, does this merit an A or an A+. as i give extremely few A+'s, i give this a solid "A". i very highly recommend this book for - anyone involved in political or intelligence activities in the middle east or those with an interest in such and most individuals with an interest in political islam. this is an excellent resource.
9 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars peculiar Jan. 28 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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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