The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States

The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States

The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States

The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States

Synopsis

This is a timely study of the international relations of Islamic states, dealing both with the evolving theory of pan-Islamism from classical to post-caliphal times and the foreign-policy practice of contemporary states, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, from the colonial period to the global aftermath of September 11. With a concise but analytic style, the book engages one-by-one with the questions of political theory, political geography and political sociology as they relate to international Islam. Its primary empirical investigation is centred on the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a powerful pan-Islamic regime, sometimes referred to as the 'Muslim United Nations'. In its theoretical deliberations on Islam and the postmodern condition, the book reconstructs contemporary understandings of how religious ideas and identities influence international politics in the Islamic world.

Excerpt

Islam has figured prominently in post-Cold War paradigms of international politics. Given the disappearance of the Communist threat, leading scholars within the discipline of International Relations have described Islam as the “next ideological threat” vis-à-vis the current world order. Indeed, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, Joseph Nye, R.D. Kaplan, and numerous other scholars have painted a picture of Islam as a “monolithic” and “unified” threat to Western interests. Western media, the policy-making élite, and the general public in many Western countries have, collectively, been swayed by the negative image of Islam as conveyed by theoreticians of international politics.

Other schools of thought, representing a minority viewpoint-John Esposito, Graham Fuller, Ian Lessor, Leon Hadar, and others-believe that the Islamic threat is a “myth, ” sustained by certain scholars with vested interests, corrupt and despotic governments in Muslim countries, and a tiny extremist element within the Islamic world. Islam, in their view, is neither “monolithic” nor unified and, therefore, lends itself to multiple interpretations. “Fluidity, ” as opposed to “rigidity, ” characterizes the multiple phenomena called Islam.

This debate has profound consequences, not only for the West and the Muslim world (which constitutes no less than one-fifth of humanity) but also for the rest of the world. If the confrontationists come to dominate policy-making and the relationship between Islam and the West follows a conflictual path, one is left to visualize an exponential rise in terrorism, bloodshed, entrenchment of despotic regimes, massive human rights violations, and instability within the international system. Alternatively, if an accommodative relationship evolves, both would not only avoid tremendous human, as well as material, costs, but could also significantly help each other in overcoming the uncertainties of this transitional era.

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