Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam

Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam

Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam

Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam

Synopsis

As America struggles to understand Islam and Muslims on the world stage, one concept in particular dominates public discourse: Islamism. References to Islamism and Islamists abound in the media, in think tanks, and in the general study of Islam, but opinions vary on the differences of degree and kind among those labeled Islamists. This book debates what exactly is said when we use this contentious term in discussing Muslim religion, tradition, and social conflict.

Two lead essays offer differing viewpoints: Donald K. Emmerson argues that Islamism is a useful term for a range of Muslim reform movements- very few of which advocate violence- while Daniel M. Varisco counters that the public specter of violence and terrorism by Islamists too often infects the public perceptions of Islam more generally. Twelve commentaries, written by Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals, enrich the debate with differing insights and perspectives.

Excerpt

In 1991, James Davison Hunter published Culture Wars, a popular investigation of public skirmishes in America over such hotly debated issues as abortion, gun control, censorship, individual privacy, separation of church and state, and prayer in the public schools. The subtitle of Hunter's book, The Struggle to Define America, reminded readers that something of vital importance was at stake in these debates. But 1991was also a watershed year in other political developments that would weigh in on the definition of America. The same year saw the collapse of the Communist Soviet Empire and the first Gulf War led by the United States and its allies against Iraq for its military occupation of Kuwait. Almost seamlessly these two events signaled the rise of another contentious issue that would begin to divide public attitudes in the West, namely, activist Muslim religious and political movements. According to many commentators, militant Islam would soon replace Soviet Communism as America's most worrisome imagined national threat. Indeed, a decade earlier, the Iranian Revolution and the taking of American hostages invited public concern about religious fundamentalism. Thus, already for two decades preceding September 11, 2001, militant expressions of political Islam, or what some call Islamism, had increasingly become a dominant concern in Western public discourse.

This book is about the struggle in American public spaces, especially since September 11, 2001, to define and understand the rise and role of Islamic religious politics on the world stage. One term and concept in particular dominates this discussion: Islamism. References to Islamism and Islamists abound in the news media, on Capitol Hill, in think tanks, and in the American . . .

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