The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy, and Justice

The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy, and Justice

The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy, and Justice

The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy, and Justice


Islamist political parties and groups are on the rise throughout the Muslim world and in Muslim communities in the West. Owing largely to the threat of terrorism, political Islam is often portrayed as a monolithic movement embodying fundamentalism and theocracy, an image magnified by the rise of populism and xenophobia in the United States and Europe. Reality, however, is far more complicated. Political Islam has evolved considerably since its spectacular rise decades ago, and today it features divergent viewpoints and contributes to discrete but simultaneous developments worldwide. This is a new political Islam, more global in scope but increasingly local in action.

Emmanuel Karagiannis offers a sophisticated analysis of the different manifestations of contemporary Islamism. In a context of global economic and social changes, he finds local manifestations of Islamism are becoming both more prevalent and more diverse. Many Islamists turn to activism, still more participate formally in the democratic process, and some, in far fewer numbers, advocate violence--a wide range of political persuasions and tactics that reflects real and perceived political, cultural, and identity differences.

Synthesizing prodigious research and integrating insights from the globalization debate and the literature on social movements, The New Political Islam seeks to explain the processes and factors leading to distinctive fusions of "the global" and "the local" across the landscape of contemporary political Islam. Examining converts to Islam in Europe, nonviolent Islamists with global reach, Islamist parties in Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia, and militant Shia and Sunni groups in Syria and Iraq, Karagiannis demonstrates that Islamists have embraced ideas and practices from the global marketplace and have attempted to implement them locally. He looks closely at the ways in which Islamist activists, politicians, and militants have utilized the language of human rights, democracy, and justice to gain influence and popular support and to contend for power.


The rise of political Islam has attracted great public, government, and academic attention in the West. It is fair to say that Islamism has been largely viewed by many with dismay and fear due to its perceived anachronistic and totalitarian nature. in an era of globalization, the blurring of politics and religion seems antimodern and irrational. in 2012, Farhad Khosrokhavar, a prominent scholar of the Islamic world, observed confidently that “the age of Islamism is over, not as an ideology or a credo among minority groups, but as a motto that could convince the people of its feasibility.” Yet Islamism in its various forms has reached almost every Muslim community in the world and Islamist groups are still on the march.

The term political Islam in itself is contested by both academics and Islamists. Some critics say that it is a redundant term because the distinction between political and nonpolitical domains of social life is not relevant anymore; the modern state has significantly expanded its functions to influence every aspect of organized life. For many Islamists, the term is problematic because Islam is inherently political; thus din (religion) and dawla (state) depend on each other. But such views tend to ignore the diversity that exists within the Muslim faith. in particular, Sufism and its mystical beliefs constitute an important part of Islam that is often despised by those who favor the politicization of the faith. This is not to say that Sufism is apolitical; actually, Sufi orders have been involved indirectly in politics (e.g., the Gülen movement in Turkey). Sufism is rather nonpolitical in the sense of avoiding political interpretations of Islamic concepts, rituals, and practices.

Therefore, it is essential to distinguish ontologically the religion from its political expression. So what is political Islam and what is Islamism? the two terms are often treated as synonymous. Nazih Ayobi defines political Islam as “the doctrine and/or movement which contends that Islam possesses a theory of politics and the state.” Guilain Denoeux describes political Islam or Islamism as “a form of instrumentalization of Islam by . . .

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