Salazar, “Words Are Weapons”

7750a0573a62c46fce179f78d9b48006A bishop once explained to me the rhetorical appeal of Islam to the Christians of late antiquity this way. “Think of the Nicene Creed,” he said. “It goes on for paragraphs and is so complex that it takes years of study really to understand it. What does it say to the average person?” Whereas the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada, is powerfully concise — only a sentence long. “Think how appealing that must have been to Byzantine Christians tired of theological dispute.” A forthcoming book from University of Cape Town scholar Phillipe-Joseph Salazar, Words are Weapons: Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror (Yale) addresses the power of words, including the Shahada, in the appeal of the Islamic State today. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

 The first book to offer a rigorous, sophisticated analysis of ISIS’s rhetoric and why it is so persuasive

ISIS wages war not only on the battlefield but also online and in the media. Through a close examination of the words and images ISIS uses, with particular attention to the “digital caliphate” on the web, Philippe-Joseph Salazar theorizes an aesthetic of ISIS and its self-presentation. As a philosopher and historian of ideas, well versed in both the Western and the Islamic traditions, Salazar posits an interpretation of Islam that places speech—the profession of faith—at the center of devotion and argues that evocation of the simple yet profound utterance of faith is what gives power to the rhetoric that ISIS and others employ. At the same time, Salazar contends that Western discourse has undergone a “rhetorical disarmament.” To win the fight against ISIS and Islamic extremism, Western democracies, their media, politicians, and counterterrorism agencies must consider radically changing their approach to Islamic extremism.

Karagiannis, “The New Political Islam”

15749This looks like an interesting book. In The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy, and Justice, Emmanuel Karagiannis (King’s College London) argues that political Islam, notwithstanding its monolithic reputation in the West, is actually a multi-faceted phenomenon. Islamist groups, he maintains, take concepts that are current in contemporary globalist ideology, like human rights and democracy, and adapt them to local conditions. The result is a political movement with a recognizable core but different local expressions. The book will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press this coming December. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

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.

 

Wright, “The Terror Years”

9780804170031Last month, Penguin Random House released the paperback edition of The Terror Years: From Al Qaeda to the Islamic State, by journalist Lawrence Wright. Wright’s 2007 work about 9/11, The Looming Tower, deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize, and this book, which picks up from where the earlier book left off, looks very worthwhile. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

These powerful investigative pieces, which take us from the religious police of Saudi Arabia to the rise of the Islamic State, comprise an essential primer on jihadist movements in the Middle East—and the attempts of the West to contain them. In these pages, Lawrence Wright examines al-Qaeda as it experiences a rebellion from within and spins off a growing web of worldwide terror. He shows us the Syrian film industry before the civil war—compliant at the edges but already exuding a barely masked fury. He gives us the heart-wrenching story of American children kidnapped by ISIS—and Atlantic publisher David Bradley’s efforts to secure their release. And he details the roles of key FBI figures John O’Neill and his talented protégé Ali Soufan in fighting terrorism. In a moving epilogue, Wright shares his predictions for the future. Rigorous, clear-eyed, and compassionate, The Terror Years illuminates the complex human players on all sides of a devastating conflict.

Idrissa, “The Politics of Islam in the Sahel”

In June, Routledge will release The Politics of Islam in the Sahel: Between Persuasion and Violence by Rahmane Idrissa (University of the Witwatersrand). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logo‘Ideologies need enemies to thrive, religion does not’. Using the Sahel as a source of five comparative case studies, this volume aims to engage in the painstaking task of disentangling Islam from the political ideologies that have issued from its theologies to fight for governmental power and the transformation of society. While these ideologies tap into sources of religious legitimacy, the author shows that they are fundamentally secular or temporal enterprises, defined by confrontation with other political ideologies–both progressive and liberal–within the arena of nation states. Their objectives are the same as these other ideologies, i.e., to harness political power for changing national societies, and they resort to various methods of persuasion, until they break down into violence.

The two driving questions of the book are, whence come these ideologies, and why do they–sometimes–result in violence? Ideologies of Salafi radicalism are at work in the five countries of the Sahel region, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, (Northern) Nigeria and Senegal, but violence has broken out only in Mali and Northern Nigeria. Using a theoretical framework of ideological development and methods of historical analysis, Idrissa traces the emergence of Salafi radicalism in each of these countries as a spark ignited by the shock between concurrent processes of Islamization and colonization in the 1940s. However, while the spark eventually ignited a blaze in Mali and Nigeria, it has only led to milder political heat in Niger and Senegal and has had no burning effect at all in Burkina Faso. By meticulously examining the development of Salafi radicalism ideologies over time in connection with developments in national politics in each of the countries, Idrissa arrives at compelling conclusions about these divergent outcomes. Given the many similarities between the countries studied, these divergences show, in particular, that history, the behaviour of state leaders and national sociologies matter–against assumptions of ‘natural’ contradictions between religion (Islam) and secularism or democracy.

This volume offers a new perspective in discussions on ideology, which remains–as is shown here–the independent variable of many key contemporary political processes, either hidden in plain sight or disguised in a religious garb.

Ahrari, “The Islamic Challenge and the United States”

In February, McGill-Queen’s University Press will release The Islamic Challenge and the United States: Global Security in an Age of Uncertainty by Ehsan M. Ahrari (Strategic Studies Institute). The publisher’s description follows:

islamic-challengeOn September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden declared “global jihad” on the West. In response to the day’s attacks, the United States has waged its own global war on terrorism, which the Pentagon has described as a generational conflict similar to the Cold War.

In The Islamic Challenge and the United States, Ehsan Ahrari takes a close look at this ideological conflict, focusing on the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central Asia. Arguing that the war on terrorism is founded on secular fundamentalism (an ideology that envisions Islam as dangerous and volatile because it mixes religion and politics) and the Enlightenment narrative, Ahrari suggests that the United States sees global jihadists as absolutist, irrational, obscurantist, and anti-modern. While violence on behalf of the Muslim community – ummah – is thus framed as reprehensible, violence on behalf of the Western nation-state is seen as sometimes necessary and often praiseworthy. Unsettlingly, this framework does not encourage careful scrutiny of America’s historical dealings with the Muslim world. The belief that religion causes violence, Ahrari argues, may blind the West to its own forms of fanaticism.

A timely analysis of one of the most contested issues of our times, The Islamic Challenge and the United States is a must-read for global security practitioners, policymakers, and general readers.

Mecham, “Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization”

In January, Cambridge University Press will release “Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization,” by R. Quinn Mecham (Brigham Young University). The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim countries experience wide variation in levels of Islamist political mobilization, cup-colour-logo2including such political activities as protest, voting, and violence. Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization provides a theory of the institutional origins of Islamist politics, focusing on the development of religious common knowledge, religious entrepreneurship, and coordinating focal points as critical to the success of Islamist activism. Examining Islamist politics in more than 50 countries over four decades, the book illustrates that Islamist political activism varies a great deal, appearing in specific types of institutional contexts. Detailed case studies of Turkey, Algeria, and Senegal demonstrate how diverse contexts yield different types of Islamist politics across the Muslim world.

Abbas, “Contemporary Turkey in Conflict”

In December, Edinburgh University Press will release Contemporary Turkey in Conflict: Ethnicity, Islam, and Politics by Tahir Abbas (Royal United Services Institute). The publisher’s description follows:

contemporary-turkeyNew perspectives on ethnic relations, Islam and neoliberalism have emerged in Turkey since the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002. Placing the period within its historical and contemporary context, Tahir Abbas argues that what it is to be ethnically, religiously and culturally Turkish has been transformed. He explores how issues of political trust, social capital and intolerance towards minorities have characterised Turkey in the early years of the 21st-century. He shows how a radical neoliberal economic and conservative outlook has materialised, leading to a clash over the religious, political and cultural direction of Turkey. These conflicts are defining the future of the nation.

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