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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