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For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. Offering a corrective to such a view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy depicts an entirely different spectacle - political Islam is a failure. Save for Iran, it has not wo For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. Offering a corrective to such a view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy depicts an entirely different spectacle - political Islam is a failure. Save for Iran, it has not won power in the states of the Muslim world. He asserts that despite its incantation about an "Islamic way", with a specifically Islamic economy and Islamic state, the realities of the Muslim world remain fundamentally unchanged. This text argues that the political regimes of the 1990s are no different from those of the last decade; and the Islamism of the 1980s is still the Third Worldism of the 1960s, that is, populist politics and mixed economies of laissez-faire for the rich, and subsidies for the poor. Roy asserts that the "reds" of yesterday are the Muslim "greens" of today, and there is little prospect that the newcomers will succeed where their predecessors failed. This argument reassesses radical Islam and the set of ideas and assumptions at its core.


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For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. Offering a corrective to such a view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy depicts an entirely different spectacle - political Islam is a failure. Save for Iran, it has not wo For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. Offering a corrective to such a view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy depicts an entirely different spectacle - political Islam is a failure. Save for Iran, it has not won power in the states of the Muslim world. He asserts that despite its incantation about an "Islamic way", with a specifically Islamic economy and Islamic state, the realities of the Muslim world remain fundamentally unchanged. This text argues that the political regimes of the 1990s are no different from those of the last decade; and the Islamism of the 1980s is still the Third Worldism of the 1960s, that is, populist politics and mixed economies of laissez-faire for the rich, and subsidies for the poor. Roy asserts that the "reds" of yesterday are the Muslim "greens" of today, and there is little prospect that the newcomers will succeed where their predecessors failed. This argument reassesses radical Islam and the set of ideas and assumptions at its core.

30 review for The Failure of Political Islam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lumumba Shakur

    The one review of this book on this site does not do it justice. Hence, this is my take: This book is perhaps the best statement and explanation on why Islamism as a political tool has failed miserably. Far from being rooted in the Islamic scholarly tradition, political Islam is a reactionary movement whose ideological philosophy is rooted in Marxism and the violent revolutionary program that gave so much expression to the Independence Movements during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Though I do not agree The one review of this book on this site does not do it justice. Hence, this is my take: This book is perhaps the best statement and explanation on why Islamism as a political tool has failed miserably. Far from being rooted in the Islamic scholarly tradition, political Islam is a reactionary movement whose ideological philosophy is rooted in Marxism and the violent revolutionary program that gave so much expression to the Independence Movements during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Though I do not agree with 100% of Olivier Roy's conclusions, the book nonetheless is a must read for anyone interested in global politics and the role that Islam is blamed for playing in global terrorism. Far from being the consequences of the teachings of a 7th century Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), it is more of a case of chickens and roosting. Daniel Pipes hates the book. That has to count for something... The fact that critics of the book cannot see how September 11th proves the authors thesis only demonstrates that when people have made up their minds, facts mean absolutely nothing. I would highly recommend that this book be read in conjunction with Imperial Hubris and War at the Top of the World. I am a Muslim and I do not disagree with the author. Not all Orientalists are bad.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    Why cannot be Islam accepted like Christianity in the West? Is it because Islam and politics don't mix or is Islam actually a culture in itself? West has used two methods to deal with Muslim minority, multiculturalism and assimilation. Multiculturalism assumes that the culture remains the same, generation after generation while assimilation means that culture disappears in the mainstream. The book has probably the best description of Islam-ism and new-fundamentalism I have read thus far. Check thi Why cannot be Islam accepted like Christianity in the West? Is it because Islam and politics don't mix or is Islam actually a culture in itself? West has used two methods to deal with Muslim minority, multiculturalism and assimilation. Multiculturalism assumes that the culture remains the same, generation after generation while assimilation means that culture disappears in the mainstream. The book has probably the best description of Islam-ism and new-fundamentalism I have read thus far. Check this out, 'Since sovereignty belongs only to God, the Islamists reject the notion of popular sovereignty and accord only contingent value to the elective principle. If no individual comes forward as the evident 'Amir', then he can be elected by an advisory assembly or even by universal suffrage, both of which, in this case, do not express sovereignty, but community consensus.' Wow, so that's the reason why the Islamists reject all politics and populism movements. Scary stuff, if you hail from Pakistan. But there is good news as well, as most of the leaders of the movement, Maududi, Hasan al-Banna, Syed Qutub, Ali Shariati, Khomeini are dead, with no real decedents leaving only brochures, prayers, feeble glosses and citations of canonical authors. It had to happen when you consider all the leading Islamists apart from Khomeini did not hail from the Ulema heritage, and spent most of their energies taking down recognised Ulema of their eras, therefore it is logical that their fans and supporters had to reject any of their descendants. Relax Pakistanis, this is only a passing phase. Check out some of the should-be assertions coming out of the current Islamic mouthpiece, 'if everyone is virtuous then harmony automatically exists among men.' Also 'there is no requirement of state, if society is virtuous then it can exist on itself.' And 'in Jihad, there is no obligation to produce result.' The trouble is that Islamists are caught in the vicious cycle of 'no Islamic state without virtuous Muslims and no Muslims without Islamic state?' arguments. I am pretty sure enough individual dialogue will expose the weakness of this Islamic dialogue, eventually. The book also explains the ideology of the new-fundamentalist, their hate of Western clothing, sports and especially their isolation, where even non-Muslims greeting them with Asalamu Alaikum is frowned upon. They also tend to reject any participation of women in politics and shun intellectual research, replacing it with fideism (reliance on faith), which means that everything Islam says is true and rational. And what constitutes of a new intellectual of the new fundamentalists? According to Olivier, 'The new intellectual is a mere tinkerer; he creates a montage, as his personal itinerary guides him, of segments of knowledge, using methods that come from a different conceptual universe than the segments he recombines, creating a totality that is more imaginary than theoretical.' I have found his analysis very relevant and practical when I consider my numerous dialogues with these new intellectuals. Objective analysis like these are instrumental in understanding ever shifting trends in current Islamic thought which are become ever more difficult to grasp in dearth of any literary giants of the now defunct Islamism movement. The book concludes with a prophetic analysis, how can new fundamentalism succeed when it's predecessor giant Islamists failed to change the mainstream Muslims? The constant hatred and rejection of Western culture is a mere attempt at recognition, with an element of fascination. A fundamentalist society does not represent hated of the other, but rather of oneself and of one's desires. He goes on further, Islamisation is actually an agent in the secularisation of Muslim society because it brings the religious space into the political arena. Wow, what an analysis. Olivier cites Islamic Iran as an example where religious practices are on the down.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Reyhan

    Seeing Islam from another point of view (orientalist that is)is what we get by reading this book. This book shows us why the Islam political movement (this term is different with Islamic politic) always faces it's obstacle (if failure being to harsh) in the attempt to realize the idealistic Islam 'khilafah'. Case example were showed from the event happened in Algeria, Iran, and other countries. The content is debatable and most Muslims will surely disagree the author's argument, but what more im Seeing Islam from another point of view (orientalist that is)is what we get by reading this book. This book shows us why the Islam political movement (this term is different with Islamic politic) always faces it's obstacle (if failure being to harsh) in the attempt to realize the idealistic Islam 'khilafah'. Case example were showed from the event happened in Algeria, Iran, and other countries. The content is debatable and most Muslims will surely disagree the author's argument, but what more important is that history holds the fact doing political Islam is still not the rightest answer to achieve the goal to create an Islamic society. Still again it's a 'khilafiyah' term, can't blame the author, it's his point of view though.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William

    Roy offers a very good sociological study of Political Islam in the 20th Century with special attention as to why it failed as a political movement. The book does a good job of covering the sources, background, and ideology of the movement. It also distinguishes between Fundamentalism, Islamism (Political Islam), and Neo-Fundamentalism, explaining the often porous boundaries--something badly needed to understand much of the conflict taking place in the world today. Although written in the mid-90 Roy offers a very good sociological study of Political Islam in the 20th Century with special attention as to why it failed as a political movement. The book does a good job of covering the sources, background, and ideology of the movement. It also distinguishes between Fundamentalism, Islamism (Political Islam), and Neo-Fundamentalism, explaining the often porous boundaries--something badly needed to understand much of the conflict taking place in the world today. Although written in the mid-90s, the book still makes for essential reading and debunks the myth that terror is inherently Islamic, showing rather that it is the result of the geo-politics of the last (roughly) century.

  5. 5 out of 5

    P

    Roy is an expert in examining subtleties within Islam and this book holds up remarkably well. Islamists have gained power after the Arab Spring, but they did not cause it and Roy provides a partial explanation as to why. Moreover, his discussion of Islamic economics is spot-on.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Baraa Qudah

    تحليل و دراسة للاسلام السياسي المعاصر و تشكيله و طبيعته للباحث اوليفيه روا نفس طويل في تقسي التفاصيل و التغيرات كتاب مفيد لفهم جزء ولو بسيط عن زماننا الحالي

  7. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad M. Alaraby

    The coming to power of movements such as FIS will only make more apparent the emptiness of the phantasm of "Islamic state" #Roy The coming to power of movements such as FIS will only make more apparent the emptiness of the phantasm of "Islamic state" #Roy

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ararat Kostanian

    Although I don't agree that political islam failed, but I would say this author is one of the top specialist in the field. his argument makes sense. I must read. Although I don't agree that political islam failed, but I would say this author is one of the top specialist in the field. his argument makes sense. I must read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Roy's The Failure of Political Islam is an interesting prelude to his later work, Globalised Islam. The former raises many important concepts, such as neofundamentalism and how political 'Islam' fails that will be further expanded in the latter. Roy's important contribution is his not taking anything for granted approach in dissecting the phenomenon of political Islam. Using a wide range of resources from history to sociology to agents and discourse, Roy provides a compelling (and necessarily di Roy's The Failure of Political Islam is an interesting prelude to his later work, Globalised Islam. The former raises many important concepts, such as neofundamentalism and how political 'Islam' fails that will be further expanded in the latter. Roy's important contribution is his not taking anything for granted approach in dissecting the phenomenon of political Islam. Using a wide range of resources from history to sociology to agents and discourse, Roy provides a compelling (and necessarily diverse) picture of political Islam, what it is, what it is not, and most importantly, what it will never become, in specific reference to the transnational, supra-politics, pan-Muslim polity imagined that many Islamist actors and supporters yearned for and feared by the secularist and 'Western' actors alike. Roy's contribution lies in his willingness not only to take the various Islamisms (which forms an integral factor to its 'failure') in their own terms but also to critique the project on those terms. One may argue that the individual chapters on Afghanistan and Iran, which probably reflects the author's geographical area of expertise rather than carefully selected case studies, undermines the coherence of the book, or the fact that less attention was given to political Islam that developed at the 'periphery' of the Muslim world (i.e. Indonesia/Malaysia), or that the term neofundamentalism is used too loosely and arbitrary (for example, how is the FIS which contested elections a neofundamentalist as opposed to being just an Islamist?). Yet, there is no denying this is a book of paramount importance to those committed to a grounded study of Islamism, in terms that do not exoticise the phenomenon to the point of orientalist essentialism, nor rendering it so flat that the contours, richness, and the exceptional qualities of this tour de force (to a point, if according to Roy) called political Islam cannot be analysed systematically. Failure is certainly a bold statement to make of a phenomenon that saw no abatement, notwithstanding the pulling power of the so-called Caliphate somewhat reified by ISIS puts to the test his theory that the status quo of nationhoods will defeat any calls for a revolutionary statehood. But I believe Roy, through his comprehensive engagements that ranged from the lumpenintelligentsia to the mullahs and the warlords, from imaginations to material socia life, has earned his credentials to pass such a judgement.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Boring AbinZ

    ندمت على كل دقيقة وأنا أقرأ هذه الترهات ! مع كل صفحة كنت أقول يمكن يتحسن الكتاب في الصفحات القادمة ،يمكن يكتب معلومات موثوقة ، يمكن أرى تحليلات رصينة لكن خيب الظن ..أسوأ كتاب قرأته هذا العام

  11. 4 out of 5

    Priyo Jatmiko

    While the book contains many good data, insighful questions and discussion, it fails to argue on his primary thesis on the failure of political islam, simply because he fails to define what is and in what terms is he referring about "political islam". Without this definition and clear distinction on semantic conceptual, he falls on fallacy that all of the phenomenon he received as the supporting proof of his hypothesis, which is unfair: look at these examples: - when the Al Azhar prominent issuin While the book contains many good data, insighful questions and discussion, it fails to argue on his primary thesis on the failure of political islam, simply because he fails to define what is and in what terms is he referring about "political islam". Without this definition and clear distinction on semantic conceptual, he falls on fallacy that all of the phenomenon he received as the supporting proof of his hypothesis, which is unfair: look at these examples: - when the Al Azhar prominent issuing a fatwas to save politics to politician, he refer to "politic islam is fail" - when MB changing in both practical and conceptual political expression and movement through the times, he simply refer to "political islam is fail" - when most of the parties in South East Asian (moslem countries) do not refer their platform of politics to "strict islamic terms" he refer to "politic islam is fail" - when Al Qaeda and alike acting their "war and terrorism to the west, and "opposing the ruler of moslem country" he refer to "politic islam is now fail" So what is the meaning? This is a verification fallacy, without clear meaning of politic islam and what is the condition for his hypothesis of the failure of political islam, it cannot be falsified and his verfication on fact are basically useless, and scientifically cheating to. However it is still a good book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Yaser Maadat

    أي هراء استشراقي هذا؟! سطحية في التحليل و ضعف في الرؤية و محاولة استنطاق واقع متخيل،كل هذا و أكثر يدفعني لاسقاط هذا الكتاب من كونه مرجع لنقد فعلي لتجربة الاسلام السياسي ،التي يراها الكاتب فاشلة بناء على معطيات واقعها السياسي و الاجتماعي و الاقتصادي حتى عام 1991 موعد صدور الكتاب،الواقع المتخيل الذي ينطلق منه الكاتب المستشرق اوليفييه روا و الذي مكث فترة لا بأس بها في افغانستان،جعله يستشرق مستقبلا متواضعا للسلفية الصاعدة التي نفى عنها أي امكانية لتحول ثوري،و هو ما حدث عكسه تماما كما نشاهد اليوم من ت أي هراء استشراقي هذا؟! سطحية في التحليل و ضعف في الرؤية و محاولة استنطاق واقع متخيل،كل هذا و أكثر يدفعني لاسقاط هذا الكتاب من كونه مرجع لنقد فعلي لتجربة الاسلام السياسي ،التي يراها الكاتب فاشلة بناء على معطيات واقعها السياسي و الاجتماعي و الاقتصادي حتى عام 1991 موعد صدور الكتاب،الواقع المتخيل الذي ينطلق منه الكاتب المستشرق اوليفييه روا و الذي مكث فترة لا بأس بها في افغانستان،جعله يستشرق مستقبلا متواضعا للسلفية الصاعدة التي نفى عنها أي امكانية لتحول ثوري،و هو ما حدث عكسه تماما كما نشاهد اليوم من تحول السلفية لبؤرة تصدير للتيارات الراديكالية الثورية التي غيرت جزءا من الواقع السياسي و الديموغرافي و حتى الجغرافي للشرق الأوسط عكس ما تنبئ به الكاتب منطلقا من تحليله العبثي للتجربة السلفية. النقد الاعتباطي للكاتب جعله يتصور ايران تتجه لنمط علماني حتى في ظل وجود المرجعيات الشيعية،و هو ما جعله يعجب بتجربة الثورة الايرانية في تحولاتها صوب شكل ثيوقراطي خفي عن الكاتب وحده! حتى النقد الاقتصادي الذي طرحه الكاتب لحركات الاسلام السياسي كان قاصرا و منحصرا الى حد بعيد بمواضيع المصارف الاسلامية و التقوى في التعاملات و التي أسبغها على الكثير من أبواب نقده لهذه الحركات،و هو ما جعله يتطرق للاخوان المسلمين مثلا كجماعة دون حزبية لا تمتلك قدرات تنظيمية تمكنها من مجاراة الواقع الوطني في بلدانها على العكس تماما مما حصل بالطبع!

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Elizardi

    French author. the perversion of Muslim faith into utopian political mvmt ... unable to remain in power very long - 1992 Also wrote Holy Ignorance - when religion and culture part

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emre

    In this time we have more feel the political Islam in our geography. This book help me understand for past century's political area in middle east, Iraq, Syria, Iran and their people's react. In this time we have more feel the political Islam in our geography. This book help me understand for past century's political area in middle east, Iraq, Syria, Iran and their people's react.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zulfiqar

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mohamed

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tuncer Beyribey

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hanaif Abdi

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tooty Ht

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mohd Jalaluddin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elzeyady

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hasan Makhzoum

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rudi

  24. 4 out of 5

    Usman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maha

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Garafalo

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pazzodibudda

  28. 4 out of 5

    MERVE İSMAİL

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Issaoui

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rıfat

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