Understanding Political Islam

By François Burgat

Understanding Political Islam


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4343-3
  • Pages: 248
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: December 2019
  • BIC Category: Politics, Islam, POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Middle Eastern, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies, RELIGION / Islam / General, Society & social sciences / Sociology, Society & social sciences / Political ideologies, Middle East, Islamic Countries, Islamic Studies, Humanities / Islam


Understanding Political Islam retraces the human and intellectual development that led François Burgat to a very firm conviction: that the roots of the tensions that afflict the Western world's relationship with the Muslim world are political rather than ideological. In his compelling account of the interactions between personal life-history and professional research trajectories, Burgat examines how the rise of political Islam has been expressed: first in the Arab world, then in its interactions with European and Western societies. An essential continuation of his work on Islamism, Burgat's unique field research and 'political trespassing' marks an overdue challenge to the academic mainstream.


'An outstanding book that sheds clarity on the oft-obscure debate about Islam and politics. Alternately personal and scholarly, Burgat takes the reader through his extensive field work in the Arab Muslim world to share the conversations and revelations that have shaped his approach to the subject. He also engages head-on with the divisive debates that have poisoned the discussion of Islam's place in the West since 9/11, not least in his native France. Engagingly written and passionately argued, Understanding Political Islam is essential reading.'
Professor Eugene Rogan, Director of St Antony's College Middle East Centre, University of Oxford

'Understanding Political Islam?
finally makes accessible to English readers the formidable intellectual journey of the prominent French scholar, Francois Burgat, and provides the most up to date synthesis of his research that spans over four decades and multiple countries from North Africa to the Middle east.

Francois Burgat is an original and unique voice who has continuously challenged the dominant assumptions on political Islam by showing for example that Islam as a religion is not the main factor of Islamism, and therefore religious reform is not the solution to the existing Islamist predicament.

Building on Burgat's longstanding fieldwork, this book provides a rich and in depth analysis of the multifaceted and evolving reality of Islamism from its origin in the 1960s to the Arab Spring and ISIS. It is a must read for students of politics and experts of the Middle east.'

Professor Jocelyne Cesari, University of Birmingham and Georgetown University, author of What is Political Islam?

'A magisterial statement on the study of Islamic politics by one of its most distinguished scholars, this is also a deeply personal book that summarises a career spent in North Africa and the Middle East living among and speaking to some of the region's most important political actors.'

Professor Faisal Devji, Director of St Antony's College Asian Studies Centre, University of Oxford
'Misunderstanding of"Political Islam" has been perhaps the greatest political trap the West hasfallen into in modern times, dragging it into endless wars, interventions,coups and attempts at regime change in the Muslim World- all failing toaccomplish anything except death and destruction.

François Burgat was oneof the very first researchers to abandon high-flown theorizing about whatpolitical Islam is all about. Instead gettingdown into the mix to spend time with an array of real personalities livingunder concrete but diverse circumstances, Burgat captured earlier thanmost a feel for the realities and impulses inside Islamic movements, howeverdivergent among themselves. He has consistently argued that the issue comesdown not to exotic ideologies but to a practical struggle by Muslims to recovera place of power and dignity in the world and to establish identities washedaway under years of colonialism. Burgat's writings had great impact on my ownthinking on the topic going back over thirty years. In this unique book, Burgatoffers us his physical and intellectual journey through the Muslim world overthe years, as his ideas took deeper shape and root.

He continues to providehere the human and psychological dimensions of the complex phenomenon thatwe in the West like to lump together as "Islamic radicalism." Thisbook makes clear how his approach and understanding have withstood the test oftime.'

Graham E. Fuller, former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, a former Senior Political Scientist at RAND, and a current Adjunct Professor of History at Simon Fraser University


Preface to the English Edition
Introduction: Writing the History of a Research Career

Part I: Discovering the Muslim "Other"
1 Intuitive Accumulation
2 Algeria: Approaching the Other
3 Prelude in the Jamahiriyya
4 Egypt, Arabic, and Grasping Difference
5 Yemen: Modernisation Without Colonization
6 "Beneath Israel, Palestine"
7 Syria and Bilad Al-Sham

Part II: Political Islam: The stakes of an alternative interpretation
9 Being a Political Scientist of the Muslim World
10 Saving the Other's "Others": A French Obsession
11 The Political Cost of Dissent
12 Between Judges and Spooks
13 Wrestling with the Research of Others: Olivier Roy, Gilles Kepel and Islamism
14 The Charlie Hebdo Attacks: Failure of Islam-or Failure of Politics?
Conclusion: Where Do We Go Now?


François Burgat is Research Director Emeritus at the CNRS, Institut de recherches et d'études sur le monde arabe et musulman (IREMAM), Aix-en-Provence

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