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The failure of political islam olivier roy pdf

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accounts such as Roy's “Failure of Political Islam” and Bayat's “Post http:// soundofheaven.info Roy demonstrates that the Islamic Fundamentalism of today is still the Third Worldism of the s: populist politics and mixed economies of. If you read only one book on political Islam, this should be it. Olivier Roy, an authority on the complex politics of Afghanistan, has turned his attention to the.


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Roy, Olivier, [Echec de l'islam. English]. The failure of political Islam / Olivier Roy; translated by Carol Volk. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references ( p.). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Roy, Olivier, [Echec de l' islam. English] The failure of political Islam 1 Olivier Roy; translated by Carol. Buy The Failure of Political Islam by Oliver Roy (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Unlike Orientalists like Bernard Lewis, Olivier Roy's book sees Islamist.

The Failure of Political Islam has often been obscured by the emergence of Islamism. From below, one may note the increased visibility of fundamentalist Islam in attire: Only Turkey, Iran, and Egypt produce social science texts in the vernacular. I9 But the true taboo is that of coeducation ikhtilat. It was Khomeini who first defined the conditions for the exercise of power by the clergy theory of the vilayat-i faqih , a position that would ultimately be adopted by only a minority of the Iranian high clergy. Toward the end of the s the failure of the Islamist revolutionary idea brought about the drift of a revolutionary, political, Third World type of Islamism, incarnated in the Iranian revolution, toward a puritanical, preaching, populist, conservative neofundamentalism, financed until recently by Saudi Arabia but violently anti-Western, particularly since the end of the East-West confrontation has ceased to cast communism as a foil. The Failure of Political Islam gloss, the philosophy, but also the four major legal schools, the madhahib.

He argues that a particular type of Islamist program has failed and been replaced, not by a non-Islamic mode of thought, but by a different Islamic approach… This book is essential reading for all interested in the late 20th century evolution of movements of religious activism and revival… The issues that [Roy] raises—regarding the nature of Islamist movements and their relationships with modern institutions and concepts—must be dealt with.

Voll, Middle East Journal. His is a keen, timely study; highly recommended. Now Available: The digital Loeb Classical Library loebclassics. Booksellers and Librarians: Our recent titles are available via Edelweiss. Join Our Mailing List: Subscribe to receive information about forthcoming books, seasonal catalogs, and more, in newsletters tailored to your interests. Resources for: Middle East: Secularity and politics are born of a closing in of Christian thought onto itself.

This is not to deny that there has been some remarkable historical and political research addressing the birth of politics and the modern state. The "popularized" argument that is put forth, based on these works and aimed at Muslim intellectuals, is twofold: In postcolonial settings this argument is very badly received, and not only in Islamist or traditionalist circles.

The Gulf War showed that even among secular, Westernized, and "democratic" Muslim intellectuals there was a conscious choice, whether tortured or enthusiastic, in favor of Saddam Husayn, who all agreed was a dictator.

This passionate reaction implies an admission of failure: It is this absence of an alternative thought that we should examine without anchoring it to "Islamic culture," which we imperceptibly tend to transform into a psychological category, especially since the self-satisfied defense of the Western model proposed for the benefit of the Third World and which also serves as a form of self-therapy after the Third-Worldism of the s has been divided, internally, by increasingly virulent debate about the crises of politics and values in Western societies.

We therefore need to break away from these mutually defensive arguments. The problem is comparativism. Comparativism thus risks isolating the two entities, ignoring not only their individual dynamics, but particularly the dialectic of the relationship between one and the other: While there is definitely an Islamic political corpus, from the traditionalist ulamas to the Islamists, it is difficult if not downright specious to posit a simple equivalency between a civilization and a history on the one hand and this corpus on the other.

The Failure of Political Islam

In comparativism, one is constantly moving between the Islamic corpus the texts produced by scholars and intellectuals and the concrete sociological reality: But far from being inherently and originally marked by a lack, Islamic political thought is inscribed within a different configuration of the relationship between power and the law. That this configuration is in turn a source of difficulties is not in doubt, but one must measure it in relation to its original meaning, not in relation to the Western state.

What is original is the place of the sharia, Muslim law, with respect to power. The sharia has two characteristics: The sharia does not depend on any state, on any actual, positive law, on any political decision; it thereby creates a space that is parallel to the political space, to power, which, it is true, can circumvent the sharia or manipulate it hence the The Failure of Political Islam strong theme of the corruption of the judge , but which cannot make it into something other than what it is: For the sharia does not depend on any official body, church or clergy; the fatwa, formal legal opinions that decide matters not mentioned in the text, are always pronounced in the here and now and can be annulled by a subsequent authority.

While the basic precepts, as they are explicitly formulated, cannot be called into question, their extension is a matter of casuistics. The work of the judge is not to apply a principle or a concept, but to bring the case before him back into the realm of what is already known. These two "weaknesses" in the sharia no institutional closure, no conceptual closure also make totalitarianism, understood as the absorption of the entirety of the social realm into the political realm, foreign to Islamic culture: At the same time, no one can lay claim to Islam and simultaneously contest the sharia: The excess of state, which is latent in the place the state occupies in the West, is totalitarianism.

Ethics, and not democracy, is the watchword of protest, clearing the way for every kind of populism. This is how one must interpret the weakness of democratic demand in a Muslim country. It is not that there is an acquiescence in dictatorship, but that a different demand is made: Liberty is demanded in the sphere of the family, in the private sphere, and not in the political domain, where the value expected is justice.

These brief reflections aim to show that there are different configurations and problematics in the relationships between the state and society in Islamic and Western cultures. To investigate the first culture on the basis of the concepts of the second, elevated to the level of universality, can only bring to light an absence, a lack-the lack of a modern state-without making it clear that what prevents the emergence of this state the sharia and the horizontal bonds of solidarity groups is also what makes Islamic totalitarianism impossible.

This doesn't mean that I am equating the sharia with Western democracy: It is a question of methodology. The Muslim responses to the "Orientalist" discourse are often stereotypical and can be sorted into three categories: The first two are defensive: The third constitutes the topic of this book. In fact both Islamism and the traditional fundamentalism of the ulamas have difficulty posing the real question: The dominant corpus in Sunni Islamic culture, that of the ulamas, as well as those of the Salafist reformists and contemporary Islamists, conceive of Islam as timeless, ahistorical, and beyond criticism.

The Failure of Political Islam sons for the hegemony of the argument for "oneness" among Muslim scholars and intellectuals, a hegemony that entails the marginalization of other points of view; it is interesting to see that it is "Western" researchers who uncover the atypical thinkers of the Muslim world such as Ibn Khaldun , whose thought then becomes, in turn, suspect to many Muslim intellectuals.

But is it legitimate, considering the nonhistoricity that Islamic thought attributes to itself, to infer that Muslim societies are incapable of achieving political modernity? The Islamic Political Imagination We refuse to allow ourselves to establish a relationship of causality between, on the one hand, the manner in which the Islamic tradition thinks of politics and, on the other, the reality of the regimes and institutions in Muslim countries, or even to consider that one is a direct expression of the other.

Yet this tradition cannot help but have an effect. There exists unquestionably what one might call an "Islamic political imagination" in the sense of a horizon of thought , which recurs in the corpus of the ulamas and is explicit in the texts of the Salafists nineteenth-century reformers and the Islamists.

This "imagination" is not "Islamic culture," for we must be wary of unruly generalizations. There is another classical corpus philosophy ; there are other thoughts, other practices; there are intellectuals who think outside this horizon. But one need only skim the literature of the ulamas or the Islamists, or listen to the sermons in the mosques, to admit that there is an Islamic political imagination dominated by a single paradigm: Independently of its historical reality, this model offers the militants of political Islam an ideal for Muslim society.

Islam was born as a sect and as a society, a political and religious community in which there existed neither institutions nor clergy nor specialized functions, and in which the Prophet Muhammad was the sole narrator and interpreter of a divine and transcendent law that governed all human activities.

This paradigm would definitively mark the relationships between Islam and politics even if the original community, nostalgia for which haunts Islamic political reflection, was never to be rebuilt. This paradigm of the original community, which rejects any internal segmentation ethnicities, tribes and derives its unity from a charismatic leader, would even be reinterpreted in secular fashion and included in Arab nationalist ideology.

The nonseparation of the religious, legal, and political spheres is affirmed. The sharia should be the sole source of law as well as the norm for individual behavior, both for the sovereign and for the simple believer. The definition of an autonomous political space, with its own rules, its positive laws, and its own values, is prohibited. Finally, the state is never considered in terms of a territorialized nation-state: It is thus commonplace to say that in the Islamic political imagination, no distinction is made between the religious and the political orders.

This idea is one of the deep convictions of the political actors in contemporary Islam: We therefore should study the effect it produces on thought and political practice, and not consider it a necessary fact in the history and the actual political practice of Islam, which would mean an absence of a specifically political authority.

T h e Debate o n the State in Muslim Society According to the Orientalist perspective, the intellectual configuration described above has been an obstacle to the appearance of a political space and to the emergence of a modern state. But there are two problems we cannot circumvent: In reality, since the time of the original community there has always been a de facto autonomous political space in the Muslim world: As early as the end of the first century of the hegira, a de facto separation between political power sultans, amirs and religious power the caliph was created and institutionalized.

But this separation always resulted from a division that was different from the one that developed in the West. No positive law emanates from the center of power: Any intervention into the private sphere is perceived as arbitrary, precisely because social relationships, regulated by the sharia, are not supposed to be subject to arbitrariness and violence, contrary to the image of the capricious despot that Western chroniclers often sent home.

It is because Islam occupies the sphere of law and of social regulation that the power of the sovereign, even of a fair and good sovereign, cannot help but seem contingent and arbitrary, for he can intervene only in what is outside the domain of the sharia, and thus only in nonessential matters.

There is, in Islam, a civil society indifferent to the state. There is no "Oriental despotism. The state, too, has a goal: I3 The state is an instrument and not an end in itself.

Thus treatises on Muslim law contain a section devoted to the exercise of power.

The good sovereign is one who fulfills this function; the bad, one who exercises an "unjust tyranny" zulm. The sultan power in fact is not the caliph a successor to Muhammad , and yet the Muslim must obey the sultan if he institutes the sharia and defends the Islamic community against its enemies. The sultan is a sword sayf al-din, the "sword of religion," Introduction Similarly, his legitimacy is indirectly religious, in that he ensures the public good maslaha , enabling the believer to observe his religion: This configuration is meaningful for the "classical" period.

There is no question that it marks the imagination and beliefs of traditionalist mullahs. But if we look at recent history and at the nature of existing Muslim states, "Islamic culture" as applied to politics tends to lose a good deal of its pertinence: In the post-Weberian critiques of the state in Muslim countries, we find two analyses explaining its precariousness, its lack of legitimacy, and its seizure by solidarity groups asabiyya.

The one Badie , as we saw earlier, views this as a consequence of "Islamic culture": The other M. Seurat explains it by the imported and recent nature of the modern state in the Middle East: Seurat's analysis applies perfectly to Syria and Iraq: The Failure of Political Islam dignitaries: But as Seurat emphasizes, Syria and Iraq are secular states, engaged in bloody battle with the Islamists.

Seurat's work, which refers constantly to Ibn Khaldun and not to the corpus of the ulamas, shows that the position of the state in the political configuration of the Middle East is not necessarily a consequence of "Islamic culture," but rather a "Third World" type of phenomenon, resulting from the brutal importation of the European model into a segmented and unstructured society.

In fact, the patrimonial state, employed as a source of revenue by a group or a family, is a phenomenon that exists in every culture, from the Marcoses' Philippines to Mobutu's Zaire.

But can we generalize and say that the Middle Eastern state is simply an optical illusion? The contemporary Muslim world is no more the medieval Muslim world than the European state according to Machiavelli was that of Thomas Aquinas. There is a genuine history of the state in the Middle East, but this history is inseparable from the encounter with the West, which figures into the political makeup of the current Islamic world for better or for worse, just as it figures into Islamist thought and the consumer values of today's societies.

There is a historical process to the construction of states, dating from before colonialism Morocco, Egypt, Iran, and even Afghanistan. In the nineteenth century, the latter three countries and the Ottoman Empire began a transformation of the state from the top down, based on the model of enlightened despotism and beginning with an army and the construction of a modern state sector schools, universities, and so on.

It is true that Europe continually broke the wings of these states, which were poorly implanted in any case. Military operations Egypt in , Iran in , the coup against Musaddiq in , growing indebtedness, the arbitrary erection of borders in and at other times have always shattered the impulse toward the construction of stable states. The most recent war, the Gulf War, was not followed by an effort to restructure the political landscape: Nevertheless, as cynical as this policy is and as acerbic as the critiques of Arab intellectuals have been regarding the role of the West, one fact is undeniable: After each crisis, they again become the keys to negotiations; the longer they last, the more reality they acquire.

These states have resisted all the "pan. Arab nationalists have secularized the notion of the u m m a and in theory reject the territorialized state: Egypt whose official name from to was the "United Arab Republic" , Syria, and Iraq consider themselves to be parties, "regions," in a future Arab nation. And yet all the plans to unite the most serious of which was the SyrianEgyptian union of have failed: Similarly, the exaltation of the Arab combat against Israel cannot hide the fact that each state pursues its own interests, to the detriment of the Palestinians if need be.

The same is true of pan-Islamism: The latest Gulf crises saw the same states, the same leaders, the same borders reemerge, now legitimized by the peace proceedings. Since the Iranian revolution, the countries of the Middle East have experienced great stability in their regimes and leaders. Is this proof of the patrimonial nature of the state? Perhaps, but this is an insufficient explanation. For even if these states hold together by the great personalization of their leaders, by the absence or weakness of a democratic space, by the disdain for rules of law, even if they have often been taken over by factions, by an asabiyya, and are based on an overabundant and corrupt bureaucracy, they exist.

There are state mechanisms, sectors of the economy tied to the existence of the state, strata of the population in particular the new intelligentsia that live solely from the state, modern armies. The Failure of Political Islam military defeat, to remain in place.

Even if these states maintain themselves mostly because of the weakness of the opposition, the lack of democratic "demand," or the separateness of the civil society, their persistence shows that there is a "state fact" more resistant to analysis and to events than was formerly believed. Regimes can change, but the states remain.

The existence of these states is also fixed by the globalization of politics: Territorialization, characteristic of the modern state, may not be inherent in the thought either of the "Islamic imagination" or of Arabism, but it is part and parcel of the balance of international forces. The Kuwaiti identity might have been weak before the Gulf War; now it is very real, especially since Kuwait is certain to subsist under the American umbrella.

Today's political globalization operates in favor of the consolidation of the existing states. Inclusion in a world order gives these states a sociopolitical consistency as well, no doubt, as a psychological reality in the minds of their "nationals. Their politics cannot be explained, as Seurat aptly demonstrates, without reference to the concept of the asabiyya, to segmentation and esprit de corps, which is to say to the establishment of clientele networks more concerned with their own prosperity than with that of the state.

But these networks do not represent the permanence of a tradition behind a mere facade of modernity. The structures of the traditional asabiyya were dismantled by urbanization, by the shuffling of society, by ideologization: The modern asabiyya are recompositions of the esprit de corps based on the fact of the state and the globalization of economic and financial networks; they are translations of a traditional relationship of solidarity into the modern realm.

The modern asabiyya are not merely the permanence of Introduction Their space is no longer the grandfather's village but the modern city. The militia of Beirut may function as old urban asabiyya-the futuwwa, brotherhoods of bad boys who ensure order and "protection" in the areas poorly patrolled by the palace-while political parties may function as patronage networks around important notables, but these militia and these parties are still something other than the continuation of an old tradition: Even in a traditional society such as Afghanistan, the network that develops around a smalltime local commander, himself plugged into an "international" network for the circulation of goods arms, and sometimes drugs , is no longer the clan that existed before, but a recomposition of the traditional segmentation around a new political elite and the globalized flow of wealth.

Challenging the Orientalist vision of the state in Muslim countries are critics from three milieus in the Muslim world: The first denounce not the Western model of the state, but the doubletalk by which the West does everything in its power to prevent the universal model it proposes from becoming reality. This argument, which is often well founded, nonetheless carries with it an intellectual danger: Segmentation is seen as a Western plot Berberism, Kurds.

Political pdf islam roy failure the of olivier

The worse legacy of the West was no doubt to offer the Muslim people a ready-to-wear devil: For to say that every failure is the devil's work is the same as asking God, or the devil himself which The Failure of Political Islam is to say, these days, the Americans , to solve one's problems. Among the ulamas, mullahs, and their followers, the historical evolution of the Muslim world has had little effect on the political imagination derived from the paradigm of the "Islamic society," a paradigm that also recurs in Islamist movements.

The "Islamic political imagination" has endeavored to ignore or disqualify anything new. Not that the ulamas have always fought innovation: The atemporality of the mullahs' and ulamas' discourse is striking to this day. History is something that must be endured; whatever is new is contingent and merits only a fatwa from time to time. Modernization exists side by side with the old discourse. It notes, rightly, that secularity and nationalism are not ipso facto modernization.

Islamist protest occurs in the name of the universality of the social body conceived of as the religious community against the particularism of the state, against segmentation, against both the new state-managed and the old tribal societies. Islam is seen as the introduction of a universal outlook and the common good against particularism and communalism.

The Islamists' reference to the original society and their rejection of history are not enough in and of themselves to mark their thought as archaic.

Another fundamentalist mode of thought, Introduction Referring to the Tradition with a capital T of the Prophet allows one to evade the tradition issued from history and thus to integrate a modernity which is no longer a purely external phenomenon, as it is for the Salafists, but which is a fact of Muslim society. But does Islamist thought fulfill its program? This is the subject of our inquiry. In my view, it has failed because Islamist thought, at the end of an intellectual trajectory that tries to integrate modernity, ultimately meets up with the "Islamic political imagination" of the tradition and its essential premise: The Internalized West With respect to the effect of Western domination, it is necessary to examine not only the economic and political structures of the contemporary Muslim world political backwardness would thus be an effect of neocolonialism, evoking emotional identification with the urnrna even at the price of secular dictators such as Saddam Husayn but also the thought of this world, the conceptual framework of Islamist intellectuals.

One thing is indeed striking: All their literature insists on the rationality of religious prescriptions; this militant rationalism is a sign that modernity has worked its way into the very heart of Islamist discourse, which is so rationalist that it ends up denying its own religious practices.

But does Islamist discourse truly dominate the Muslim world? In addressing this question we should consider neither the number of books published nor the opinions of professors or journalists, but the networks through which these works are distributed, and the places and languages in which they are written-in other words, the public that is touched by them. The publication and distribution networks are financed today by conservative, often Saudi milieus.

Aside from some ephemeral Marxist writings, and at least with respect to the Arab world, it is as if the only audience for Westernized Muslim intellectuals writing within the framework of the modern social sciences were in fact within the Western world. On the Indian subcontinent, "modern" Muslim intellectuals write in English, leaving the writings for the masses, whether Islamist or neofundamentalist, in Urdu.

We will no doubt witness the same phenomenon in central Asia, where Russian will long remain the language of the social sciences. The Maghreb is divided into three languages French, literary Arabic, and Arabic dialect: Only Turkey, Iran, and Egypt produce social science texts in the vernacular.

In France, and especially in the United States, we are witnessing an astonishing "brain drain" of non-Islamist intellectuals, particularly in the social sciences. They will not be the ones to open up the ulamas' corpus. The modernity they brought to the reading of Islam exhausted itself in a repetitive, uncritical and undemonstrative defense of Islam, which for them has answers to all the problems of the modern world.

The Tehran of the mullahs has a very American look. Modernization occurred, but outside any conceptual framework: It also occurred through the establishment of states that, fragile, corrupt, and clientele oriented though they may be, are nonetheless profoundly new in their method of legitimation, their social base, and their division into territories frozen by international agreements.

Protest against the West, which includes contesting the existing states, is on the same order as Western ecology or anti-immigrant arguments: Just as France will never return to a preindustrial society, and its immigrants are there to stay, so Muslim cities will never return to the harmony of the bazaar and of guilds. It is a hybrid world, a world of nostalgia.

Only when it is too late do we dream of the past, and then our dreams incorporate everything we want to deny. The tradition of which the nostalgic dream, like the tradition condemned by modernists, never existed.

But Islamism's ultimate failure in its attempt to address modernity doesn't prevent modernity from turning into sociological facts and movements. Modernity creeps into Muslim countries regardless of Islam, and the Islamists themselves play a part in this secularization of the religion. They are a stage toward the "disenchantment of the world. For they borrow from this modernity the refusal to return to the real tradition in the name of an imaginary Tradition: They themselves deny and undermine what is and was Muslim civilization and ensure the triumph of fast food halal, of course-religiously correct , of jeans, Coke, and English.

The urban culture in the ethnological sense of the Islamists strikingly resembles that of any modern Western suburb. And the reinvention of a vestiary tradition The Failure of Islamism. In retrospect, it appears that the political action of the Islamists, far from leading to the establishment of states or of Islamic societies, falls in either with the logic of the state Iran , or with traditional, if reconfigured, segmentation Afghanistan.

No matter what the actors say, any political action amounts to the automatic creation of a secular space or a return to traditional segmentation. Herein lies the limit of the politicization of a religion, of any religion.

Our problem, then, is not to survey to what extent Islam allows for a secular space in its texts and age-old practice this would pose considerable problems of methodology and amounts to returning to the conceptual categories of those whom one is critiquing , but to study a coherent ensemble, limited in time and space, of texts, practices, and political organizations that deeply marked the political life of The Failure of Political Islam Muslim countries and their relationships with the countries of the North, while tending to alter the Muslims' perception of Islam in a stricter moral direction.

The thought of the movements we are studying oscillates between two poles: The split lies not on the question of the necessity of an Islamic state, but on the means by which to arrive at one and on the attitude to adopt with respect to the powers in place: The entire spectrum of attitudes is possible: Can the two poles be placed on a chronological scale that would move from Islamization from the top down Islamism to Islamization from the bottom up neofundamentalism?

Yes and no. On the one hand, there is no systematic correspondence between intellectual radicalism and political extremism: What is more, the Islamist movements themselves constantly oscillate between political activism and neofundamentalism, that is, between primacy accorded the political struggle and that given to the Islamization of the society.

Al-Banna, for one, has at times advocated the rejection of compromise, at times called for collaboration. Certain things have remained constant, of course, over the last fifty years: The Sunni extremist groups marginalized themselves, the Shiites, on the contrary, became pawns in state strategies the manipulation of terrorism by Syria and Iran.

But Islamism has profoundly marked the political landscape and contemporary Muslim society. Toward the end of the s the failure of the Islamist revolutionary idea brought about the drift of a revolutionary, political, Third World type of Islamism, incarnated in the Iranian revolution, toward a puritanical, preaching, populist, conservative neofundamentalism, financed until recently by Saudi Arabia but violently anti-Western, particularly since the end of the East-West confrontation has ceased to cast communism as a foil.

Yet the distinction that we are exploring here between Islamism and neofundamentalism has no chronological cutoff point; it is a difference in emphasis. Islamist militants did not suddenly become neofundamentalists starting in or On the other hand, the shrinking prospects for political revolution, the growing influence of Saudi money, the inability of Islamist thought to go beyond the founding texts, the appearance of a new generation of militants less politically educated and more concerned with the sharia and respecting rituals than with an Islamic revolution, all this set a different tone for the Islamist movement and confused, without erasing, what differentiated it from traditional fundamentalism.

This is why it is important, on a given point, to note the differences The Failure of Political Islam between Islamism and neofundamentalism the inversely proportional place accorded the sharia and women, the concept of revolution and, on other points, to note the similarities the relationship to knowledge, the critique of the official ulamas, the definition of the economy. Islamist ideas have spread throughout broad sectors of Muslim societies, losing part of their political force in this popularization.

An obvious re-Islamization is occurring in high places and on the street. Since the end of the s, the states have reintroduced principles from the sharia into their constitutions and laws; secularity is receding in the legal domain family statute in Algeria in From below, one may note the increased visibility of fundamentalist Islam in attire: Yet basically, the influence of Islamism is more superficial than it seems.

The sharia has been put only partially into practice in the most conservative states Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan. The existing regimes have proved stable in the face of Islamist contestation; the leaders have experienced great political longevity: Re-Islamization has in no way changed the rules of the political or economic game. The geostrategy of the Middle East is connected to the existing states, not to the popular or international Islamist movements.

The victory of Islamist movements such as the FIS in Algeria will not give rise to a new pan-Islamism, but on the contrary to "Islamo-nationalisms. These mechanisms are not thought out. All the rest is plot, sin, or illusion.

The vicissitudes that marked the minds of so many during the s have ultimately had little influence on the facts and history: After the second war in the Gulf, the dependence of Muslim countries on the North has never been greater.

Nonetheless, the socioeconomic realities that sustained the Islamist wave are still here and are not going to change: The Islamic revolution, the Islamic state, the Islamic economy are myths, but we have not heard the last of Islamist protestation. The coming to power of movements such as the FIS will only make more apparent the emptiness of the phantasm of the "Islamic state. Yet there is a body of lettered men, doctors of law-the ulamaswhose corpus and curriculum display remarkable stability in space and time, and who have had a quasi-monopoly on intellectual production and teaching, at least between the end of the great period of philosophic creativity in the Middle Ages and the emergence, in the nineteenth century, of intellectuals of secular culture.

The places where they perpetuate themselves are called madrasa, theological schools or universities. The homogeneity of this body results from the teaching that is dispensed there and from the techniques used for the transmission of knowledge repetition, access to texts through commentary, loyalty to a master.

They do not have a monopoly on houses of worship: These mosque mullahs are referred to by terms that vary depending on one's location in the Muslim world mullah in Iran, Turkey, central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent; imam in the Maghreb and therefore among immigrants to France.

The failure of political Islam

The trend toward creating an institutionalized clergy is recent and derives from the states and not from the clerics except in Iran. This incomplete clericalization begins at the top: Official, bureaucratized clergy have emerged in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and. The primary demand of ulamas and mullahs is the complete and total implementation of the sharia, without regard to the nature of the political system; this is fundamentalism strict0 sensu, which as a corollary also entails a secular space: Classical Islamic thought is overflowing with treatises on governing, advice to sovereigns, and didactic tales.

Obviously, within this body of thought there is no lack of nuance and controversy: Must one obey a sovereign who is himself a bad Muslim? Can one resign oneself to living in a state conquered by infidels? But the general framework remains the same.

The fundamentalist clergy want the sovereign to apply the sharia and to defend the Muslim community. His legitimacy lies therein. In the Sunni tradition, there is neither a transcendent source of political legitimacy nor a requirement that a particular type of state exist.

The political demand of the fundamentalist clergy is that the law conform to the sharia; it claims the right to censure, not to exercise power. This traditional fundamentalism, which has been the object of much theoretical reflection by the ulamas, is the spontaneous ideology of most mullahs and other clerics, yesterday as today. The permanence of traditional religious teaching throughout the Muslim world, conveying this vision of the relationship to power, The Failure of Political Islam has often been obscured by the emergence of Islamism.

Not only does this teaching continue to perpetuate itself, but it is also expressed in what one might call not popular Islam-often confused with Sufism, magic and customs that are pre-Islamic in origin-but the "popular knowledge of Islam," which is to say the elements of an orthodox body of knowledge that circulate in nonclerical milieus.

In the region in which I did field research Afghanistan, Soviet Central Asia , this circulation is obvious: It was Khomeini who first defined the conditions for the exercise of power by the clergy theory of the vilayat-i faqih , a position that would ultimately be adopted by only a minority of the Iranian high clergy.

Although the ulamas and mullahs are potentially fundamentalist, they are never the ones who take power to implement a policy of "shariatization," with the exception of Iran in There has never been a theocracy in Islam; clergy have never served as heads of state. From the Great Moghul Awrangzeb, the sovereign of India , to General Zia ul-Haqq the head of state of Pakistan from to , by way of the Saudi dynasty, all are secular figures-kings, generals, or presidents-who undertook to realize the fundamentalist ulamas' program.

Two currents can be distinguished within this fundamentalism: The traditionalist one accepts the continuity between the founding texts and their commentaries; it takes as its basic principle imitation taqlid , that is, refusal to innovate, while accepting what was said before; its adherents follow one Islam and Politics It is sometimes connected to the popular forms of Sufism hence the Barelvi school in Pakistan: There also exists a reformist fundamentalism, which criticizes the tradition, the commentaries, popular religious practices maraboutism, the cult of saints , deviations, and superstitions; it aims to return to the founding texts eighteenth-century examples are Shah Wali Allah in India and Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula.

This reformism generally developed in response to an external threat the influence of Hinduism on Islam, for example. It is in keeping with this reformist line that a fundamentalist current, the salafiyya, appeared in the nineteenth century, marking a phase between fundamentalism and Islamism. Salafist Reformism In the nineteenth century, for the first time, the Muslim world felt structurally on the defensive, faced with a technical-minded, conquering Europe.

The symmetry that had existed for centuries between Muslim and Christian crusaders, between Ottoman and imperial armies, had vanished. Why was Islam unable to compete with European colonialism? Divine punishment? The question arises with regard to the constant retreat of the Ottoman Empire, the arrival of the French in Algeria , the disappearance of the Moghul Empire in India , the Russian incursions into the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Two means of resistance emerged during the nineteenth century: On the one side charismatic leaders, generally ulamas or leaders of religious orders, launched the call for jihad and formed tribal coalitions. To unify the tribes, they imposed the sharia in defiance of the local common laws; the fundamentalism of the mullahs became a political force because the sharia was used against asabiyya, against tribal and ethnic segmen- The Failure of Political Islam tation, which in contrast was exploited by the colonizers.

These movements failed despite spectacular victories destruction of the British army in Afghanistan in , the taking of Khartoum in The anti-imperialist banner was in turn raised, after the war of , by movements that were more nationalistic than religious, even though the tradition of the fundamentalist jihad continues to our day the Afghan mujahidin. The second mode of resistance lay in the constitution of modern states Egypt, Iran, Turkey by members of the urban, Westernized elite.

The modernization was authoritarian and ordered from above, following the model of the enlightened despot; it was oblivious or opposed to Islam and shied away from democratization the dissolution of the Ottoman Parliament in , the repression of the constitutionalist movement in Iran in Without any direct colonization, these regimes came under Europe's, and particularly Britain's, thumb, as a result of debt. These historical antecedents continue to haunt the Muslim, and in particular the Arab, imagination.

The "backwardness" with respect to the West is now called underdevelopment, enlightened despotism is called "ba'thism" and fundamentalism is resurfacing in all its forms traditionalist in one part of the Afghan resistance, Islamist in the other, neofundamentalist in the Algerian FIS.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, a current of thought within the framework of Islam endeavored to address the backwardness of the Muslim world: Like all other fundamentalist reformist movements, it rejected common law adat, ufl, maraboutism belief in the powers of intervention of certain individuals blessed with baraka, or divine charisma , and rapprochement with other religions. But it went even further than its successors in rejecting the Islam and Politics Reform islah did not entail adopting modernity, but returning to the Tradition of the Prophet, which would enable one to conceptualize this modernity.

Salafism pushed the logic of reformism to its extreme: The reopening of the right to ijtihad marked a significant rupture with ten centuries of orthodoxy. The Salafists, like the Islamists, were not of clerical origins. There was no wholesale condemnation of existing Muslim governments.

The state, as the political authority, was accorded little value: Its only role was to apply the sharia. But Salafist thought was obsessed with the reconstitution of the Muslim umma, and in particular with the restoration of the caliphate. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Ottoman caliphate, though long in decay, experienced a. The Failure of Political Islam of the caliphate: Although the salafiyya never became a political movement, it left its mark on all twentieth-century fundamentalist reformists, particularly since Sheikh Abduh served as Grand Mufti of Egypt from until his death.

We will therefore study the common matrix, in terms of ideas and of organization, of contemporary political Islamism.

Islamism was created both along the lines of and as a break from the salafiyya. The Islamists generally adopt Salafist theology: The Failure of Political Islam gloss, the philosophy, but also the four major legal schools, the madhahib.

They therefore demand the right to ijtihad, individual interpretation. But they don't stop there. Three points clearly separate the Islamists from the fundamentalism of ulamas: Islamists consider that the society will be Islamized only through social and political action: The Islamist movements intervene directly in political life and since the s have attempted to gain power.

The economy and social relationships are no longer perceived as subordinate activities that grow out of pious acts or the sharia, but are considered key areas. The Islamists pose the question of politics starting from the principle that Islam is a global and synthesizing system of thought. It is not enough for society to be composed of Muslims; it must be Islamic in its foundation and its structure: The Sunni The Concepts of Islamism Islamists reject both the bureaucratized clergy and the clerical state in which ulamas have power.

The Islamist movement was created outside the body of ulamas and the large religious universities, such as Al-Azhar in Egypt, which it opposed with extensive polemics, although over time moderate Islamists have gained ground within these establishments and recruited from among the ulamas. The demand for the right to interpretation and the condemnation of the nitpicking legalism of the mullahs who specialize in fiqh Islamic jurisprudence , which is timeless and indifferent to the social and political context, is also a means for the Islamists to contest the very foundation of the ulamas' and mullahs' legitimacy: The Islamists reproach the ulamas for two things.

One is their servility to the powers in place, which leads them to accept a secular government and laws that do not conform to the sharia. The other is their compromise with Western modernity: Islamism adopts the classical vision of Islam as a complete and universal system, one, therefore, that does not have to "modernize" or adapt.

But it applies this model to a "modern" object: Whether the Islamist ideal aims to bring these different segments of society together to recreate the unity of the original community, or whether it views history as decadence and not as an agent of modernity, the Islamists make modern society the focus of their actions, a society of which they themselves are products.

Consequently one finds an important body of literature con- The Failure of Political Islam cerning social problems ijtima, the social and economics iqtisad, the economy: Islamists generally tend to favor the education of women and their participation in social and political life: Islamist groups include women's associations. The Iranian constitution recognized the right to vote for women without provoking much debate among constituents.

Islamist movements insist less on the application of the sharia than do the fundamentalist ulamas. Whereas moderates and neofundamentalists see the application of the sharia as a key to the Islamization of society; the radical Islamists, without questioning the principle of the sharia, tend to consider it more a project than a corpus?

Indeed, for radical Islamists, institution of the sharia presupposes a transformation of society if it is not to be sheer hypocrisy.

The real gamble is to redefine the social bond itself on a political basis, and not simply to apply the sharia. Imam Khomeini, in a famous declaration of January , affirmed, in opposition to the president of the Khamanei Republic, that the logic of the revolution took precedence over the application of the sharia. Sayyid Qutb spoke of an "Islamic law in motion" fiqh haraki , resulting from the interpretation of those who fight for Islam and established in accordance with social conditions-as opposed to the fixed, rigid and casuistic law of the ulamas.

This concept was adopted by the Moroccan Islamist Yasin. The same issue is addressed by Iranian militants, particularly by Islamist women. For Islamists, Islam is more than the simple application of the sharia: The Islamic nature of the state is more important than the strict application of the sharia, which is meaningful only in a truly Islamic society-a society that can then move beyond this application, even to the point of innovation.

These three elements the place of politics, women, and the sharia are good criteria for distinguishing radical Islamists such as Imam Khomeini from conservative fundamentalist regimes Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or even from modern neofundamentalist movements the Algerian FIS , although the definition, at this point, lacks detail and nuance. One proof of this is the symmetrical comparison the Islamists regularly make between their thought on the one side and, on the other, not other religions, but the major ideologies of the twentieth century Marxism, fascism, "capitalism".

A Political Reading of the Quran The Islamists fill a conceptual matrix borrowed either from Marxism or from categories of Western political science with Quranic terminology or neologisms meant to Islamize the grid.

From the Quran come the terms: The Failure of Political Islam modern political context democracy, political parties, a classless society, social classes, and so on. We also find neologisms the roots exist, but not the meaning: Maududi and Hassan al-Turabi, for example, are careful to classify the concepts of political Islam as functions of areas of law and of Western political science, as if they were universal. I7 The Iranian ideologues, such as Bani Sadr, equate tawhid with a classless society and mustadafwith the proletariat; in the work of Ali Shariati, Shiite eschatology drifts toward a revolutionary mold.

But at the same time, Islamists refuse to strike the defensive, conciliatory, and apologist note of many Muslim "modernists," who aim to demonstrate Islam's modernity by the yardstick of Western values and concepts. For Islamists, it is a matter of showing not that Islam perfectly realizes universal values, but on the contrary that Islam is the universal value and need not be compared with other religions or political systems.

Islam as a n "Inclusive Order" a n d a n Ideology Islamism begins with a theological concept that is the very foundation of the Muslim religion: The Islamist contribution or rupture with respect to the tradition consists in applying this theological concept to society, whereas previously it was related exclusively to God.

IHSociety is, or rather must be, a reflection of divine oneness, of tawhid. I9 While "oneness" is the basic fact of divine essence, in a human society it is something that must be constructed, created.

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A tawhidi society an adjective in use among Iranian ideologues cannot tolerate either intrinsic segmentation social, ethnic, tribal, or national or a political authority The Concepts of Islamism From Rupture to Revolution But how can an Islamic society be established?

Disagreement between moderate and radical Islamists has existed on this point throughout the history of Islamism. All acknowledge the necessity of controlling political power. The moderates are partisans of relslamization from the bottom up preaching, establishing sociocultural movements while pressuring the leaders in particular through political alliances to promote Islamization from the top introducing the sharia into legislation: This is the revolutionary element in Islam.

It was Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Muslim Brother executed in , who fashioned himself as the theoretician of rupture and inspired the revolutionary groups of the s. His analysis turns upon two concepts: Jahiliyya, a Quranic term, refers to the condition of pre-Islamic society, combining ignorance and savagery.

Islamists assert that current Muslim societies have reverted to jahiliyya,z5a theme that is also Present in revolutionary Iran in the expression taghuti: In such a case, jihad against governments who are Muslim only in name is Their leaders can be declared to be in a state of infidelity: But what institutions are to be derived from this generality?

Two concepts recur constantly among most Islamist theoreticians: The terms that designate the leader vary: The term khalifa, caliph, sometimes used in the s,has practically disappeared. The amir is both the political and religious leader of the community. For Islamists, the challenge is to end the division of power that has traditionally existed in the Muslim world between the de facto sovereign and a class of ulamas who oversee the law without involving themselves in matters of power.

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Early on, Islamists replaced the concept of the caliphate surviving mainly in the writings of Hasan al-Banna with that of the amir. One reason for this is that according to the classical authors, a caliph must be a member of the tribe of the Prophet the Quraysh , which would not correspond to the emergence of a new elite; moreover, caliphs ruled societies that the Islamists do not consider to have been Islamic the Ottoman Empire.

Next, Islamists wish to Finally, before being society's guide, the amir has the advantage of being a party leader, a new concept that is entirely unrelated to the medieval debates on the nature of the caliphate.

Who designates the amir? Little is said in Islamist literature about concrete procedures for designating the amir or about the extent and limits of his power.

To many Islamists with the exception of the Iranians , the idea of voting and of elections seems to weaken the unity of the umma and to relativize, "humanize," that which proceeds from God alone. The ideal solution, which runs throughout the debate, would be for the amir to be index sui, his own indicator; that is, by merely appearing he would be instantly recognizable.

Hence, no doubt, the incessant quest for a charismatic chief, which is transformed in political life into a quest for a leader. The only criterion for designating an amir would therefore be the man himself, his virtue, his personality. The quest for the amir is often reduced to a description of the qualities he should exhibit. Thus, for Maududi, who generally is very concerned with inscribing political Islam into a modern constitutional framework, the political leader must meet the following conditions: He is as much a religious chief as a political leader; many theoreticians accord him the right to ijtihad, which places him above the ulamas, although no Islamist text requires that he come from the ulamas' milieu.

In general, the more radical the party, the more central is the The Failure of Political Islam figure of the amir. In the program of the Hizb-i Islami, which often simply paraphrases the texts of Hasan al-Banna, it is written that the director must be considered "a spiritual leader" by party members.

One must pledge him allegiance bay's. Meanwhile the more moderate groups limit the right to interpretation to an amir who has actual religious training, at the risk of reintroducing the preeminence of the ulamas that the Islamists have so decried. Elections and the Advisory Council Since sovereignty belongs only to God, the Islamists reject the notion of popular sovereignty and accord only contingent value to the elective principle.

In short, the shura's function is redundant: The shura can.