Confronting Political Islam

Confronting Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West's Past

John M. Owen
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Confronting Political Islam
    Book Description:

    How should the Western world today respond to the challenges of political Islam? Taking an original approach to answer this question,Confronting Political Islamcompares Islamism's struggle with secularism to other prolonged ideological clashes in Western history. By examining the past conflicts that have torn Europe and the Americas-and how they have been supported by underground networks, fomented radicalism and revolution, and triggered foreign interventions and international conflicts-John Owen draws six major lessons to demonstrate that much of what we think about political Islam is wrong.

    Owen focuses on the origins and dynamics of twentieth-century struggles among Communism, Fascism, and liberal democracy; the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century contests between monarchism and republicanism; and the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars of religion between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and others. Owen then applies principles learned from the successes and mistakes of governments during these conflicts to the contemporary debates embroiling the Middle East. He concludes that ideological struggles last longer than most people presume; ideologies are not monolithic; foreign interventions are the norm; a state may be both rational and ideological; an ideology wins when states that exemplify it outperform other states across a range of measures; and the ideology that wins may be a surprise.

    Looking at the history of the Western world itself and the fraught questions over how societies should be ordered,Confronting Political Islamupends some of the conventional wisdom about the current upheavals in the Muslim world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5215-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. Introduction It Did Happen Here
    (pp. 1-25)

    The Middle East in recent years has been, in some ways, very much as Northwestern Europe was 450 years ago. Then, a wave of insurrection rolled across three Western countries and threatened to break over more. In 1560 the wave struck Scotland; in 1562, France; in 1567, the Netherlands.

    Each insurrection was different, because each country was different. Scotland was a relatively isolated land, of rugged terrain and small population, perpetually worried about invasion from its southern neighbor England. France was a great power, with vast farmlands and wealth, its rulers longtime rivals with those of Spain for supremacy in...

  7. Lesson 1 Don’t Sell Islamism Short
    (pp. 26-45)

    “The Islamists Are Not Coming.” This reassuring title headed an article in early 2010 in the influential U.S. magazineForeign Policy. The authors, experts on Islamist movements, reported that religious parties usually do not perform very well in elections in Muslim countries: in campaigns over the past forty years, 80 percent of these parties received less than 20 percent support, and most receive less then 10 percent. And when Islamist parties do manage to get elected, they soften their policies, sometimes dropping their core program of imposing Sharia on society.¹

    “Islamism seems to be fading as a revolutionary force,” pronounced...

  8. Lesson 2 Ideologies Are (Usually) Not Monolithic
    (pp. 46-66)

    A monolith is, literally, a monument carved from a single block of stone. History shows that whenever an ideological movement exists, outsiders who oppose it debate whether it is like a monolith: undifferentiated, of a single piece, indivisible. In the 1790s the British argued over whether the young American and French republics were of a piece. All through the Cold War of the twentieth century, Western governments puzzled over whether communists around the world formed a tight bloc.

    Is Islamism monolithic? Islamists do share the general goal of making Sharia the actual positive law of their societies. But Islamists come...

  9. Lesson 3 Foreign Interventions Are Normal
    (pp. 67-85)

    “Libya’s none of our business,” Ron Paul, Republican candidate for president and longtime congressman, told a journalist in June 2011. Paul was referring to the bombing campaign by the United States, France, and Great Britain that began the previous March to protect rebels against the dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi.

    Representative Paul was not alone: as the bombing began, 70 percent of Americans opposed the introduction of ground troops into Libya.¹ Comedian Jon Stewart, oracle for an entire generation of Americans, questioned the wisdom of attacking Qaddafi while U.S. forces already were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq: “You know, wars aren’t...

  10. Lesson 4 A State May Be Rational and Ideological at the Same Time
    (pp. 86-109)

    Islamism is an ideology of more than just turbaned clerics and chanting mobs of angry young men. Neither is it only an exotic glue that holds together terrorist cells and transnational networks of jihadists. It is, in fact, the ruling ideology of several countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran—rivals for leadership of the movement—are the two most prominent. Sudan is another. Still other countries are governed by Islamist parties striving to implement Sharia, at least in certain areas of law and by legal means. Of these, Turkey is most prominent.

    In non- Muslim countries, including the United States, the...

  11. Lesson 5 The Winner May Be “None of the Above”
    (pp. 110-129)

    In the summer of 1989, as communism was beginning to crumble in Eastern Europe, Francis Fukuyama published a famous article, “The End of History?,” laying out the case that the human race’s long struggle over the best way to order society was finally over and that the winner was constitutional, free-market democracy. With Marxism-Leninism exhausted and fascism long gone, no alternative to liberal democracy was left standing. The philosopher Hegel had insisted nearly two centuries earlier that History was a battle of ideas, and liberal democracy now had swept the field.¹

    Events over the next few years, including the fall...

  12. Lesson 6 Watch Turkey and Iran
    (pp. 130-155)

    Khrushchev in 1956 and Reagan in 1977 agreed on one thing: the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States was about more than just which state had more power. It was about which social system was superior. As historian Melvyn Leffler later put it, the Cold War was a struggle “for the soul of mankind.”¹ The Cold War was at once a contest between two superpowers and a contest between two ways of ordering society. The two contests were intertwined.

    In 1987, a decade after Reagan’s statement to his friend Richard Allen, the struggle’s resolution was becoming clear....

  13. Conclusion What to Do and What Not to Do
    (pp. 156-164)

    Political Islam matters, and it is not going away any time soon. It is a powerful ideology and social movement, running deep within and across most Muslim countries today and among minority Muslim populations in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. A source of hope to millions, an atavistic nightmare to millions of others, Islamist networks are implicated in both existing and emerging regimes and in political and social turmoil of many types, from terrorism to rebellion and repression to political parties to foreign policy. By no means are all Muslims Islamists, nor are all Islamists violent extremists. The Middle...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 165-192)
    (pp. 193-210)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 211-216)