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The Future of Political Islam Hardcover – April 19, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fuller, a former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, sets out to de-mystify Islam and its relationship to affairs of state in this broad survey of Islamic political movements. Attributing the rise of militant and fundamentalist Islam to centuries of Western colonialism, imperialism and cultural domination, Fuller points out that in most Middle Eastern countries, politicized Islam is often the only alternative to repressive, authoritarian regimes. To his credit, he treats this as neither an excuse nor a justification, but a simple reality. As with any other religion or political movement, Islam takes on a variety of forms: "Islamism is really a variety of political movements, principles and philosophies that draw general inspiration from Islam but produce different agendas and programs at different times." While Fuller succeeds in explaining that Shari'a, or Islamic law, is less a form of governance (as many fundamentalists argue) than a personal code of conduct, he brings a powerful argument to bear against many radical and repressive interpretations of the Koran. Fuller's narrative doesn't always pack the cogent punch of that section of the book, which as a whole can feel somewhat scattershot. Although Fuller manages to include much valuable and clearly presented information in these pages, he occasionally repeats himself, especially towards the end of the book. Nonetheless, this is an illuminating read and a welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary Islam, and Fuller's prognosis-of increased tensions between international Islam and the U.S.; a focus on revenge rather than growth; the potential obsolescence of more liberal Islamic political movements, among other predictions-is sobering.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


" illuminating read and a welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary Islam..."--Publishers Weekly Annex

"After September 11, 2001, the discussion around Islam has often been shrill and usually sterile that is why Graham Fuller's measured, scholarly and eminently sensible voice needs to be heard. Read Fuller's new book The Future of Political Islam to make sense of the dangerous, changing and complex relationship between the West and the world of Islam."--Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, D.C. is author of Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World (I.B.Tauris, 2002)

"This is the most insightful book on developments in political Islam since the Iranian revolution shook the world. Having lived myself many years in the shadow of a mosque, I can say without hesitation that Fuller has captured the core and nature of Islamism. Importantly, he casts the movement as part of the solution to the looming confrontation between the United States and what we call the Islamic world, not just the cause of the confrontation. The Future of Political Islam is a must read, both for those shaping U.S. policy toward one-fifth of mankind and for America's own religious leaders who themselves have a hand on the political tiller."--Milt Bearden is a former senior CIA official and author of The Black Tulip (Random House, 2002) and co-author of The Main Enemy (Random House, 2003)

"Graham Fuller is supremely qualified to provide rich insight into contemporary Islamic thinking on politics, economics and international relations. Here his sensitivity to differences among Muslims combines with an impressive discussion of contemporary developments, resulting in an important contribution to understanding. Fuller argues persuasively that Islamic political movements are, above all, an engagement with the modern world, not a flight from it, and that it is possible to reason critically with their ideas. Fuller's hope that Islamist movements will engage in participatory politics, and his belief that they should be tested by the experience of government, underpin his cautiously optimistic analysis that the future of political Islam can be peaceful." --Fred Halliday, London School of Economics, author 0Nation and Religion in the Middle East

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (April 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403961360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403961365
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,755,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I first became smitten with the Middle East at age 16 while reading National Geographic magazines and being enticed by the exotic landscapes, the culture, and the crazy shapes of the Arabic language that I decided I had to learn. I studied a lot about the Middle East, and Russia, when I was in university. I always expected to become an academic, but my draft board deemed otherwise; I was drafted and sent into intelligence work. I had an extraordinary chance to learn about the Middle East first hand while serving as a CIA operations officer all over--Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Hong Kong for two decades. It was an education in itself, and a chance to travel and learn a lot of languages, which I loved.

I then "came in from the cold" and was appointed a top analyst at CIA for global forecasting. After 25 years with the US government I felt it was time to leave; I joined a major West Coast think tank (RAND)in California (no, nothing to do with Ayn Rand) where I was a senior political scientist. In 2004 I moved to Canada and, among other things, am now an adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. I never lost my interest in Islam, the Middle East and Asia and ended up writing many books on the subject --on Islamic fundamentalism, Shi'ite Islam, and Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian politics. By now they amount to nearly a dozen books; my more recent ones include the well-received "The Future of Political Islam," and later the provocative "A World Without Islam."

My last book was a personal memoir, "Three Truths and a Lie." It's a painfully personal book about our Korean son, adopted at age one who sadly died of crack cocaine at age 21. Although it's a sad tale, many people have commented that they find it uplifting as well, which is personally very gratifying. I'm about to publish a new book, "Turkey and the Arab Spring" in April 2014 And I'm at work on a novel--yes, you guessed it-- about the Middle East.

I currently live in a small town in the Vancouver BC area; when I can break away from my desk I like to spend time on community issues dealing with with bears, eagles, and salmon. And mountain biking is good for the soul.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on July 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Graham Fuller has written an illuminating and important book on the relationship between Islam, a religion, and Islamism, a "religous-cultural-political framework for engagement on issues." Most Americans, it would seem, associate Muslims with fanatic bomb-throwers. Fuller points out the diversity of Islam and its adherents and examines some of the reasons why Muslim states and political movements are so often failures in the modern world -- when 1,000 years ago they were in the vanguard of civilization.
Amidst many other ideas, Fuller cites, from a UN study, three crisis areas for the Arab world. Lack of political freedom, low level of education, and the low social status of women. He postulates a choice among Islamists. They can continue to ossify or they can find ways to use Islam constructively to confront these crisis areas. This is the challenge of Islam, and the challenge of the U.S. and the West is to help ensure that the choice is the latter and not the former.
In his last chapter, Fuller gives two scenarios for the future. One is dark, foreseeing continued conflict between political Islam and the West; the other is more hopeful.
The best parts of the book in my view are Fuller's insights into what the U.S. might do to encourage the more liberal Islamists. These include a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and support for positive movements in the Islamic world. It hardly seems in the U.S. national interest to have the Muslim world as an antagonist and thus this book is worth a careful reading for its insights and its policy suggestions.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By George A. Fowler on September 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Future of Political Islam" is a tightly organized and strongly presented overview of the important role of liberal-minded Muslim intellectuals in the ongoing, often contentious interface of the earliest of globalisms --- Islam --- with its contemporary capitalist, technocratic and secular variant. The strengths of this book are its brevity and a certain hard-nosed objectivity. Fuller avoids resting his arguments on the weak but all-too-common generalization of "many Muslims feel that ..." by richly citing "eye-opening" and often provocative statements by leading liberal Islamists such as Laith Kubba and Muhammed Shahrur, among many others. These well illustrate the broad range and reflectiveness of contemporary liberal Islamist thinking. Fuller, after a professional lifetime spent throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, offers some cogent thoughts of his own on how US policymakers can beneficially respond to this vast ferment of "Islamized" social and political agenda-making. In Fuller's view, the struggle -- for this what it is -- between radicals and liberals, conservatives and modernists, to define the role of Islam in modernizing societies has an essential life of its own quite apart from Western policymaking. Nonetheless, the West's ability to understand and empathize with the many nuances of "political Islam" will influence the course of this struggle and the future interplay of these two globalisms.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tahir Ali on March 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Tahir Ali - author of book "Muslim Vote: Counts and Recounts"

Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA analyst, who has written many books and monographs on Islam, builds his case with a simple but telling remark. "The issues are not what Islam is, but what Muslims want, and not whether Islam will play a central role in politics, but which Islam."

In the concluding chapter of his book, Fuller offers "A Prognosis" about the Muslim world and the US: We need to contemplate, he argues, the possible future(s) that await political Islam and the courses of action available to the United States.

While he anticipates further deterioration of the US relations with the Muslim world, he also believes that this dark scenario can be averted if the U.S. is willing to arrest this rapid deterioration by taking a number of concrete steps that include: 1) "A more benign, less confrontational international order and the diminution of terrorism in general, 2) The abandonment by Washington of relentlessly harsh, peremptory, and unilateralist policies toward the Muslim world in the context of War against Terrorism, and adoption of more sympathetic cooperation and engagement with the Muslim world, 3) The attainment of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, 4) Significant reform and political change in the Muslim world, supported actively by the United States, 5) Improved conditions in most of the developing world, and especially in the Muslim world, that ameliorate the current mode impotence and anger and offer hope and sense of progress, 6) High domestic incentives for populations in the Muslim world to reject any sympathies for potential terrorism against the United States as irresponsible, unproductive, and damaging to clearly more promising alternatives before them."

A must read for truth seekers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on December 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In _The Future of Political Islam_, author Graham E. Fuller sought to answer the fundamental questions of what is the nature and future of political Islam. Does political Islam represent the "last heroic stand" of Muslim culture against (largely American-led) globalization or does it instead represent a dynamic new synthesis of Islam and contemporary Western political thinking?

Early on Fuller established that political Islam (or Islamism) is not the same thing as fundamentalism. Political Islam is a very broad term and includes everything from radical to moderate, violent to peaceful, traditionalist to modernist views and policies. In reality, political Islam is not an "exotic and distant phenomenon," but one that is linked to a variety of contemporary social, moral, economic, and political issues of almost universal concern, not limited to issues that are profoundly religious and moral in content.

In chapter one, Fuller looked at important issues in Islamic history. A key political reality of the Muslim world today is the "fabled memory" of Islamic glory, one that "mocks" present Muslim impotence, an epic "stunning reversal of fortune." For Islamists key to this tragedy was an internal moral and spiritual decline of Muslim society, though most Islamists recognize that other cultural, intellectual, geopolitical, cyclical, and environmental factors were at work. Political Islam may represent the beginning of an intellectual reformation in Islamic thought, a reversal of marginalization of the Islamic world as it comes to accept the Western vocabulary of politics and its inherent values (democracy, pluralism, etc.) and become a social and political force to be reckoned with.

In chapter two, he analyzed the very diverse roles that political Islam plays today.
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