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Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (THE CERI SERIES IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES) Hardcover – November 3, 2004
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High-octane brainwork...a large and highly intelligent contribution. (The Economist)
Olivier Roy is perhaps the most provocative and innovative writer on Islamism today.... There is no more reliable guide to this labyrinth. (Martin Kramer Middle East Quarterly)
His new book provides one of the best and most detailed snapshots of 'real existing Islam' currently available. (Jonathan Steele The Guardian)
Nuanced discussion. (Nader Hashemi Globe and Mail)
Roy cuts through the mystical veil of religion...Globalized Islam gets under the skin of today's quintessentially modern forms of Islam and points the debate in a new direction. (Josie Appleton Spiked Online)
Roy's sociological analysis is always insightful. (Mahmood Mamdani Foreign Affairs)
Superb and complex sociological study. (Fawaz A. Gerces Washington Post Book World)
[Roy] suggest[s] that the important events in the world of Islam are taking place not in the regions we ordinarily think of as Islamic but in Europe. (Noah Feldman New York Times Book Review)
A very well-informed tour of the complexities of contemporary Islam. (Future Survey)
Oliver Roy's writings are always worth reading, and Globalized Islam is no exception. (Middle East Journal)
A schism has emerged between mainstream Islamist movements in the Muslim world (e.g. Hamas of Palestine and Hezbullah of Lebanon) and the uprooted militants who strive to establish an imaginary ummah, or Muslim community, not embedded in any particular society or territory. Roy provides a detailed comparison of these transnational movements, whether peaceful, like Tabligh Jamaat and the Islamic brotherhoods, or violent, like Al Qaeda. Neofundamentalism, he argues, is both a product and an agent of globalization.
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However, I believed that as Roy did a decent job of supporting his ideas, I do not think that he did the best job of debunking the common belief that is already prevalently circulating the global community. Roy discussed the involvement of non-traditional Islamists, or jihadists, but I do not believe that he sufficiently contradicted the idea of purist Islam as also playing a role in terrorist activity (not saying that this is my personal argument, but simply reviewing his work).
On an ending note, I think that Roy's book was a thoroughly intense read. It required my full attention from cover to cover, and being so-- it made it very easy to miss information if I was not paying complete attention to what I was reading. This resulted in having to re-read much of the book, just to get a full grasp on his argument.
Intermixed with this is discussion on the more radical elements of Muslim people. He especially talks a lot about Ben Ladin and other armed groups such as Palestinians, Chechens, the Balkans and others. He appears to view them as only the radical fringe.
When he talks about Christians, he generalizes, ignoring the radical fundamental fringe in the United States that blows up abortion clinics; and the conflict in Northern Ireland. This may well be due to his being French and living in Europe.
The points he makes are sometimes difficult to understand, but that may well be because of the language. I'd hate to have someone review a book I'd written in French.
The author begins by saying that "culturalists" say that "Islam is the issue." And he disagrees with them. Yes, the culturalists include just about everyone: Islamists, moderate Muslims, Islamophobes, anti-Islamophobes, and orientalists. But not him. He's not so sure it even makes sense to discuss a Muslim culture. And he sees what most of us think of as Islamic struggles actually being examples of nationalism and ethnicity. While Islam may provide some people with a sense of identity, he points out that in the war against Israel, there's no real difference politically between the seculars and the Islamists. And he asks if jihad is really closer to Marx (Karl, not Harpo or Groucho) than it is to the Koran.
I sort of blinked when I read that. While it might be true, I didn't quite agree with Roy's logic. He continued by explaining that the Chechens and the Levantine Arabs are engaged in liberation struggles. I think he's wrong about the Levantine Arabs. I see their struggle as being neither pro-religious, nor pro-nationalistic, nor even pro-ethnic, but very specifically anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-ethnic, and against human rights. Roy calls the Levantine Arabs a people, but I see them as an antipeople who have no positive goals for themselves that need to be satisfied but only goals of hurting a people they have banded together to fight. All this is quite the opposite of a liberation struggle. And using Islam as a means to get people to identify with one side in this fight does indeed make Islam at least part of the issue.
Roy continues by discussing the fact that Muslims still come up with polemics against competing religions. According to the author, Christians, for the most part, do not. Well, the Catholics do not. The Evangelicals and the Christian Right Wing do. And Roy concludes that the Christians aren't really competing against Islam. But once again, I think he's overlooking the possibility that some people might consider polemics to be poor form. I'm as willing as anyone to discuss the advantages of polytheism over monotheism. But I do not want to appear as though I am trying to impose religious practices on others.
Next, the author discusses the Westernization of Islam. Some of this section was quite interesting, especially the age-old differences between Sufis and Salafis. And later, there is a section on the future of Muslim terrorism and questions of deterritorialization. Once again, I had to ask what he really meant by that. Muslim terrorists exist in time and space just like the rest of us. At best, he meant to differentiate between explicit state support and implicit support from many of the people in a state.
Near the end of the book, Roy says that this is a time of great intellectual confusion. As an example, anti-imperialist "supporters" of Women's Rights support the Taliban! Well, if he thinks he is confused, that is fine. I'm not. If you support the Taliban, you do not support Women's Rights.
Yes, it is true that some Christian moderates are in an alliance with some Muslim fundamentalists. Some of them appear to be in this alliance to fight against Christian fundamentalists and Jews. And it may be interesting to see why. And yes, some Jewish moderates and Christian fundamentalists are allied as well, just to defend themselves. Once again, it may be interesting to see if these alliances extend to anything more than that. And I think it could be a good idea to investigate the very rare alliances of Muslim moderates and Jewish fundamentalists. But I think Roy has not offered us much merely by saying that there are alliances which cut across religious and political boundaries.
I found the book interesting, and I think it contains some intriguing facts.