Olivier Roy The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East, Hurst and Company, London 2007, trans. Ros Schwartz, ISBN 978-1-85065-894-8 paperback, pp 159+index
Six years after 9/11 French sociologist Olivier Roy produced a collection of essays to explain what went wrong with American policy in the Middle East. Building on a long career spent studying, analysing and interpreting religious and political trends in parts of the Muslim world and Europe, Roy’s recent book builds on complex but lucid theoretical position and sound methodological skills, both enable him to carve for himself a sound academic niche and emerge as an authority on current social, political and religious developments that are today not confined to specific countries or regions but are themselves globalised.
Roy’s The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East is a short collection of essays that captures a long scholarly engagement with Islamism, social movements, globalisation, and political development. Unlike some of the French academic literature on the Muslim world that has emerged since the 1970s, most of which has been grounded in dogmatic secularism and revulsion towards the new Islamist social movements, Roy offers a nuanced and sophisticated analysis of sociological and political trends that are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
After ongoing military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Pakistan, and possibly in Somalia and Yemen in the near future, the world that America imagined would move towards democracy, stability, prosperity, and security is still far from materialising. In fact, it seems that the neo-conservative vision of the Great Middle East had stumbled in many regions and resulted in what Roy describes as chaos. The rationale behind Bush’s military strategy summed up as ‘whole sale and rapid annihilation of the enemy’ failed miserably to deliver the desired outcome.
Posted by Main at 03:41 AM.
Book Reviews •
Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979
By Thomas Hegghammer
Cambridge University Press
290pp, ISBN 978-0-521-51858-1 Hardback ISBN 978-0-521-73236-9 Paperback
How could Jihadi violence break out in a country seen as the historical heartland of Islam and ruled by a state that boasts about its many Islamic credentials? Thomas Hegghammer unpacks the paradox of Jihadi militancy in an Islamic state.
The book is based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, and an impressive collection of biographies and written sources from well-known internet al-Qaida websites. Its ten chapters trace the evolution of militant Islamism and its later containment by the Saudi authorities.
Since 9/11 scholars and security specialists searched for plausible explanations to account for Jihadi militancy at the local and global levels. Wahhabi radical theology, Western foreign policies, socio-economic deprivation, dictatorships in the Muslim world, and more recently the internet, are often cited as causal factors. In a global world, it has become difficult to isolate local conditions from global contexts.
Hegghammer introduces his own hypothesis. Saudi Pan-Islamism, ‘a macro-nationalism, centred on the imagined community of the umma’ is the primary explanation for the brief outburst of violence in Saudi Arabia. As an orientation, pan-Islamism is mainly linked to the oil boom of the 1970s, when sympathy with the suffering of other Muslims became a new source for Saudi legitimacy, activism and engagement with the Muslim world. This engagement came to fruition in 1979, when Saudi Arabia joined Western powers to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was an opportunity to direct Saudi Jihadi effervescence outward. The suffering of the umma on the periphery of the Islamic historical centre proved to be a successful recruitment slogan to draw Saudis, recently tamed by the luxuries of the new oil era, into the Afghan Jihad.
Posted by Main at 03:38 AM.
Book Reviews •