The Future of Political Islam

The Future of Political Islam

September 11; vitriolic rhetoric against the United States by prominent Muslims; the war against terrorism shifts from Afghanistan to the Philippines and Indonesia. It is easy to believe Islam and Muslims are enemies of the West; it is also wrong. 

This sweeping survey of trends in the Muslim world contends that the issue is not whether Islam plays a central role in politics, but what Muslims want. To focus on radicalism and extremism blinds us from another trend: liberal political Islam.

Proponents of liberal political Islam emphasize human rights and democracy, tolerance and cooperation. They face an uphill struggle as authoritarian regimes oppress opposition and use Islam to justify their undemocratic rule. As people are denied avenues to participate and criticize, as secular ideologies have failed, religion has come to play a central role in politics. The outcome of the struggle between extremists and liberals will determine the future of political Islam.


“…an 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 Nation and Religion in the Middle East Readers’ Reviews 

I feel genuinely better about the prospects for greater understanding and reduced conflict between the U.S. and the Muslim world because of people like Graham Fuller. Lee L.   

Fuller’s insight into this topic is outstanding. Azfar Kazmi   

 “ One should not view political Islam as a movement for conservation of the present or the past, but rather as a modernizing movement looking for change. Tim F. Martin   

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Most Recent Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding!!!

Here we go again … another book written by a brilliant, highly insightful author about an extremely timely topic!

Published on July 27, 2010 by Robert W. Smith 

5.0 out of 5 stars Erudite work. Remarkably simple. Must read.

I grew up in a Muslim country and witnessed the rise of what Graham Fuller calls “Islamism”. Fuller’s insight into this topic is outstanding. His analysis is remarkably balanced. February 8, 2010 by Azfar Kazmi

Published on August 23, 2008 by Karen Elliott House

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic explanation of the rise of political Islam

In “The Future of Political Islam”, Fuller engages two broad questions: what is political Islam and how should it develop in the future? Published on July 10, 2007 by Nate Wright

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for policy-makers and scholars alike

I feel genuinely better about the prospects for greater understanding and reduced conflict between the U.S. and the Muslim world because of people like Graham Fuller. Published on February 12, 2006 by Lee L. 

5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and well-written overview of political Islam today

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.

Published on December 1, 2005 by Tim F. Martin

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.
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