Islamism and Islam Bassam Tibi

Publication date:
22 May 2012
Yale University Press
368 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
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Despite the intense media focus on Muslims and their religion during the agitated years following the tragedy of 9/11, few Western scholars or policy makers today have a clear idea of the distinctions between Islam and Islamism. In this important and illuminating book, Bassam Tibi, a senior scholar of Islamic politics, provides a corrective to this dangerous gap in our understanding. He explores the true nature of contemporary Islamism and the essential ways in which it differs from the religious faith of Islam, founded in 610. Contemporary Islamism, or Islamic fundamentalism, is distinct from - although an outgrowth of - traditional Islam, Tibi asserts.

Drawing on research in twenty different Islamic countries over the course of three decades, he describes Islamism as a political ideology based on a reinvented version of Islamic law. In separate chapters devoted to the major features of Islamism, he discusses the Islamist vision of state order, the centrality of anti-Semitism in Islamist ideology, Islamism's incompatibility with democracy, the reinvention of jihadism as terrorism, the invented tradition of shari's law as constitutional order, and the Islamists' confusion of the concepts of authenticity and cultural purity. Tibi's concluding chapter applies elements of Hannah Arendt's theory to identify Islamism as a totalitarian ideology.

Bassam Tibi is Professor Emeritus of International Relations, University of Göttingen and former A. D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University. In 2010, he was the Resnick Scholar for the Study of Antisemitism at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of three dozen previous books, including most recently Islam's Predicament with Modernity. He lives in Göttingen, Germany.


"An astute analysis of the predicament facing Arab-Muslim societies…" Malise Ruthven, Literary Review