Contemporary Islamism Revisited (Chatham House Papers)

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9781405179379: Contemporary Islamism Revisited (Chatham House Papers)

This book reconsiders how religion matters and argues that it is the key component in the cultural revolution that involves Muslims globally and the efforts of an increasing number to translate this religious/cultural assertion into a political reality. Islamism is not so much a challenge to democracy as the incorporation of Islam into what is essentially a secular political struggle against dominant political systems.

  • Assesses why the various expressions of political Islam have remained with us for so long, and traces their evolution.
  • Identifies the challenges posed by the different manifestations of contemporary Islamism, moderate and radical, not just in terms of security, but in the realm of politics, society and ideas.
  • Concludes with an assessment of the ramifications of these developments on relations between the West and Muslim states and communities.

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From the Back Cover:

Studies of political Islam have too often inadequately presented the religious and ideological components of this phenomenon. While contemporary Islamism is a response to the domestic political situation in many Muslim countries, as well as to US and Western policies in the Muslim world, it is also about the power of ideas.


This book reconsiders how religion matters and argues that it is the key component in the cultural revolution that involves Muslims globally and the efforts of an increasing number to translate this religious/cultural assertion into a political reality. It assesses why the various expressions of political Islam have remained with us for so long, and traces their evolution. It identifies the challenges posed by the different manifestations of contemporary Islamism, moderate and radical, not just in terms of security, but in the realm of politics, society and ideas. And Islamism is not so much a challenge to democracy as the incorporation of Islam into what is essentially a secular political struggle against dominant political systems. Islamism is not merely a political weapon for those disenfranchised from the political order, whether local or global – Islamists are also engaged in forging a new ideology. This work concludes with an assessment of the ramifications of these developments on relations between the West and Muslim states and communities.

About the Author:

Maha Azzam is an authority on Islamist movements. Her DPhil at Oxford University (1989) was a study of Egyptian Islamist movements in the Sadat era, including a fringe group known as al-Jihad, led by a then little known Ayman al-Zawahiri. Azzam was Head of the Programme on Security and Development in Muslim States at the Royal United Services Institute, and has been an Associate Fellow of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House since 2000. She has written extensively on Islamist movements with special reference to their ideologies, mainly for academic publications. She has given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons. She is also a regular speaker at leading academic security, policy and business forums. In addition, she is often interviewed by the media on the subject.


Dr Azzam was chosen to be one of three ‘Scenario Champions’ and ‘Thought Leaders’ for the GCC Countries and the World 2025 Project for the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, 2007. She worked closely with the project team on issues related to politics, society and religion.


She is one of fifteen specialists on the Centre for Strategic Studies (Washington DC) Trans-national Threats Project, who interact online to produce open-source-based analysis of the roles, activities and impact of Islamist radicals in Europe.

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