Book Review: The Muslim Revolt

In his book “The Muslim Revolt: A Journey through Political Islam,” the British journalist Roger Hardy draws on his 25 years as Middle East and Islamic affairs analyst at BBC World Service radio to explore the often fraught relationship between Islam and the West.

Hardy is an experienced journalist as this book takes him across Egypt, Sudan, Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia speaking to and analysing thinkers, scholars, radicals, soldiers and moderates who all have a view about Political Islam.

In a period where the Arab world is in revolt against despotic regimes the ‘other’ alternative of Political Islam is often feared by Western policy makers as no real planning in engaging was created. Hardy’s book could provide some answers to those people who need answers on whether Political Islamists will tear up the status Quo in the region or will they be pragmatic in engaging with the West.

Hardy highlights the historical, religious, social, political and economic context to the current state of the Muslim world and how Political Islam has managed to fill the void but within the void there are three strands of action. Firstly he shows how in Turkey political Islam has compromised and even adapted to democratic means.  Iran shows how the country which had its Islamic revolution has managed to disappoint a generation who are at odds with the regime as the Islamic Revolution has either failed them or rejected them. The final strand of violent Political Islam isn’t seen as one-dimensional, he sees the battler as a “violent rejection of a global jahili culture is only one strand within a rich tapestry. At its core, the Islamic revival is about belief and identity, about restoring Islam’s dignity.”

Hardy was motivated to write the book as he recalls “the West is ill at ease with Islam” and that “even communism was more familiar.” Unlike communism, which was the West’s main enemy for the second half of the twentieth century, Islam is “alien as well as threatening. We fail to understand it, and we are paying a high price for our failure.”

Through his journey Hardy demonstrates that in the Arab world the people see the double failure of strategic real politick Western foreign policy vis-a-vis with despotic regimes in their own countries suppressing dissent and opinion, Hardy goes on to say the best solution would be is if the “regimes of the Muslim world to make a successful transition to modernity, and that of the West to deal intelligently and equitably with a part of the world vital to its strategic interests.”

According to Hardy, jihadist movements have succeeded in winning Muslim hearts and minds through a narrative with three interlocking elements: humiliation at the hands of the aggressive West, with Muslims as victims; the use of “redemptive violence” to treat the humiliation, and the conveying of the narrative of humiliation and de-humiliation through modern communications and graphic images. He believes that the best way to deal with the fear of the unknown is to create ‘soft power’ of dialogue, understanding, a commitment to democracy through grassroots and a process to engage with Political Islamists who are in the Turkish Islamist Party who are balancing the understanding of democracy together with their own values of religion but connected to modernity.

Hardy’s book was about Political Islam and not about faith, so if anybody wants to know about the premise of faith then this book isn’t for them, he basically uses his journey across the world of Muslim communities to show how hard power simply reinforces the message of the Jihadi struggle. Hardy warns that without an understanding of  Political Islamist, the West will forfeit lose the “hearts and minds” of Muslims.

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