Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East

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Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East

Edited by R. Scott Appleby
University Of Chicago Press, 1997
429 pp. $55.00

This book is a useful guide to the varieties of fundamentalist thinking and practice in the Middle East. An outgrowth of the "Fundamentalism Project" at the University of Chicago, it compares a number of charismatic leaders who combine religious credentials and political ambition. Many scholars of Islamic movements have stopped using the word "fundamentalist" because of its historical connections with Protestantism, but here the authors define the term carefully as "the blending of traditional religion and its politicized, ideological defense." The case studies focus on a number of Muslim and Jewish leaders, and the editor tries to find some common points of analysis. For example, charismatic leaders may initially succeed in winning a following, but they then face the problem identified by Max Weber of trying to "routinize" their charismatic authority as they strive to build institutions. Followers may not want to settle down, and these movements may have a tendency to fragment into competing bands of zealots. Success for a fundamentalist leader in these circumstances can be both problematic and highly situational. In other words, politics is not much easier for fundamentalist leaders than for others.

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