Islamism and Islam
By Bassam Tibi
Yale University Press, 2012, 368 pp.
Tibi, a German Muslim of Syrian descent, describes himself as an “Islamologist,” analogous to the Sovietologists of an earlier era. His informed argument distinguishes between the religion of Islam and the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, which seeks to establish a global Islamic state governed by sharia. In this sense, jihadists and nonviolent Islamists share the same goal; only their means differ. “It is a great mistake to view Islamism as liberation theology characterized by an ‘attempt to repair,’” Tibi writes. “No, it is an agenda of cultural-totalitarian purification.” One cannot easily dismiss Tibi as an alarmist, but his argument does not allow for gray areas. Inveighing against those he sees as apologists, the naive, and the deceitful, Tibi hopes to engage his fellow Muslims in a revival of their classical, pluralistic heritage, because the effort to contain and reverse Islamism can come only from within. In the meantime, Tibi concludes, Islamism will remain “the most popular public choice in the world of Islam.”