Sponsoring Sufism: How Governments Promote “Mystical Islam” in Their Domestic and Foreign Policies

In This Review

Sponsoring Sufism: How Governments Promote “Mystical Islam” in Their Domestic and Foreign Policies
By Fait Muedini
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015
232 pp.
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This book does not do justice to its important subject. Muedini focuses on the political uses of Sufism in Algeria, Chechnya, Morocco, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uzbekistan—leaving out the bulk of the Islamic world, in which Sufism is nearly ubiquitous. He seems to have conducted no original research and consulted only English-language sources. His main thesis is unassailable. Sufism’s goal is to provide mystical union with God, often through the mediation of a “saint.” Sufi orders are not organized for conventional political action; this apparent apoliticism makes them attractive to autocrats with Muslim constituencies, who use Sufism to counter radical Islam and Islamist violence. Unfortunately, readers do not hear from Sufis themselves. It would have been helpful to learn how they see their mission and their adversaries and to know whether they believe they are perpetually doomed to serve as pawns in abusive systems or whether they think they could broker dialogue between autocrats and mobilized Muslim constituencies.

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