Review Essay

All (Muslim) Politics Is Local

How Context Shapes Islam in Power

In This Review

Beyond Terror and Martyrdom: The Future of the Middle East
Beyond Terror and Martyrdom: The Future of the Middle East
By Gilles Kepel
Harvard University Press, 2008, 336 pp. $27.95 Purchase
The Crisis of Islamic Civilization
The Crisis of Islamic Civilization
By Ali A. Allawi
Yale University Press, 2009, 304 pp. $27.50 Purchase

The maxim Islam din wa-dawla (Islam is religion and state) is often said to describe a distinguishing mark of Islam -- the suggestion being that Islam is a religion with a political mission at its core. Both those who repeat the mantra with approving fervor and those who worry about it assert its essential truth and suggest that all Muslims must make it a part of their worldview. Some go so far as to claim that this axiom calls for a particular form of state structure or political behavior.

And yet, of course, the statement is nothing more than a political slogan -- an artifact of its time, its meaning contingent on the setting in which it is used, like any other rallying cry. This quality does not make the slogan any less meaningful for the Muslims who subscribe to it; what it does is highlight the fact that this

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