Euben, Roxanne L., and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, eds. Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden. Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 2009. xvii + 516 pages. Paper, $26.95.
The post-9/11 era ushered forth much discussion and inquiry into Islam as a faith and Islamism as a mode of political thought. Inquiry, media coverage, and writings on the latter subject in particular have increased since the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the recent Israeli killing of Palestinian women, children, and the elderly in the Gaza Strip. The monolithic nature of the phenomenon of Islamism is in many of the minds of the non-specialist students entering our classrooms in colleges and universities, and the ordinary person on the street. The complex nature of what popular parlance has dubbed "Islamism" is not even considered, discussed or analyzed. Many existing academic and popular texts on the subject fail to present the complexity, diversity, and debates that are ongoing among those within the paradigm of Islamism. One of the more recent books that addresses these matters is Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought, edited by Roxanne L. Euben, a political scientist, and Mohammed Q. Zaman, who specializes in Near Eastern studies.
Euben and Zaman offer the Western world a five-part volume which examines the thoughts of various well-known intellectuals considered as being influential in the Islamist paradigm. They define Islamism as "referring to contemporary movements that attempt to return to the spiritual foundations of the Muslim community, excavating and reinterpreting them for application to the present day social and political world" (p. 4). As their definition suggests, the Islamist paradigm is complex and comprised of multiple meanings that compete with and engage one another temporally and spatially. The editors attempt to demonstrate, and make understandable to the non-specialist, the diversity of Islamist thought by presenting areas of convergence and divergence on the key issues being debated within and among intellectuals and activists in the Muslim world.
Many considered as being part of the Islamist paradigm are individuals, intellectuals, and activists who are tired of the quietism that has pervaded the Muslim world for so long. Islamists seek to analyze, debate, explain, and provide solutions to existing problems in the world in which they live just as Western political intellectuals...