Insight Turkey
Insight Turkey
Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs

Insight Turkey > Reviews > Book Reviews |

The New Political Islam: Human Rights, Democracy and Justice

After September 11, Islamophobic approaches in society have become more widespread, and have been observed to appear more regularly. However, Western intellectuals have worked to maintain objectivity in their studies, which may contribute to eradicating this unfair perception.


After September 11, Islamophobic approaches in society have become more widespread, and have been observed to appear more regularly. However, Western intellectuals have worked to maintain objectivity in their studies, which may contribute to eradicating this unfair perception. The New Political Islam, a study that introduces and models such an approach to a certain extent, is predicated upon the basic idea that Islamists have localized and transferred certain global norms into their societies today, and therefore function as ‘glocalizers:’ the author considers that following such developments as September 11, the social media revolution and the Arab Spring, norms such as human rights, democracy, and justice have become ‘glocalized,’ which are thought to be adopted from the global lexicon and contingencies of the local environments where they are being implemented. 

The book is composed of three main parts, along with an Introduction and Conclusion. In each part, Karagiannis addresses a concept adopted by the Political Islamists as ‘glocalizers,’ along with the group that supports the concept. 

In the Introduction, Karagiannis describes the phenomenon of glocalization. In Part I, he introduces and explains the master frame of the concept of human rights. In the first chapter, “The Activism of European Converts,” he reveals that Islamist activists utilize the master frame of human rights with a view to receiving support and disseminating their messages. Karagiannis analyses Hizb-ut-Tahrir as an example of this process in chapter two.

Expounding upon the content and significance of democracy in Part two, the author explains the relationship between Islam and democracy from the point of view of the Islamist philosophers. Karagiannis asserts that the master frame of democracy is utilized by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Tunisia’s al-Nahda Party, with a view to gaining legitimacy and finding supporters. The second chapter of Part II analyses electoral Salafism in Egypt and Tunisia and how it functions in this sense. 

In Part three, Karagiannis clarifies the concept of justice, and the approach of Islam toward it. He then analyses the mission assumed by the Shiite militant groups in terms of glocalization by adapting the master frame of justice given in the first chapter. The last chapter provides a similar analysis from the perspective of Sunni militants. 

The author considers that the concept of human rights is glocalized by Islamist activists, while democracy is glocalized by Islamist Politics and justice by Islamist militants. Yet, the author introduces Islamist militants as part of the New Political Islam that he considers to be formed within this framework, which is inconsistent at first glance, on account of the fact that persons who are able to do politics are acknowledged not to be able to resort to violence within the framework of the definitions on the essence of politics. In other words, politics is incompatible with violence, yet this book introduces violence within political Islam, which suggests that the author cannot comprehend the distinction amongst the groups in terms of a whole approach. However, one must note that the author does not lose his objectivity, even in the chapter in which he examines the militants. Within the framework of the book, the author’s emphasis that Sunni and Shiite militants exploit the justice concept by leaving the messages of war within their local regions is highly significant. 

In addition, the representatives of the groups the writer analyzes are renowned and popular figures, which paves the way for questioning their effect on shaping the writer’s opinions in the long run. It’s not possible to deliberate the author’s perspective on these figures and movements, leading the author to fail in providing selection criteria for the figures he takes as spokespeople. Therefore, while the author offers specific examples of Sufism, he features the Gülen movement among the Sufis –but there is no general consensus that this movement is considered to be a form of Sufism within the Islamic world. Moreover, Karagiannis takes a political stance by referring to Gülen as a leader in exile, which leads to suspicion in terms of the objectivity he has assumed while selecting the opinions that he has analyzed.

The diversity of the resources the author has selected in the book appear to be suitable to achieve its objective. As the author has concentrated on a dynamic structure, there is a very wide range of resources, from case studies, comments, speeches and interviews, to qualitative analyses of the materials featured by the Islamists, and from the current literature on social movements, globalization and political Islam, to online videos and social media data. The author’s preferred method is to introduce the history of the movements, and provide stories of their leaders, while quoting their certain words at intervals –in other words, predicating the book upon qualified field study. Besides, the remarks provided in the book are not separated from the history of Islam; this ensures an accurate comprehension of the actual discourses and characteristics of the movements being analyzed.

The data specified in the book appear to pave the way for a kind of brainstorming. The use of the master frame of human rights by Islamic activists, in particular, is revealed as aiming to criticize the marginalization and demonization of Muslims, as well as to ensure respect toward Islam within the framework of religious freedom. Some groups additionally use the master frame of human rights to gain legitimacy against their opponents in establishing an Islamic State, which shall be the ultimate defender of the rights of Muslims. The notion that Islamist activists adapted their propaganda to this master frame as a result of the increase in physical and verbal attacks against Muslims following September 11, and therefore have used it as a means of conveying their messages and protecting themselves against Islamophobic attacks, seems a very accurate inference. 

The language of human rights is utilized as a tool for resolving problems in the Islamic world at the local level. With that said, discussions amongst Islamic groups on the legitimacy of the concepts themselves are also of great importance. For instance, remarkable discussions that suggest that a language of human rights predicated upon the enlightenment should not be adopted, and that Muslims should promote their own language of human rights, are part of the conversation in Turkey. Despite the fact that the headscarf ban practiced up until recent times was thwarted within the framework of rights and freedoms, a large number of persons criticized that the aforementioned ban was brought to the European Court of Justice. 

This thought-provoking study that addresses today’s Islamic world across a very large spectrum is worthy of being read and analyzed. It deserves to be read and evaluated by means of enabling us to think about the current correspondence of the concepts of democracy, human rights, and justice in today’s Islamic world.

Labels »  

We use cookies in a limited and restricted manner for specific purposes. For more details, you can see "our data policy". More...