About the book:
The first two sections of In the Path of God present a historical analysis of Islam and politics; nearly two decades after the book's original publication in 1983, they stand up well. Most ideas have been confirmed by recent experience and research, though with some exceptions. In contrast, the third section, Islam in Current Affairs, can only be read today for an understanding of how things looked when the Islamic revival, as it was then known, was yet in its preliminary stages. The section begins with a novel attempt at a country-by-country review of the entire Muslim world and then addresses the burning issue of that time: Whence the Islamic revival? I made the case that fundamentalist Islam (now commonly called Islamism) was surging because of the Muslim gains from oil and gas revenues. Although the survey of countries still provides a useful, if dated, outline of Islam's circumstances around the world, I no longer argue for the tight connection between oil and Islam established in these pages. In the Path of God did establish that oil revenues helped give Islamism a start; but once up and running, it no longer needed financial support-as shown by oil revenues having several times in the intervening years gone up and down without affecting Islamism's impressively steady gains. I no longer even try to account for the rise in Islamism with a single explanation, finding that the phenomenon has long since become too complex for such monocausality. I therefore urge the reader to read the first two sections of this book for they offer a rare attempt at a cohesive interpretation of Islam in politics; but the third section bears reading only for those wanting to see how things looked at the start of Islamism's recent wave. Ideally, I would like to have replaced the third section with an entirely new essay. But other commitments stand in the way of this aspiration. A brief preface can hardly substitute for over a hundred pages, so the interested reader is urged to look up my writings on this topic, most conveniently at www.DanielPipes.org. Here I can just allude to some of the changes concerning Islam and politics that have occurred over the past two decades and sum up my views on them. The debate over causes of the Islamic surge has become less important; the surge is a quarter-century old now and has become part of the landscape. To the extent that its causes are still questioned, the conventional wisdom has shifted: it used to point to Israel's military victory of 1967 and the failure of alternate ideologies as the causes; now, the usual culprit is attributed to such factors as economic backwardness and political repression. Islamists themselves have accepted this view; in the words of a fiery sheikh from Cairo, Islam is the religion of bad times.3 Islamism has evolved from the primitive impulses of Mu`ammar al-Qadhdhafi and the revolutionarism of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to the savvy efforts of leaders like Rashid al-Ghannushi of Tunisia and Hasan at-Turabi of Sudan. What was raw and vague is now refined and targeted. Qadhdhafi (a military officer) and Khomeini (a member of the `ulama) have been overtaken by more sophisticated and media-savvy thinkers and operators. In 1983, Islamism was primarily a Middle Eastern phenomenon; by now, it has spread to many other regions, including West Africa, the Balkans, and Southeast Asia. Muslims living in the West were a negligible phenomenon then; now they represent a major presence and a growing political force that is beginning to change the terms of the Islamist effort. Having co-religionists in the belly of the beast reduces geographic distinctions but sharpens cultural ones. As Islamism has become a force felt around the world, a debate on policy toward it has emerged as the purpose of most discussions. In the Path of God contains hardly any discussion of choices to be made; this would not be a large part of its final section. Governments and other institutions, both in majority-Muslim countries and elsewhere, need to figure out how to respond to this aggressive ideology. Engage in dialogue with Islamists or fight them? Distinguish between moderate and radical Islamists or see them all as aiming for the same set of goals? Accept their democratic credentials or see them as inherently despotic? In some cases, these choices have both foreign and domestic dimensions. For India, these are represented by Kashmir and Ayodhya; for the United States, Iran and the World Trade Center conjure up a comparable duality. As for my own views: I have adopted a tough line against Islamism, which I see as a successor of fascism and Marxism-Leninism in terms of its being another radical utopian ideology. Further, I argue that Islamism is inherently incompatible with liberal values and there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist. Islamism is best understood not as a religion but as a political ideology; Islamist professions of democratic intent are false; Muslims are the main victims of Islamism; the main battle is not between Islamists and the West but between Islamists and moderate Muslims; and governments and other leading institutions need to fight this phenomenon, not compromise with it.