The four-decade-long Libyan regime set up by Muammar Gaddafi, beyond its founding myth of the “Jamahiriyyan power of the masses,” represented the archetype of the Nasserist nationalist authoritarian, anti-Islamist type of rhetoric and governance. In Libya, the reactive nature of the self-assertion of political Islam could not, however, rely upon the counter-example of a more or less brutal “deculturation” brought about by proactive secularization—such as the process led by Tunisia’s “Supreme Combatant,” President Habib Bourguiba.

in Understanding Political Islam
A French Obsession

To this day, the (very) French difficulty in reaching a rational relationship with Islamic Otherness is expressed through a tendency to refuse to communicate directly with the Other in corporal form. How much cosier it is to not have to look in the eye the hideous Arabic-speaking, Muslim, Arab male, guilty of every sin. So what if, along with his hijab-clad wife, they make up the demographic majority in the region? We more or less consciously prefer to deal with those who, in the immediate vicinity of those creatures, have the good taste to be (like us honest folk) in tension or in a competitive relationship with them. Since time immemorial, we have displayed a consistent tendency. We are willing to enter into this Other’s world only through the door of its “minorities,” whether these be ethnic, religious, generational, or, more recently, sexual. Anyone, that is, except the Other “in person”—that impertinent, formerly colonized subject. So it is that France has always indulged in a proven fondness for “Berbers,” “Copts,” and “Maronites,” a fondness who nature and consequences this chapter analyzes.

in Understanding Political Islam

Syria was the latest of the comparative investments of the author. This chapter covers both Syria before the “storm” that began in 2011, and the main stages of the aborted Syrian Spring. It addresses how, in the midst of the Syrian uprising, legalist Islamists winning at the polls in Tunisia and Egypt came to deeply transform—and not for the better—the Western imaginary concerning the Arab Spring that this same West had so briefly idealized. Further, it considers the asymmetrical internationalization of the crisis; the trap into which the West allowed itself to fall, of focusing on “ISIS and only ISIS”; and how the Syrian crisis fueled the process of religion- and sectarian-based communitarianization.

in Understanding Political Islam

This book retraces the human and intellectual development that has led the author to one very firm conviction: that the tensions that afflict the Western world’s relationship with the Muslim world are at their root political, far more than they are ideological. It aims to limit itself to a precise scholarly arena: recounting, as meticulously as possible, the most striking interactions between a personal life history and professional and research trajectories. This path has consistently centered on how the rise of political Islam has been expressed: first in the Arab world, then in its interactions with French and Western societies, and finally in its interactions with other European and Western societies. It brings up-to-date theses formulated in the 2000s, in particular in the author’s previous book Islamism in the Shadow of al-Qaeda (2005, 2nd ed. 2010, English ed. 2010), by measuring them up against the lessons of the powerful revolutionary dynamics set off by the “Arab Spring” of 2011, followed by the counter-revolutionary ones.

Over the course of a scholarly career, the nature and the quality of interaction with those who share the same field of research is a thorny and important question. The question of which of the representations of the Muslim “Other” is to dominate the public sphere is altogether more important than the individualized ego-quarrels which the hastier (and often the laziest) commentators of academic debates wrap it up in. This chapter synthesizes the author’s critical examination of two main rival theses, associated with the French scholars Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel, which have structured the French debate on the issue of political Islam.

in Understanding Political Islam
Abstract only
Modernization without Colonization

His period in Yemen enabled the author to step out of both the North African and the Middle Eastern versions of the colonial paradigm. Given how central this variable has been to the scholarly construction of political Islam, this was a fundamental change.The history of contemporary Yemen is defined by a certain dualism, from the outset of the competition between the Ottoman and British empires in 1839 to the country’s reunification in May 1990 that formally brought to an end the long and turbulent North/South division. This provided political scientists with a unique laboratory through which to examine the coexistence between how politics expressed itself in the “Afghanistan of the Gulf” in the North, that is, in a region cut off from any direct Western influence—and, in the South, the successor to the only country in the region ever explicitly to adopt the references of a USSR-imported Marxism, wide open to foreign influences.Yemen was also, and primarily, an entry point into the distinctive political problematic associated with the Gulf, including in the fields of sectarian divide or Al-Qaeda-type radicalization.

in Understanding Political Islam
Abstract only

This chapter reflects on the role of TNPs during and after the impact of the Great Recession. The broader context helps us understand the challenges and pitfalls facing the EL. We reflect upon these and analyse the achievements of the EL to date. We summarise the EL’s achievements in respect of socialisation, legitimacy, policy-making and effecting Europeanisation. We comment on diversity and competition in the radical left in the run-up to the 2019 European Parliament elections. We finish by teasing out the implications of our study in terms of future research.

in The European Left Party
Developing relations with the movements and broader European radical left

This chapter discusses the EL’s developing relations with both the social movements against austerity and the broader European left. It focuses upon the ways in which the EL has sought to build links, partly through its working groups, with trade unionists, environmentalists, feminists and other sections of the ‘movement left’, as well as participating in the World and European Social Forums and organising gatherings of broad left activists. The second part of the chapter examines some of the reasons why the EL has failed to date to attract a number of significant RLPs. We also consider the objections raised to the EL by more hard-line and traditionalist communist or Trotskyist parties. Finally, we conclude with a detailed discussion of the role of the GUE/NGL confederal group in the European Parliament and the EL’s relations with that group.

in The European Left Party
Organisational and programmatic developments among left-of-centre TNPs

This chapter compares the EL with the two other TNPs of the broad left-of-centre – the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European Green Party (EGP). It shows how the social democrats have far surpassed the EL in terms of influence, even if the PES still has its limits as a TNP. The Greens, on the other hand, have perhaps advanced most down the road of ‘Europeanisation’ and the EGP now punches well above its weight – while the EL continues to punch below its weight. We argue that this is, in part, due to the fact that the EGP has adapted its structures most. The EL, by contrast, sticks consciously to the model of consensual decision-making, seeking unanimity where possible even if this means slowing down policy-making. In the second part of the chapter we compare the policies towards the European crisis of the three main left-of-centre TNPs. We argue that, on paper at least, there now seems to be much overlap and convergence between the three. However, the EL remains alone in seeking to truly transcend capitalism, rather than merely manage it. The EL’s radicalism – its insistence on its nature as a transformative party (in the sense of standing for a transformation and transcendence of capitalism) – marks it out as a singular case.

in The European Left Party

This chapter traces the institutional and legal context in which transnational parties (TNPs) first emerged and developed. We show that TNP development expanded after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty but remained rudimentary until the 2000s. We aim to explain why the EL, founded in 2004, was a relative latecomer to the field of TNPs and we consider debates between sceptics, idealists and realists as to the potential of TNPs to develop into fully-fledged pan-European political parties. We examine the different functions of TNPs – co-ordination and information exchange, socialisation, legitimacy, policy-making – and discuss where we think the EL has developed to date and where it has stalled. We conclude with some remarks concerning the future of TNPs.

in The European Left Party