Despite increasingly frantic calls - especially after the London bombings of July 7, 2005 - for western leaders to 'understand Islam better', there is a still a critical distinction that needs to be made between 'Islam' as religion and 'Islamism' in the sense of militant mindset. As the author of this provocative new book sees it, it is not a more nuanced understanding of Islam that will help the western powers defeat the jihadi threat, but rather a proper understanding of Islamism: a political ideology which is quite distinct from religion. While Islamism may be draped in religious imagery and suffused by apocalyptic language, it nevertheless is similar in nature to secular ideologies of terror. And once, the author holds, this is properly appreciated, the ways to defeat it will become much better evident. Historically sophisticated and passionately argued, "Rethinking Islamism" makes a powerful case by a master theorist of political philosophy. It will be essential reading for students and policy-makers in the fields of politics, current affairs and religion.
Meghnad Desai is a Labour peer in the House of Lords. Before his retirement Lord Desai was Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Director of the LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance. He is the author of several books which include 'Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism' (1994).