The Muslim Revolt: a critical Book Review Madison Links

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The Muslim Revolt: A Critical Book Review

Madison Links


Dr. Holloway

Polisci 356


The Muslim Revolt is a complex Islamic revival movement incorporating conflicts from a local, regional and global level, and for many people living in the West this movement is shrouded in mystery. In the West, Islamism is not fully understood and neither are the underlying causes that perpetuate this political movement. Roger Hardy (2010) understands the dangers of Western ignorance towards Islamism and the Muslim Revolt, and this was the driving force behind his book entitled “The Muslim Revolt: a journey through political Islam”. A central argument of this book is that the Muslim Revolt is not a singular movement and instead encompasses a variety of Muslim resistances to local conflicts. Hardy (2010) also argues that the root causes of the Muslim Revolt are Muslim grievances, which are perpetuated by the failure of local governments to modernize, and Western political and military intervention which in some cases has amplified Muslim suffering. This paper will provide a brief summary and critical evaluation of Hardy’s (2010) work, and seeks to argue that this book provides a well-rounded and sensitive account of Islamism and enlightens readers to the causes of this movement. The book however, lacks some necessary contextual information and provides rather ambiguous suggestions for solutions to foster a more equitable and tolerant relationship between Islam and the West.

Hardy (2010) tells the complex story of Islamism and each chapter depicts elements of Islamist movements in specific Muslim countries around the world. He begins with a discussion of the first historical clash between the religions of the West and Islam, which occurred during the Crusades between Muslims and Christians (Hardy, 2010, pp. 13). The power of Islam began to dissipate in the 17th century as the great Islamic empires fell behind the modernizing West, and this eventually led to European colonization of the Muslim world. Thus began the struggles for Muslims to retain their cultural practices and religious traditions during Western colonization. The European intervention in Egypt marks the beginning of the Islamist movement (Hardy, 2010, pp. 20). Al-Banna started the Muslim Brotherhood to revive the power and glory of Islam, and to unite and free Muslims from European rule (Hardy, 2010, pp. 21). Once the British colonizers had left Egypt, the Islamist movement focused on combatting more secular and nationalist governments such as the one lead by Nasser in post-colonial times. In this period, an Islamist named Qutb presented a more radical form of Islamism, and his more reactionary perspective caused a divide in the Muslim Brotherhood (Hardy, 2010, pp. 30). In the 1970s, the Islamist movement rooted in Egypt began to spread through the Muslim world in the form of other regional conflicts involving Muslims resisting secularization and westernization in the context of their own countries.

Hardy’s (2010) account next explains the importance of the Iranian revolution in terms of the Islamist movement. Iran’s significance to the West and Russia has always been due to its strategic location and oil resources. In the early twentieth century due to Western influence, Iran adopted an ineffective constitutional monarchy. In the 1920s, Reza Shah came into power and lead Iran through a process of secularization and modernization (Hardy, 2010, pp. 42). In the 1950s, Mossadeq became Prime Minister and made a bold move to nationalize the Iranian oil industry asserting Iranian resistance against western influence (Hardy, 2010, pp. 43). The United States and the UK did not wish to lose influence over a country so vital to their needs, so they intervened politically and reinstated the Shah in an effort to control the growing resistance in Iran. Anti-west and anti-modernization sentiments were boiling under the surface and Khomeini, a popular Islamist preacher in 1979, led a revolution to overthrow the current Iranian government and create a new Islamic state (Hardy, 2010, pp. 47). The Iranian revolution was a model for Islamic militancy, and has been an important symbol of hope for the Islamist movement (Hardy, 2010, pp. 40).

The role of Pakistan in the Islamist movement is related to the Islamist ideologies that were prominent in the country post-independence. Islamist theorist Abul A’la Maududi believed that Islam could be integrated into the political system as a form of governance (Hardy, 2010, pp. 67). In 1977, General Zia came to power by overthrowing the government, and he instated Maududi as a religious advisor. As a result many of Maududi’s Islamist ideologies were incorporated into governmental policies and the creation of Madrasas, which were religious schools that preached Islamic values. On another front, the 1979 Soviet invasion in Afghanistan led to an uproar amongst the Muslims of the world, and there was a call for Muslim volunteers to come and fight along-side the Afghani holy warriors (Hardy, 2010, pp. 69). Money from Afghanistan’s allies, including the USA and Saudi Arabia, was funneled into the Madrasas to train holy warriors in Pakistan to be sent to fight off the Soviet enemy in Afghanistan. The Islamisation of Pakistan was a fundamental component in the creation of the future radical Islamist groups worldwide including fighters of the global Jihad.

Hardy (2010) provides further evidence for one of his central arguments, that the Muslim Revolt encompasses regional conflicts around the world, in his discussion of Islamist revival movements in both Africa and South East Asia. Although both Islamist movements were inherently different because they were based on local conflicts there were a few key similarities. In both contexts Islamists resisted governments, which in their perspective devalued Islam. Islamist groups in both contexts wanted to reassert the power of Islam regionally through the spread of Islamic values and practices within governmental policies and the education system. In the Indonesian context, the Islamist movement gave rise to a radical militant group called Jemaah Islamyiah, which resorted to violence in order to resist secularization and westernization in the region of South East Asia (Hardy, 2010, pp. 156). The Islamist movements in both contexts have contributed to the revival of Islamism within Muslim countries in Africa and South East Asia.

In chapter five, Hardy (2010) seeks to answer some key questions in regards to Saudi Arabia. Critics have questioned whether Saudi Arabia is in some way responsible for supporting and funding the global Jihadi movement. Hardy begins his analysis by explaining the role of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is known for being intolerant and discriminatory against other religions and cultures, particularly those in the West (Hardy, 2010, pp. 98). Leaders in Saudi Arabia have been trying to push the ideologies of Wahhabism on their own people and spread the influence to Muslim populations globally. In order to spread Wahhabism, there were charities set up to fund Islamic organizations, and it is believed that money from these charities flowed to Jihadi groups (Hardy, 2010, pp. 101). Within this chapter, there is also a discussion of the story of Osama Bin Laden who was a Saudi (Hardy, 2010, pp. 103). During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Bin Laden was a benefactor of holy warriors, and helped recruit Muslim volunteers to fight in Afghanistan, which led to the beginning stages of creating Al Qaeda. As the leader of Al-Qaeda he declared a Jihad against the West and Muslim countries that supported the West (Hardy, 2010, pp. 103-104). The global Jihad movement views the West and Muslim nations that are allied with the West as the perpetrators of Muslim suffering and as enemies of Islam, and Jihadists believe that it is their religious duty to fight enemies of Islam in order to bring justice to Muslims. Hardy (2010) argues that whether or not Saudi Arabia is directly responsible for the Jihad movement it was fostered by the conservative and intolerant teachings of Wahhabism rampant within the country.

From Saudi Arabia, Hardy (2010) continues to discuss more radical Islamism but in the context of Turkey. The Jihad targeted the Turkish Republic, bombing locations associated with the West in 2003 (Hardy, 2010, pp. 122). With an Islamic government in power there was a great deal of confusion as to why radical Islamist groups would target Turkey, but as Hardy (2010) explains the Jihad was against the Turkey of Ataturk. Ataturk was the leader of Turkey in the 1920s, and he was responsible for modernizing the Republic with greater secular influence from the West (Hardy, 2010, pp. 122). Modern day Turkey is an example of a synthesis of Islam and western style modernity, and due to Turkey’s connections with the West it has been a target from external Jihadi groups. However, within the country there is a sense of discontentment amongst Turkey’s Kurd minority groups. There was a civil war between the state military and a militant Kurd group, and eventually this militant group formed the Turkish Hizbullah, which was allied with Al-Qaeda (Hardy, 2010, pp. 137). Hardy argued that Turkey was seen as a model for the combination of modernization and Islam, but even the Turkish people felt the wrath of the Jihad and other militant Islamist movements.

The major question that Hardy (2010) seeks to address in chapter eight is whether Muslims can be successfully integrated into the secular west. Muslims all over the world are some of the most marginalized and impoverished populations, and this is still true in the West (Hardy, 2010, pp. 177). Historically, European countries encouraged immigration of Muslims into the region to provide cheap labor but the governments did not intend for Muslims to establish their roots in Europe. Attempts to assimilate and integrate Muslims into the mainstream European culture have resulted in clashes between the secular and Islamic ideologies. Hardy (2010) discussed many regional conflicts in Europe such as the cartoon affair, headscarf affair and Rushdie affair in which Muslims have felt that these situations were a personal assault on Islam, and as a result Jihadists have fired back by resorting to violence. Not all Muslims resort to violence and it is only militant groups and Jihadists that utilized terrorist tactics to fight back. In their perspective Islam and the identity of Muslims are being attacked both regionally and globally, and this has fuelled the global Jihad and led to escalating violence in the West (Hardy, 2010, pp. 184).

Hardy (2010) finishes his journey through Islamic history and across the world by reiterating the most important ideas found within the book. It is argued that the Muslim Revolt was caused by two failures; firstly the failure of local Muslim regimes to transition into modernity, and secondly the failure of the West to foster an equitable relationship with the Muslims of the world and thereby perpetuating grievances (Hardy, 2010, pp. 189). It is explained that Islamist movements were all in response to regional conflicts related to discontentment with unjust and corrupt governments. The West, specifically, the United States supported unpopular governments and helped them remain in power. Islamist groups also blamed the West for forcing modernity, secularization and corrupt democracy upon their countries. Without the resolution of regional conflicts, anger turned towards the West resulting with the popular Jihad movement. The global Jihad is an international Islamist movement targeting the West, which they see as a main cause for Muslim grievances (Hardy, 2010, pp. 191). The global Jihad is seen as an attractive solution to Muslim suffering because the groups use violence to hurt the West and thereby alter the balance of power between Islam and the West. Hardy (2010) argues that improving Western understandings of Muslims, Islam, Islamism and the Jihad movement will ameliorate the tensions between the West and Islam. Also, the West should acknowledge and understand the root causes of the Muslim grievances and focus on finding solutions to these problems (hardy, 2010, pp. 201). Finally, it is suggested there should be cooperative local, regional, and global policies put in place to foster a more equitable relationship between the West and Islam (Hardy, 2010, pp. 202).

After summarizing the main points of Hardy’s book it is essential to critically analyze his arguments to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the text. A positive element of Hardy’s (2010) book is that it provides a succinct yet well rounded account of a very complex issue. Hardy (2010) explores a variety of regional conflicts, and he succeeds in interweaving his main arguments through the lens of local experiences. It provides a balanced account of the Muslim Revolt and includes perspectives from a variety of different members of the regional conflicts. This paper is in agreement with Hardy’s main points reiterated throughout the book. It is essential that the West understand the diversity of Islam and Muslims who practice it. This paper agrees that The Muslim Revolt is an Islamist Revival movement encompassing local, regional and global conflicts. Finally, in accordance with Hardy’s (2010) perspective, The Muslim Revolt is caused by local Muslim governments, which are failing to modernize, and are poorly governing the people in their own countries. The West is also responsible for perpetuating Muslim grievances both within the West and globally. Although this paper is in agreement with Hardy’s (2010) main arguments there are some flaws found within the text that diminish the strength of his main argument and presentation of evidence.

There are two major weaknesses to be noted in Hardy’s (2010) work. Firstly, the book lacks some very important historical context related to the Western perpetuated Muslim grievances. An in-depth discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mysteriously absent and although Hardy (2010) briefly mentions it there is no chapter devoted to this important conflict in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict encompasses a variety of significantly important political players including the West and many Islamic countries. This conflict demonstrates the tension between the West and Islam, and the resulting negative views of the West are often used to encourage support for the global Jihad. Within this conflict, Muslims view the West, and specifically the United States, as pro-Israeli and view the acts of the USA as aggressive and threatening towards Islam (Hardy, 2010, pp.199). The wars as a part of this conflict have intensified hostilities between the West and Muslims of the world, and it seems very strange that this conflict is absent in Hardy’s (2010) book. This conflict is in alignment with the theme of Islamist revolts because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has given rise to Islamist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in other parts of the Middle East. Hardy (2010) seems to acknowledge the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of Western intervention causing Muslim grievances and intensifying hostility between the West and Islam, but a thorough discussion of this prominent conflict is absent. It would have been important to explain the conflict and the consequences in terms of influencing Islamist movements in other parts of the Middle East and the world. For example, Khomeini during the Iranian revolution embodied a new revolutionary Islam that was pushing back against America for being pro-Israeli and all other pro-western regimes in the Middle East (Hardy, 2010, pp. 46). This provides evidence that the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuelled frustration in the Muslim world that ignited Islamist resistance. Also according to Hardy (2010), the global Jihad is a movement that is fighting against the “Jewish-Crusader alliance”, therefore the global Jihad movement is fundamentally based on elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and political relationships formed around this conflict. If Hardy (2010) intends for his book to be a complete journey through historical and political Islam then he should include a discussion of this conflict, as the missing story provides fundamental historical context for the hostile relationship between the West and Islam. This lack of in-depth discussion, whether intentional or an oversight, about this conflict, is a significant weakness in the overall examination of the Muslim Revolt.

A second weakness within Hardy’s book is that the suggestions for concrete solutions to the Muslim revolt are rather ambiguous. Hardy (2010) devoted most of the book to detailing the root causes of the Muslim Revolt and the reasons behind the hostile relationship between the West and Muslims of the world. He stresses that ameliorating Western ignorance and increasing sensitivity towards Muslim grievances will help foster a better working relationship between the West and Islam. However, Hardy (2010) provides little concrete evidence of what kinds of local, regional and global policies should be put in place to foster a more equitable relationship between the West and Muslims of the world. Hardy (2010) is a journalist and not a policy maker, and he really does not claim to have the expertise to devise actual plans to implement into political action. Hardy (2010) does not go into enough detail to explain the types of polices that need to be enacted, and how these policies should be structured. It is evident that Hardy (2010) believes that to ameliorate this issue, Muslim grievances should be acknowledged and addressed. However, this paper is in disagreement that further social, economic and political intervention within Muslim countries will truly ameliorate the problem of the Muslim Revolt and the global Jihad movement. Providing social and economic aid to the suffering could help in terms of increasing the standard of living for many Muslims suffering around the world, however, development and aid strategies are often problematic and increase Western intervention. Radical Islamist groups could interpret Western aid as further intervention and this could lead to increased violence. Also, the West insists on encouraging the democratic process within Muslim nations, and often fails to recognize that Western style democracy cannot be exported into other cultural contexts. In most cases, a secular democracy will not function in an Islamic society because it devalues the importance of religion within this culture. For a democratic system to work it in some way must be molded to function within the cultural context and incorporate elements of Islam into the political system. Secular democratic governments consistently fail in Muslim countries, and unless change occurs to alter the democratic process to function within these societies there will always be resistance to this system. Finally, the policies Hardy (2010) alludes to in the conclusion of the book should actually be geared towards the West rather than Muslim countries in the world. The West needs to reevaluate existing policies and create new policies that will foster tolerance and understanding of Muslims and Islam within a multicultural framework. For example, Canada is supposed to be a multi-cultural country, but even here there are laws and policies that are perpetuating Muslim grievances within the country. A specific example would be the headscarf issue in Quebec, and this resulted in Quebec passing a law forbidding religious symbols in school and government departments. Policies and laws such as these try to assimilate Muslims into a secular and modern society, and this could be seen as a threat towards their religious beliefs and identities. The West needs to create new local and regional policies that will promote more tolerance towards Islam both within the West and globally. Also, in terms of global policies the West should use caution when deploying development and aid programs within Muslim nations to avoid either real or perceived neo-imperialism. This could result in an imbalance of power between the West and Muslims of the world, which would amplify the problem of inequality between the two groups. Western foreign policies should focus on providing ways in which the Muslims of the world can help themselves instead of fostering dependence on the West, which could instigate further violence from radical groups.

In conclusion, this paper provided a summary and analysis of the book “The Muslim Revolt: a journey through political Islam” by Roger Hardy (2010). This paper argued that this book provides a well-rounded and sensitive account of Islamism and enlightens the reader to the causes of the Muslim Revolt. However, major weaknesses of this book were that Hardy (2010) failed to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would have been useful in providing historical context to the Muslim Revolt. Also, Hardy (2010) did not provide sufficient detail and discussion regarding examples of concrete policies that should be put in place to try and ensure a more equitable relationship between the West and Islam. As a critique, it was argued in this paper that the policies of the West should be reevaluated in order to promote more tolerance within the West and to examine foreign policies that are causing Muslim grievances around the world. Hardy wrote an excellent book that is a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn about the Muslim Revolt.


Hardy, R. (2010). The Muslim Revolt: a journey through political Islam. New York: Columbia University Press.

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