Mandaville Explains Complexities of Islamic Politics in New Book

Posted: May 28, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By James Greif

Peter Mandaville
Peter Mandaville
Photo by Evan Cantwell

There is little doubt of the importance of Muslim politics in contemporary world affairs. However, though these politics are often discussed and debated, are they really fully understood?

Peter Mandaville, associate professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs and director of the Center for Global Studies at Mason, believes they are not. His latest book, “Global Political Islam” (Routledge, 2007), seeks to explain the complexities and nuances of Muslim politics and put them in a global and historical context.

“Many new observers of Muslim politics came to understand the nature of political Islam through the prism of 9/11,” Mandaville explains. “These observers often bypass the complex history of mainstream – and mostly nonviolent – Islamism that transcends the narrow moment of al-Qaida.”

Born and raised in the Middle East – the third generation of his family to live in that region – Mandaville has recently traveled to Muslim areas such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa to research his book.

Through his experiences, Mandaville is in a unique position to place Muslim politics in a global perspective and examine key movements and individuals, as well as the changing nature of Islamic authority under globalizing conditions.

“To understand Muslim politics, it is important to be aware of how political Islam interacts with the nation-state and the global economy,” Mandaville says.

Global Political Islam book cover

Mandaville’s book combines theory with a number of detailed case studies of the Arab Middle East, Central and South Asia, Southeast Asia and Islam in Europe and North America. It also provides a detailed account of al-Qaida as a transnational network.

Fully illustrated throughout and containing maps, “Global Political Islam” highlights the trends and key dynamics that will likely define global Muslim politics for the foreseeable future.

While written from an academic perspective, the book also has a broad public appeal and was recently favorably reviewed by the Economist.

Mandaville is also the author of “Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma,” a study of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom. Much of his recent work has focused on the comparative study of religious authority and social movements in the Muslim world, with an emphasis on youth groups, transnational networks and new media.

Mandaville will be teaching CULT 320 Globalization and Culture and GOVT 345/739 Political Islam in the fall 2008 semester.

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