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A Fundamental Fear

A Fundamental Fear

S. Sayyid | Hamid Dabashi


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The fear and anxiety aroused by Islamism is not a myth, nor is it simply a consequence of terrorism or fundamentalism. Writing in 1997, before 9/11 and before the austerity that has bred a new generation of far right groups across Europe and the US, S. Sayyid warned of a spectre haunting Western civilization. This groundbreaking book, banned by the Malaysian government, is both an analysis of the conditions that have made ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ possible and a provocative account of the ways in which Muslim identities have come to play an increasingly political role throughout the world. This is a pioneering, provocative and intricately crafted study, which shows the challenge of Islamism is not only geopolitical or even cultural but also epistemological.
S. Sayyid is a reader in rhetoric at the University of Leeds. He is the founding editor of ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies. His publications include Recalling the Caliphate and the volume (co-edited with AbdoolKarim Vakil) Thinking through Islamophobia.
'Sayyid's book has considerable intellectual and personal drive, showing how the adoption of a poststructuralist perspective can alter our perception of important matters of cultural politics' - Nations and Nationalism 'A theoretically sophisticated attempt to read contemporary Muslim political identities as a symptom of Eurocentrism's decline' - Global Society 'A welcome change ... should be of great interest to those who wish to look at the phenomenon of political Islam and the divination of the clash between the West and the rest from a more sophisticated and theoretical angle ... a worthy contribution.' - Impact International 'Sayyid, with this dense and seminal work, has made a welcome attempt to reframe the uses of the term Islam within intellectual discourses without resort to populist terminology. The book is a broad treatment of the state of Islam and its relationship with the West and the West's relationship with the East ... takes a fresh look at how Islam has reached its much-maligned status ... Not only is [Sayyid] polemical, incisive and engaging, he is at times poetical. His use of metaphor and analogy serves to illustrate the complexity of the issues that he is putting across' - Sociology 'If we were to take up the suggestion of Norberto Bobbio that classics are those works able to speak to us in any time and any space, then this book should almost certainly be included in a list of contemporary classics ... Although both Islamists and Orientalists have constructed an opposition between the West and Islam, this myth is convincingly deconstructed by Sayyid's argument - and the book leaves us with little doubt this dichotomy is a major simplification of the historical processes of the last century.' - Contemporary South Asia

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Cover Cover
critique influence change i
More Critical Praise iii
About the Author iv
Title Page v
Copyright vi
Dedication vii
Contents ix
Foreword by Hamid Dabashi xi
Preface to the critique influence change Edition xiv
Notes xx
Acknowledgements xxi
Preface to the Second Edition xxii
Islamism, Terror of the World xxiv
The Islamist Impasse? xxviii
De-Centred West xxx
Waiting for the Caliph xxxiii
Islamism and Globalization xxxiv
Islamism and Empire xxxvi
Notes xxxviii
Prologue 1
Besieging Vienna Again 3
Notes 6
1: Framin’ Fundamentalism 7
Theorizing Fundamentalism 8
Explaining ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ 18
Narrating Islamism and the Crisis of the Political Order 23
Notes 26
2: Thinking Islamism, (re-)Thinking Islam 31
Anti-Orientalism and Islam 36
The Matter of Islam 41
Islamism: Islam as a Master Signifier 46
Notes 49
3: Kemalism and the Politicization of Islam 52
The Institution of the Caliphate: Fixing Islam 53
Abolition and Reaction: Floating Islam 57
Modernizing Islam: Ataturk’s Way (1923–45) 63
The Impact of Kemalism 69
Availability and Hegemony 74
Conclusion 77
Notes 78
4: Islam, Modernity and the West 84
The Weakening of the Kemalist Hegemony 84
Modernity and Islamism 88
Modernity and the West: The West and the ‘Rest’. 99
Modernity: Anti-, Post-, Counter- 105
Islam and Postmodernity? 111
Decentring of the West and Islamism 113
Notes 120
5: Islamism and the Limits of the Invisible Empire 127
The Triumph of the West 130
Eurocentrism and Ethnocentrism 133
Eurocentrism and Particularities 135
Contested Genealogies 143
Conclusion 150
Notes 151
Epilogue: Islamism/Eurocentrism 155
Notes 160
Bibliography 162
Index 179
Back Cover Back cover