The Failure of Political Islam
by Olivier Roy
For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and ... Show synopsis For many Westerners, the 1990s may seem the era of Islamic fundamentalism with radical Muslims everywhere on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. Offering a corrective to such a view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy depicts an entirely different spectacle - political Islam is a failure. Save for Iran, it has not won power in the states of the Muslim world. He asserts that despite its incantation about an "Islamic way", with a specifically Islamic economy and Islamic state, the realities of the Muslim world remain fundamentally unchanged. This text argues that the political regimes of the 1990s are no different from those of the last decade; and the Islamism of the 1980s is still the Third Worldism of the 1960s, that is, populist politics and mixed economies of laissez-faire for the rich, and subsidies for the poor. Roy asserts that the "reds" of yesterday are the Muslim "greens" of today, and there is little prospect that the newcomers will succeed where their predecessors failed. This argument reassesses radical Islam and the set of ideas and assumptions at its core.