Going beyond superficial consideration of wars, crises and conflicts, this book investigates whether the contemporary Islamic world is also the scene of appreciable political change. Can we discern a deeper political rationality behind the facade of radicalism, extremism and terrorism that is served up to us daily in the news? Or do we have to face the fact that a core region of the world, stretching from West Africa to Southeast Asia, from Southeastern Europe to the Sahara, will remain in a permanent state of political chaos?
There are grounds for hope, and they rest upon a very simple idea. The West's current state of prosperity, modernity and global power is due, not only to enlightenment, science and democracy, but just as much to wars of religion, revolutions and colonial exploitation. Radicalism and political violence were, strange though it may seem, constant accompaniments to the development of democracy in North America and Europe. In view of this in-built world historical paradox, it seems legitimate to ask whether, despite political radicalism and violence, positive political developments are possible in other parts of the world as well. Has the evolution of the West not shown that crises – even of epoch-making proportions – may usher in positive change?
The Islamic world, and especially North Africa and the Middle East, has for decades been replete with political contradictions. Islamic fundamentalists oppose the secular state, sometimes violently, and at the same time constitute the strongest opposition to authoritarian dictatorships in the region.