Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims, and the Lure of Consumerist Islam

Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims, and the Lure of Consumerist Islam Eds. Amel Boubekeur & Olivier Roy Columbia/Hurst, 2012

Widespread confusion over the use of the terms Islamism or Political Islam often obscures the fact that these are not new phenomena and can be traced back more than a century. But like all utopian beliefs, such as Communism, Islamism cannot entirely resist the broader currents of political and social change that confront it today, especially globalisation. Through meticulous on the ground and theoretical research in to the trajectories of current and former Islamists, the contributors to this book seek to understand what has become of political Islam. While many scholars have focused on the drift to violence of historical Islamism, they look at the other side of the coin to describe the continuities and not the ruptures of Islamism with its own ideology. Political Islam remains relevant to a new generation of militants but the channels through which it is expressed have changed. Jihad is often conducted electronically, via membership of Islamist e-mail list-servers; Islamist activism has been personalised, domesticated even, through the consumption of Islamic soft drinks and other lifestyle choices; and, the street protests that characterised the Islamist struggle in its heyday face competition from Islamic rap stars’ concerts. These are among the issues addressed in this innovative volume.


Although recent events in the Middle East seem to answer the question posed by this volume’s title, news headlines obscure a tectonic shift in Islamism that has occurred over the last couple of decades. Whatever Happened to the Islamists? represents one of the most exciting and innovative analyses of contemporary dislocations in the ideological project of political Islam to be published in recent years. It points the way forward for an entire field of study. (Peter Mandaville, George Mason University and author of Global Political Islam )

Amel Boubekeur and Olivier Roy present a refreshing and provocative collection of essays, including several by younger scholars and others whose writings are rarely available in English. They display the iconoclasm, unanticipated fusions, and the modernity of contemporary Islamic activism, much of which does not see conquest of state power as a central objective. Islamic activism today is manifested in all-women heavy metal bands, consumerism, corporate big business, and individualised consumer and cultural choices. This book deserves to be widely read and debated, especially by journalists, pundits, and public policy makers who may have thought they already knew what Islamism is. (Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Stanford University )

Whatever Happened to the Islamists? will be welcomed by all who seek to understand the impact of the Arab uprising and the role of Islamists during this historic period of political transformation in the Arab world. (John L. Esposito, University Professor, Georgetown University and author of The Future of Islam ) About the Authors Amel Boubekeur is a research fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. She has been an Associate Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Centre for European Policy Studies. Working on Islam in Europe and Arab politics, she is the author of European Islam : Challenges for Public Policy and Society and Le voile de la mariée.

Olivier Roy is a professor at l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and a research director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. A world authority on Islam and politics, Roy’s books are Secularism Confronts Islam, The Failure of Political Islam, The New Central Asia: The Creation of Nations, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, and, with Mariam Abou Zahab, Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection.