Mohammed M. Hafez. Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World.

AuthorFluehr-Lobban, Carolyn
PositionBook review

Mohammed M. Hafez. Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 004, 251 pages. Paper $49.95.

The key concept and overall approach to this well-documented work is embedded in the dialectic in its subtitle, repression and resistance as the means to achieve an understanding of why Muslims rebel. Drawing from the primary cases of Algeria and Egypt, the author views Muslim rebellions as a reaction to the predatory actions of states threatened by Islamist upsurge but whose political ambitions they fundamentally oppose and exclude from mainstream political processes. I outline below the well-developed arguments for the benefit of the reader.

Charting militant Islamist activism (from reports in the chronologies in Middle East Journal quarterly) in these two countries beginning in the mid-1970s and peaking in the early 1990s (especially between 1993-1995), and falling back to low levels after 2000, the author follows the increasing extremism as tied to political exclusion. Moreover, where Islamist activists were afforded some political participation--such as in Tunisia and Jordan--Islamist extremism was ameliorated. However, the case of Pakistan is notable since the state afforded some inclusion of the major Islamist party, Jama'at al-Islami, but this did not stem the tide of political extremism. The author thus concludes that political exclusion, while a major contributing factor for Islamist rebellion, is not sufficient unto itself to induce mass insurgency (p. 65).

Moving next to an analysis of the breadth and depth of political repression in the Muslim world, the author expresses surprise and alarm that this fact is given scant attention in theoretical and empirical studies. This underscores the oft-cited point that Western attention has focused more on the results of Islamist extremism than on its causes. In its most repressive phase, Egypt killed, injured, or executed the largest number of extremists between 1993 and 1995. The author distinguishes between selective (targeted individuals, organizations, and regions) and collective repression. He explains the reversal of Egypt's policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the late 1980s and early 1990s balancing the increasing boldness of the MB with the state's general lack of political will to engage in intense repression of its leaders (e.g. short detentions and relatively light sentences). The Egyptian government proved no match for the...

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