Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia

Overview

Amidst the roil of war and instability across the Middle East, the West is still searching for ways to understand the Islamic world. Stéphane Lacroix has now given us a penetrating look at the political dynamics of Saudi Arabia, one of the most opaque of Muslim countries and the place that gave birth to Osama bin Laden.

The result is a history that has never been told before. Lacroix shows how thousands of Islamist militants from Egypt, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries,...

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Awakening Islam

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Overview

Amidst the roil of war and instability across the Middle East, the West is still searching for ways to understand the Islamic world. Stéphane Lacroix has now given us a penetrating look at the political dynamics of Saudi Arabia, one of the most opaque of Muslim countries and the place that gave birth to Osama bin Laden.

The result is a history that has never been told before. Lacroix shows how thousands of Islamist militants from Egypt, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries, starting in the 1950s, escaped persecution and found refuge in Saudi Arabia, where they were integrated into the core of key state institutions and society. The transformative result was the Sahwa, or “Islamic Awakening,” an indigenous social movement that blended political activism with local religious ideas. Awakening Islam offers a pioneering analysis of how the movement became an essential element of Saudi society, and why, in the late 1980s, it turned against the very state that had nurtured it. Though the “Sahwa Insurrection” failed, it has bequeathed the world two very different, and very determined, heirs: the Islamo-liberals, who seek an Islamic constitutional monarchy through peaceful activism, and the neo-jihadis, supporters of bin Laden's violent campaign.

Awakening Islam is built upon seldom-seen documents in Arabic, numerous travels through the country, and interviews with an unprecedented number of Saudi Islamists across the ranks of today’s movement. The result affords unique insight into a closed culture and its potent brand of Islam, which has been exported across the world and which remains dangerously misunderstood.

Winner of the 2011 Washington Institute Book Prize Bronze Medal

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Editorial Reviews

Gilles Kepel
Based on intimate knowledge of the militants, Lacroix's pioneering analysis of the history and politics of Saudi Islamists is, and will remain, a classic.
Dale F. Eickelman
Awakening Islam is the benchmark against which books on the vital intersection between religion and politics in Saudi Arabia will now be measured. It sheds light not only on Saudi Arabia, but on the fluid undercurrents of religious politics in many neighboring countries.
Marc Lynch
Awakening Islam is an astonishingly rich, detailed analysis of the fascinating world of Saudi Islamism. The young French scholar Stephane LaCroix spent significant time in Saudi Arabia, and got deep inside the competing networks that have shaped Saudi Arabia's distinctive Islamist milieu. He unpacks the role of Muslim Brothers and Salafis and their sometimes-uneasy relationship with the state. He carefully traces the evolution of the Sahwa (Awakening) networks, and how they both carried political dissent and restructured the pathways of political mobilization. And while he certainly pays attention to militant jihadism and the worldview which helped spawn al-Qaeda, that does not overwhelm his broader analytical mission. This book is simply an extraordinary accomplishment, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the politics of Islam.
Tim Niblock
The Sahwa movement played a crucial role in shaping politically-oriented religious discourse in Saudi Arabia and beyond. Yet the movement is little understood and its ideas much misinterpreted. Lacroix's dispassionate, far-reaching and well-informed analysis provides an essential resource for the understanding of this critical phenomenon.
Saudi Gazette - Joseph Richard Preville
Al-Sahwa Al-Islamiyya or "Islamic Awakening" was one of the most powerful social movements in the history of Saudi Arabia. It is also one of the least documented--until now. Stéphane Lacroix tells the story of this movement in his splendid new book...Lacroix's study is timely and original. Serious students of Saudi Arabia need to read this important book. They will be enlightened by it and moved to seek more knowledge about the Kingdom.
Booklist - Christopher McConnell
A timely work, especially when read against the backdrop of antigovernment demonstrations taking place across the Middle East and North Africa today.
Times Higher Education - Madawi Al-Rasheed
Awakening Islam is a product of serious scholarly interpretive and linguistic skills.
The Daily - Atossa Abrahamian
Little attention is paid to Saudi Arabia's internal Islamist movements. During the decades before the 1990s, the kingdom actively fostered the Sahwa, or "Islamic awakening," a movement led by local activists that was as political as it was religious. In his meticulously researched book, Stéphane Lacroix provides an exhaustive history of the Sahwa, detailing the movement's original constituents--Muslim émigrés fleeing persecution from other states in the region--and its importance to the Saudi social and political spheres. For decades, Saudi leaders supported the group's activities, even though their ideas were not entirely in line with state-sanctioned Wahhabism. This ended when Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990. The Saudis' reliance on American military assistance expedited the Sahwa's radicalization and ultimately led to its downfall. Among the splinters that remained were a group of neo-Jihadis who turned against the kingdom's rulers and stood behind Osama bin Laden's philosophy of holy war. Lacroix's authoritative history sheds light on how this homegrown movement became influential throughout the region and created some blowback of its own.
Christian Century - David Commins
Awakening Islam is bound to be the definitive account of how the Muslim Brotherhood took root in the kingdom and reshaped its religious landscape.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674049642
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/29/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,100,660
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stéphane Lacroix is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sciences Po, Paris.
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Table of Contents

1 Islamism in a Fragmented Society 1

2 The Development of the Sahwa 37

3 Resistance to Sahwa Ascendancy 81

4 A Sacrificed Generation 122

5 The Logic of the Insurrection 151

6 Anatomy of a Failure 201

7 The Islamists after the Insurrection 238

Conclusion: The Lessons of the Insurrection 265

Glossary 273

Note on Sources and Transliterations 279

Notes 281

Acknowledgments 345

Index 347

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