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What Is Political Islam?

Jocelyne Cesari
What Is Political Islam?
ISBN: 978-1-62637-692-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-726-4
2018/232 pages/LC: 2017035339
"One of the most significant books on political Islam written."—Harun Karcic, Al Sharq Forum

"Provid[es] insightful analysis of the relationship between Islam and modern states.... Highly recommended."—Choice

"Cesari provides a new and powerful framework for understanding the conditions of possibility for political Islam in a wide range of countries.... Her book represents the most important work on political Islam to appear in more than a decade."—Peter Mandaville, George Mason University

"A grounding work.... Cesari adds nuance to the question of how modernity evolved in the Muslim context and unravels common assumptions and cemented theories pertaining to political Islam.... Fascinating and unique."—Melissa Finn, University of Waterloo


Honorable mention for ISA's Religion and International Relations Section Book Award!

The debate continues unabated: Is political Islam decipherable through the tenets of the Islamic tradition—or is it a tool of secular actors who shrewdly misuse religious references? Is it an expression of modernity, or a return to the past? Eschewing these dichotomies, Jocelyne Cesari demystifies the continuous process of interaction between secular and religious actors and institutions that is at the core of political mobilization in the name of Islam.

Cesari traces the origins of political Islam to the inception of the modern nation-state, revealing the decisive role of secular nationalist rulers in its creation. In the process, she puts to rest the myth that there has been a lack of modernization in the Muslim world—and shows how that myth has proven dangerous. Ranging from Senegal to Egypt, from Indonesia to Iraq, her analysis provides a much needed corrective to the "conventional wisdom."


Jocelyne Cesari is professor of religion and politics at the University of Birmingham; senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; and professorial fellow at the Australian Catholic University.


  • Political Islam: The Nexus of State, Religion, and Nation.
  • Muslim Nationalism and the Secular State.
  • Hegemonic Islam.
  • Civil Islam.
  • The Globalization of Political Islam.
  • The Riddle of Political Islam.