Political movements and intellectual discourses in the Islamic world have had profound global impacts. By providing facts and scholarly analysis, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam (ECI) seeks to introduce the political and intellectual developments of the Islamic world over the last two centuries. ECI’s main objective is to address the need for an explanatory and comprehensive analysis by insiders for audiences outside the Islamic world.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam (ECI) has adopted a novel approach to explaining the contemporary intellectual and political movements of Muslims. This approach differs from that of the Orientalists in that it provides a perspective from within the Islamic world. ECI is committed to provide analysis of events and ideas, and not merely descriptions.
Political movements are rooted in a cultural and intellectual context. Hence, explanation of roots and consequences of current discourses is imperative for understanding socio-political developments in the Muslim world. Scientific, cultural and political developments in the West in the last two centuries have had a long-lasting and profound impact on human life. Such impacts on Islamic countries have been significant. Muslims, as one-fifth of the world’s population, have taken different approaches toward such developments. ECI explores how Muslims have responded to these changes. Briefly and generally these developments include:
1. Scientific and industrial evolutions as well as innovation in various technological fields, establishment of specialized universities and professional centers, increased application of knowledge to human life, and transformation in information technology.
2. Socio-political revolutions, emergence of new discourses and approaches such as republicanism, liberalism, socialism, democracy, civil society, citizenship rights, and freedom of ideas and expression.
3. Military and technological might of the West, colonialism, the presence and influence of Western powers in the Islamic world and all its consequences such as independence movements and the emergence of new independent states.
4. Two World Wars, their security and political aftermaths such as the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of Israel, the Cold War, bipolarity, the establishment of the United Nations and other international organizations, and the emergence of new international concerns such as terrorism, nuclear disarmament, and human rights.
5. The post-Cold War developments and the emergence of new challenges such as clash of civilizations, dialogue among cultures and civilizations, Islamic revivalism, fundamentalism, reformism, Islamophobia, unilateralism, extremism, occupation and justice.
How Muslims have reacted to such challenges and developments, and whether such reactions have been confrontational or reconciliatory, secular or Islamist, radical or reformist, deserves profound exploration. The reality is far more complex and diverse; responses have been neither conceptually monolithic nor geographically unified.
From a conceptual point of view, Muslims have experienced at least three main trends:
1. Islamization, in various forms and names such as revivalism, return to basics, return to self, and return to principle.
2. Nationalism, pan-ism, and regionalism.
3. Modernist processes, anti-traditionalism, and favoring political and intellectual integration with the West.
More importantly, these prolonged trends are interrelated, sometimes substituting and often conflicting with one another, in the diverse phases of modern political history.
From a geographic point of view, the response by Muslims to the structural and political transformations of the West has also been quite diverse. Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Turkey, the Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia have reacted differently due to their own historical, structural, and cultural peculiarities.
ECI seeks to explain these conceptual and geographical differences with due consideration of innovative factors within each intellectual and political system.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam (ECI) seeks to address the current shortcoming of knowledge about political and social developments in the Islamic world for readers outside Muslim communities. Such readers may include a broad spectrum of people interested in Islamic political developments, such as experts and researchers in Islamic studies, students and scholars in social and political fields, media, cultural and intellectual institutions as well as strategic and policy-making centers.
Most popular images about Islam in the Western media as well as in certain political circles suffer from lack of first-hand knowledge. Such misunderstandings, when accompanied by animosity, could lead to hate and hostility towards Muslims. By avoiding prejudice and misjudgment, ECI seeks to provide an unbiased analytical and comparative examination of political discourses and movements, and classify them in a systematic manner.
By providing such knowledge and understanding about the current Islamic developments, ECI pursues its ideal to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims, remove animosity and mistrust, and prepare the grounds for constructive interaction and cooperation. In this way, Muslims’ capacities and capabilities for playing greater and more effective roles in global challenges such as peace and security, development, environmental protection, and justice will be acknowledged. A wide range of scholars, researchers, political scientists, activists as well as religious figures will participate in the preparation of this encyclopedia. Thus, it is only by commitment to high academic standards and ethics that ECI will be able to attain its goals.
ECI believes Muslims can play an active and constructive role in contemporary global movements, and hopes to dispel misconceptions about the Muslim world through balanced research and analysis. We believe that neither secularism is necessary for democracy nor religiosity necessitates dictatorship. By abiding by core Islamic values, and respecting human dignity and citizens’ rights, a model of religious-democracy can be presented in the Muslim world.