In a recent editorial in the Guardian, Roger Hardy, author of The Muslim Revolt: A Journey Through Political Islam, argues that the West has simplified and misunderstood the nature and motivations of Islamism.
Hardy’s editorial and book are based on his more than thirty years of travel in the Muslim world, mostly as a BBC correspondent. In the editorial, Hardy charts the development of Islamism from the Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb to the internationalization of the movement in 1979 with the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He goes on to suggest that even though Islamism has had success on the grassroots level in the Muslim World, this has not transferred real governing power.
While some observers, most notably Farid Zakaria, have argued that Islamism might be losing its hold in the Muslim world and that al-Qaeda has lost the ideological battle, Hardy sees this as “wishful thinking.”
Hardy concludes the piece:
Much of the talk about winning Muslim “hearts and minds” is shallow and misguided. The issue is often seen, especially in the United States, as a matter of public relations – as if America has an image problem in the Muslim world, and dollars can buy it a better one. Or it is seen, in a facile way, as a matter of bolstering “good Muslims” while clobbering “bad Muslims”. Without a surer grasp of Islamism and its discontents, the battle for Muslim hearts and minds will be lost.