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Market Islam: the Other Conservative Revolution
Market Islam: the Other Conservative Revolution
The L’Islam de Marché: L’Autre Révolution Conservatrice (Market Islam: the Other Conservative Revolution) traces a part in contemporary Islamic awakening which was ignored by observers and media, think tanks and publishing houses which are competing with each other on political Islam movements in a way that mounts to a state of ambiguity.
Saturday, July 26,2008 07:50

The L"Islam de Marché: L"Autre Révolution Conservatrice (Market Islam: the Other Conservative Revolution) traces a part in contemporary Islamic awakening which was ignored by observers and media, think tanks and publishing houses which are competing with each other on political Islam movements in a way that mounts to a state of ambiguity.


The ignored part is what the Swiss author Patrick Haenni mentions in the subtitle "the other conservative revolution", i.e new forms of Islamic religiousness that got out of the sphere of Islamic parties and movements, forms that refused at the same time to get indulged into the core of the political conflict whether it is a conflict between political Islam movements and ruling regimes or between the Islamic culture and Western culture.


Patrick Haenni represents a new generation of Islamologies (those interested in the Islamic phenomenon), a generation which is very much caring for academic objectivity and descriptive and analytic studies which are divorced from any political exploitation.


He has spent a long period of time in Egypt and other Islamic and Arab countries. He has strong academic ties with some Islamic movements in the Arab and Muslim World. He has lived for a period of time in Cairo to study. He learnt Arabic and got acquainted with and closer to Islamists, and he got acquainted with Indonesian and Turkish Islamists as well.


Starting from Egypt across Indonesia and ending with Turkey , "Market Islam" analyzes the emergence of a new form of the Islamic entity, a form that got out of a seemingly exhausted political Islam, a form shares with this political Islam the same source but it differs with it on the target, the means and defining fields of work.



Missionary entrepreneurships


At the beginning of the book Haenni diagnoses the wave of increasing "DISSAPOINTED Islamists" who criticize Islamic ideologies for their certainties and their organizational structures for their stagnation and cruelty.

Without necessarily leaving these Islamic movements, these DISSAPOINTED Islamists prefer to focus on personal salvation, self-improvement and the quest for economic success. at the expense of the continuous crisis among Islamists that gradually loses its enchantment among critics.


The author attracts attention to the competition between the new preachers over making use of the wave of social Islamic awakening that gets out of the control of the Islamic organizations, seeking a reconciliation between the religious tide and Western modernism.


This takes place through missionary entrepreneurships that adopt US methods in the propaganda and work and encouraging the emergence of modern Islamic musical bands and new female preachers.


This is the new religious face that Patrick Haenni calls "Market Islam", a title chosen to denote the current relations between economic establishments and the new US origin mercantile culture.


For the past ten years, the extension of " Market Islam " became a clear result of four scenarios that the writer has discussed in the four chapters of the book.


Political Islam exceeded


The first chapter reveals that jihadist religiosity was frozen in a form that makes personal desires for self realization exceed big collective projects that lead the Islamic classical discourse.


In extremely exhausted movements whose members feel a state of organizational stagnation and psychological and intellectual suffocation, angry ones find the solution in an openness to and borrowing from Western civilization, and Islamizing Western products and elements in a quickly fabricated process. In this new atmosphere, jihad moves from its traditional position to become "electronic jihad" and " jihad for a renaissance".


Haenni traces the story of the Islamic song from its conservative beginnings when it was expressing causes of the nation to the emergence of new bands that woo new Islamic generations and practice "Daewah (mission) through music".


The same path was taken by Islamic outer garments through moving from the jihadist veil that had a political significance to consumerism and fashion.


The author strikes the example of Turkey as an Islamic example for merging into the market economy and the emergence of an Islamic bourgeois that makes a new media in which globalization meets Islamic religious revivalism, in which modesty in dresses changes in the face, features, colors and forms, to be capped with the third wave of veil in "European Islam".


Daewah (mission) doesn"t take the culturally and geographically land-mined sphere, it rather takes satellite channels under the effect of US televangelist experience through two televangelist stars: Egyptian Amr Khaled and Indonesian Abdullah Gymnastiar Abdullah Gymnastiar. The first adopted this method through following up the US televangelists in their channels, and the second was trained on this by a former televangelist who managed to double his church members in just two years because of the mercantile technologies before he embraced Islam in 1997 and became an advisor to Gymnastiar.


Satellites Islamic televangelists managed-the author argues- to draw myriads of viewers and fans specially among those disappointed by political Islam movements.


Market law


Due to the close relationship between the new Islamists and businessmen, this face of religiosity saw that its only channel to express itself is the market.


The market"s job is no longer propagating for ideas or persuading market goers of them. Its job is rather meeting demands of the targeted public- mainly a religious bourgeois that hates any political struggle both in the traditional and foreign sense of the word.

The author gives the example of the trade of religious tapes in Cairo . It shows that the production and propaganda entrepreneurships can exceed current Salafist structures and persuade through wooing.


The new televangelists even appear in fully commercial or non-Islamic channels which- in turn- buy the broadcasting right for merely commercial purposes.

The market law can defeat the Salafists also through indulging into the world of "moral marketing" and "Halal (lawful) market" especially in the clothes trade.


When this market goers become rich, they think of "migrating" from Al-Qaeda-threatened Western outskirts, not to live in native countries mostly Maghreb countries- but to settle in Gulf countries where there is demand for these commodities.


In Western countries particularly France , Islamic entrepreneurships avoid showing the Islamic nature of their commodities under secularist pressures and expand targeted categories so to include non Muslims while they are in line with latest fashion and dominant culture.


Welfare belief


The author looks- in the third chapter- into efforts exerted by "Market Islam" pioneers and leaders to merge piety and richness, clearing those seeking richness, wealth and profit among bourgeois Muslims.


Abdullah Gymnastiar insists that the Prophet of Islam- peace be upon him- was a successful businessman, and Amr Khaled writes that wealth and richness are means for mastering religiosity and giving a good role-model. Turkish Islamists who are close to Justice and Development Party (AKP) say that the Holy Quran calls for accumulating wealth and that poverty may lead to disbelief.


In the same context, the televangelists establish the belief of what it meant to be a good Muslim that included ideas borrowed from Western self-improvement and welfare influenced by US best selling"s like Stephen Covey"s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" which was translated into Arabic.


In East Asia , the welfare belief takes a similar path, but the motivated one is the Chinese competitors who monopolized market and wealth though they are a minority.


In Turkey , three elements have combined to the mergence of the phenomenon: Al Noursia movement, preacher Fethullah Gülen and the class of merchants in Anatolia .


State Curbed


The fourth and last chapter shows that this new liberal religious movement managed to omit the Islamic state demand from the list of objectives sought and propagated by literature of the traditional Islamic movements.


The target has rather become establishing " civilian pious societies" that resembles in their work the US religious establishments which are parallel to the US Republican Party, and they can hold agreements with government to carry out several projects and businesses in the society.


The writer gives examples from the experience of Amr Khaled in building and achieving several successful projects in Arab and Islamic world, pointing out how this experience managed to restore the image of the civil society against the concept of state that dominates over every thing.


The reader of " Market Islam" may conclude that pioneers of this Islamic work may be nowadays farther from "political Islamism" but they are closer to "Americanism" as they believe in a modernism which is not the French philosophy in the secularism of state and politics, but it is the US conservative model that represents a compromise between an undesired theocratic religious state and an enlightening Islam that finds it difficult to exit.


The author concludes his good study with precious words that deserve a stop. He sees that "Market Islam" as shown in his book is seemingly an ideal partner to the Americans in their policy in the Middle East, and also in their anti-modernism conflict that makes them enemies to Europe "s Age of Enlightenment, secular mind and the logic of a sponsor state.




Patrick Haenni exerted huge theoretical and field effort to diagnose some of the changes in the Islamic awakening and Islamic movements in a quickly changing and intermingling world.


I think that the changes traced by the author are merely a result of the globalization, cross-cultures, cross- politics and interfaith which some Islamists responded to in the way shown by the author.


The ideas mentioned in " Market Islam " aren’t an ijtihad which is confined to pioneers of the new phenomenon. There are many other Islamic movements that the book did not cover, like the Moroccan Unity and Reform Movement.


In the issue of the society-state relation and the Islamic state demand, the Unity and Reform Movement realized earlier that the society is more important than the state and that Islam can live and flourish without needing the state.



Dr. Ahmed Al Raisouni, the movement"s former chairman, has books, interviews and debates in this issue.


As a result of this understanding, this movement managed to conclude that political action does not deserve the huge size of efforts exerted by Islamic and non Islamic movements. This can apply also to the issue of economic and financial work of individuals and movements.


The author"s restriction to models which are closer to him due to his long stay in Egypt and his knowledge of the Islamic experience in the Western countries specially France, may be the reason for this.


However, the book is distinguished by two things: first: shedding light on a phenomenon which is sidelined by Western media and think tanks due to needs related to geopolitics and the agenda of media establishments that give a priority to the political gauge and the distances between phenomena and red lines.


The second is giving a considerable interpretation of the new Islamic phenomenon, its preachers and their response to challenges of globalization, modernism, public media and offering new forms of religiosity and Islamic work that offer alternatives for those enraged by the Islamic movement stagnation on the one hand and for the members of the society who refuse to join ranks of these movements on the other hand.


Islamic movements offered only one single model for religiosity which is marked by too much idealism without paying attention to contemporary reality and withough considering the changing forms of religiosity due to cultures, policies and human souls.


I think that the religiosity studied in Patrick Haenni"s book is one of the forms of religiosity that seeks to end psychological conflict among the new religious people. This phenomenon deserves a follow-up and observation until it ends or enters a new shift or turn.


Hassan Al-Turabi once said that Islam is "a path not a case". It is well known that the path is full of users who vary according to their speed, vehicles, psychological make-up and the pleasure or pain they may face while they move in this path.


Posted in Reports , Islamic Issues  
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