Globalized Islam: the search for a new Ummah

Olivier Roy


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This text is a translation of the first chapter of Globalised Islam, a book by Olivier Roy, one of the most distinguished scholars and commentators on political Islam. Roy argues that Islamic revival, or ‘re-Islamisation’, results from the efforts of westernised Muslims to assert their identity in a non-Muslim context. One-third of the world’s Muslims now live as members of a minority. At the heart of this development are the voluntary settlement of Muslims in Western societies and the pervasiveness and influence of Western cultural models and social norms. The revival of Islam among Muslim populations is often wrongly seen as a backlash against westernisation rather than as one of its consquences. 

A schism has emerged between mainstream Islamist movements in the Muslim world and the uprooted militants who strive to establish an imaginary ummah, or Muslim community. Roy provides a detailed comparison of these transnational movements, whether peaceful like Tablighi Jama’at and the Islamic brotherhoods, or violent like al-Qaeda. He shows how neofundamentalism acknowledges without nostalgia the loss of pristine cultures, constructing instead a universal religious identity that transcends the very notion of culture. Thus contemporary Islamic fundamentalism is not a simple reaction against westernisation but a product and an agent of the complex forces of globalisation.


Political Islam


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