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Islamism and Democracy in India:
The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami
Irfan Ahmad

Shortlisted for the 2011 ICAS Book Prize for Best Study in the Field of Social Sciences, International Convention of Asian Scholars

Paperback | 2009 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691139203
328 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 15 halftones. 6 tables.
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Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is the most influential Islamist organization in India today. Founded in 1941 by Syed Abul Ala Maududi with the aim of spreading Islamic values in the subcontinent, Jamaat and its young offshoot, the Student Islamic Movement of India or SIMI, have been watched closely by Indian security services since September 11. In particular, SIMI has been accused of being behind terrorist bombings. This book is the first in-depth examination of India's Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI, exploring political Islam's complex relationship with democracy and providing a rare window into the Islamist trajectory in a Muslim-minority context.

Irfan Ahmad conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork at a school in the town of Aligarh, among student activists at Aligarh Muslim University, at a madrasa in Azamgarh, and during Jamaat's participation in elections in 2002. He deftly traces Jamaat's changing position in relation to India's secular democracy and the group's gradual ideological shift toward religious pluralism and tolerance. Ahmad demonstrates how the rise of militant Hindu nationalism since the 1980s--evident in the destruction of the Babri mosque and widespread violence against Muslims--led to SIMI's radicalization, its rejection of pluralism, and its call for jihad.

Islamism and Democracy in India argues that when secular democracy is responsive to the traditions and aspirations of its Muslim citizens, Muslims in turn embrace pluralism and democracy. But when democracy becomes majoritarian and exclusionary, Muslims turn radical.


"Islamist politics, argues Ahmad, are shaped by the dynamics of modern politics and cannot be explained simply by analyzing sacred religions texts. In this well-documented study, Ahmad supports this thesis by providing a historical account of the transformation of the Jamaat-e-Islami in India, one of the most important Islamist movements in the Muslim world, from its founding in 1941 to the present. . . . [T]his well-crafted study will be of great interest to scholars, students of Islam, and policymakers."--Choice

"The book is rich in detail, interviews, and scholarly overviews of both historical and contemporary events that have shaped the Jamaate-Islami. . . . Ahmad has enriched Islamism and Democracy in India with an incredible amount of scholarship in his analysis of the incontrovertible distinction between Jamaat-e-Islami's moderation and SIMI's radicalization."--Edward M. Proctor, Digest of Middle East Studies

"While a constellation of volumes exist on the nature of Islamism and the contemporary world, Irfan Ahmad's examination is a successful addition by way of its intellectual precision, innovative analysis, and diplomatic disposition."--Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, Central European Journal of International & Security Studies

"Ahmad's book is an impressive analytical achievement, a convincing argument for differentiation, and a well-written and accessible read."--Raphael Susewind, Contemporary South Asia


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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations and Tables ix
Preface and Acknowledgments xi
Notes to the Reader xvii
Abbreviations xix
Introduction 1

Part I. Fieldwork and Historical Context
Chapter 1: Doing Fieldwork in Times of War 31
Chapter 2: Contextualizing the Formation and Ideology of Islamism 49

Part II. Zigzags to Allah's Kingdom
Chapter 3: Educating the Children 83
Chapter 4: Mobilizing the Young 111
Chapter 5: Defining Islam: Conflict and Democratization 137

Part III. Opposition and Negotiation
Chapter 6: Invoking Jihad 163
Chapter 7: Negotiating the Idol: Secularism, Democracy, and Allah's Kingdom 188

Conclusion 217
Appendixes 241
Notes 245
Glossary of Urdu-Hindi Terms 263
Bibliography 265
Index 295


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