Not-So-Innocents Abroad

Gilles Kepel's internationally respected expertise in Islamic matters simply does not extend to their infusion within Western politics and society.

Issue: Winter 1997-1998

Gilles Kepel, Allah in the West (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).

Gilles Kepel is director of research at the French National Science Research Council and a leading Western authority on the world of Islam. The 1994 English-language version of his most recent opus, The Revenge of God, as well as his 1985 book The Prophet and the Pharaoh, were well received by the best of the American and British Orientalist academies. A new book by Kepel is therefore bound to generate expectations, and let it be said at once that Allah in the West has at least one important merit: His description of the fissiparous Islamic movement in the West is a convincing corrective to media scare-stories that portray Islam as a kind of religious cognate to the defunct Communist Conspiracy, a monolithic threat to the West.

But Allah in the West is not really an extended essay on Islam in the West. Nor is it (claims on the dust jacket notwithstanding) an analysis of the relationship between Islam and the West, a subject around which it delicately skirts. It is instead an extended sociological treatise on what Kepel calls "communalism" (la démarche communautariste) in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

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