COURSE: Political Islam

Course content

This course focuses on a specific ‘brand’ of politicized religiosity – namely, Political Islam. With questions such as ‘Who are Islamists?’ and ‘What do they want?’ rampant, in this course we go beyond the particulars of the religious discourse. Instead, we draw on a conception of ideology as a sum total of lived experiences in order to elaborate the identity and history of Islamists that have shaped their contemporary tactics of contention. Finally, while Political Islam is a broad and multifaceted topic, at the end of the course, students are expected to be proficient in the appropriate empirical, theoretical and methodological tools needed to aptly understand Islamist activism.




Studying Muslims and the Middle East

Religion, Secularism and International Relations

The Study of Ideology

Islam as a vehicle of opposition

‘New’ Islamic Movements: Violence and Social Service

Political Islam and Women

Islam: From Opposition to Power

Islamic Governance

Islamism at Home: Muslim Political Activism in Europe

Studying Islamism at Ground Level: Fieldwork Methodology


SRM: Elective III

The course is open to all students at the department

Bachelorlevel: 20 ECTS
Masterlevel: 15 ECTS

Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course, students should:


Be able to rise above politicized academic and public discourses on Islamists and demonstrate a familiarity with a history of their identity


Be able to demonstrate how and why ‘Islamists’ engaging a particular ‘type’ of contention finds legitimacy and credibility in society.


Be able to challenge ‘mainstream’ approaches to studying Islamism and engage in an interdisciplinary approach that draws on non-traditional understandings of religious activism, ideology and rebellion.


Be able to demonstrate empirical knowledge of major strands of Islamist activism

Sessions will be a combination of lectures by the instructor, visiting speakers and in-class discussions.


  • John Collins and Ross Glover. Collateral Language: A User’s Guide to America’s New War (New York: New York University Press, 2002)

  • Edward Said. Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979)

  • Lisa Anderson. “Searching Where the Light Shines: Studying Democratization in the Middle East” Annual Review of Political Science (2006): 189-214.

  • Richard Jackson and Marie Breen Smyth. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

  • Talal Asad. Formations of the Secular (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003)

  • Sune Haugbolle. “Social Boundaries and Secularism in the Lebanese Left” Mediterranean Politics 18.3 (2013): 427-443.

  • Mona Kanwal Sheikh. “How does religion matter? Pathways to religion in International Relations” Review of International Studies 38.2 (April 2012): 365-392.

  • Olivier Roy. Globalized Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006)

  • Sara Roy. Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011)

  • Afsaneh Najmabadi. “(Un)Veiling Feminism” Social Text 64 18.3 (Fall 2000): 29-46

  • Asef Bayat. How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009)

  • Lila Abu-Lughod ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998)

  • Lila Abu-Lughod. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013)

  • Fatma Kassem. Palestinian Women: Narrative Histories and Gendered Memory (New York: Zed Books, 2011)

  • Linda Herrera and Asef Bayat eds. Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)

  • Khalil Al-Anani and Maszlee Malik. “Pious Way to Politics: The Rise of Political Salafism in Post-Mubarak Egypt” Digest of Middle East Studies 22.1 (2013): 57-73.

  • Samuli Schielke. “Boredom and despair in rural Egypt” Contemporary Islam 2.3 (2008): 251-270.

Students are expected to have a basic theoretical and empirical knowledge of international politics. While knowledge of Middle East politics is not required, participants can read Owen, Roger. State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2004) in order to acquire a better understanding of regional politics. Despite being a course in the Department of Political Science students with other disciplinary backgrounds are strongly encouraged to enroll in the course.

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28