Review by "Military Review" (May-June 2009 edition) for my book “The Modernization of Islam and the Creation of a Multipolar World Order”
(Military Review journal is published by United States Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, US)
The Modernization of Islam is a detailed and highly engaging study into global Islamic militancy and the diverse challenges of the Middle East. Based on sound analysis and historical descriptions, Dr. Susmit Kumar’s central argument is that what we are witnessing today is not a clash of civilizations, as prophesied by Samuel Huntington and many others, but the transformation of Islam. The author notes that “in order to give birth to a beautiful child, a woman has to go through the pains of labor,” and asserts that the violence in Iraq and the growth of Islamic fundamentalism are simply manifestations of a difficult birthing process.
Kumar says that contemporary Islamic civilization is going through a crisis similar to the kind Europe experienced in the early 1900s. When World War I and II acted as catalysts to positively change the global-economic and political environment of those times. The long-term prognosis is encouraging, and the tide of fundamentalism will wane; but, it will take time, and the path will be rocky. Kumar notes: “At the end of the current crisis in the Middle East, Islam will come to be the guiding force where it now leads, and the majority of Islamic nations will become secular and democratic, like Turkey.” The author suggests that we are again moving toward the promise of a new world order.
However, in suggesting a positive trend in the Middle East, Kumar also highlights the decline in the U.S. economy and makes a strong case for the socioeconomic premise called the “Progressive Utilization Theory” (“Prout”), devised by Prabhat Raingan Sakar, a renowned Indian theorist and economist, to try and stem the tide of the current financial downturn. “Prout” promotes economic democracy and economic decentralization (i.e., increasing the purchasing power of the individual) and contrasts starkly with the authoritarianism and centralization of capitalism and modern-day communism. Kumar posits that such a strategy will become increasingly necessary as the United States “heads down the [current] path of economic self-destruction.”
Kumar is not afraid of tackling a number of controversial issues headon, which some readers will find slightly unnerving. For example, he notes: “Incompetent persons like Ronald Regan and George W. Bush won elections as presidents of the world’s superpower because of massive media propaganda using hundreds of millions of dollars donated by big corporations and the ultrawealthy. Were these same people to try and get work as CEOs, however, they would fail. ..” In other areas, Kumar is more even-handed. His dexterous differentiation between those nations trying to promote Islamic fundamentalism and secular democratic states is useful for the lay reader.
In sum, the Modernization of Islam is an immersing, challenging, and probing study. Kumar’s textbook-like approach, clear prose, and coherent historical analysis make for a particularly rewarding read.
MAJ Andrew M. Roe
British Army, United Kingdom