Oxford University Press Publishes Prof. Jeff Kenney's Muslim Rebels
September 21, 2006
September 21, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - Muslim Rebels: Kharijites and the Politics of Extremism in Egypt by Jeffrey T. Kenney, associate professor and chair of religious studies at DePauw University, has been published by Oxford University Press.
"The Kharijites were the first sectarian movement in Islamic history, a rebellious splinter group that separated itself from mainstream Muslim society and set about creating, through violence, an ideal community of the saved," explains the publisher in a synopsis of the text. "Their influence in the political and theological life of the nascent faith has ensured their place in both critical and religious accounts of early Islamic history... Kenney shows how the traditional image of the Kharijites was reawakened to address the problem of radical Islamist opposition movements. The Kharijites came to play a central role in the rhetoric of both religious authorities, whose official role it is to interpret Islam for the masses, and the secular state, which cynically turns to Islamic ideas and symbols to defend its legitimacy. Even those Islamists who defend militant tactics, and who are themselves tainted by the Kharijite label, become participants in the discourse surrounding Kharijism. Although all Egyptians agree that modern Kharijites represent a dangerous threat to society, serious debates have arisen about the underlying social, political and economic problems that lead Muslims down this destructive path. Kenney examines these debates and what they reveal about Egyptian attitudes toward Islamist violence and its impact on their nation. Long before 9/11, Egyptians have been dealing with the problem of Islamist violence, frequently evoking the Kharijites. This book represents an important contribution to Islamic studies and Middle East studies, adding to our understanding of how the Islamic past shapes the present discourse surrounding Islamist violence in one Muslim society."
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the noted Egyptian activist and former DePauw professor, states, "Much of Middle Eastern politics in recent years has been shaped by the ascendance of militant Islamists, whose intellectual roots can be traced to the Kharijites of fourteen centuries ago. With Muslim Rebels, Kenney has skillfully captured the metamorphosis of contemporary strands of militant Islam, one of which struck America and the world on 9/11. It is rare to find a complex phenomenon handled with such lucidity and nuance." Dr. Ibraim, who authored Egypt, Islam and Democracy: Critical Essays and received an honorary degree from DePauw in 2004, calls Kenney's text "Required reading for those of us attempting to understand the intersection of Islam and activism today."Back