Kepel, Gilles 1955-
KEPEL, Gilles 1955-
PERSONAL: Born June 30, 1955, in Paris, France. Education: Studied in Paris, France; earned Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—4 Washington Square Village, Apt. 4C, New York, NY 10012.
CAREER: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France, senior research fellow; Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, professor; New York University, visiting professor, 1992; New York Consortium, visiting professor at New York University and Columbia University, 1995-96; lecturer at Harvard University, Princeton University, Universities of California, Berkeley and Los Angeles, and University of Chicago. Social Science Research Council, member of Committee for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies, 1985-88.
Le Prophète et pharaon: Les Mouvements Islamistes dans l'Egypte contemporaine, La Découverte (Paris, France), 1984, translation by Jon Rothschild published as Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1985, updated, with new preface, 2003.
Les Banlieues de l'Islam, Editions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1987.
(Editor, with R. Leveau) Les Musulmans dans la societe Francaise, Presses de la FNSP (Paris, France), 1988.
(Editor, with Y. Richard) Intellectuels et militants de l'Islam contemporain, Editions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1990.
La Revanche de Dieu: Chrétiens, Juifs et Musulmans à la reconquête du monde, Editions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1991, translation by Alan Braley published as The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in the Modern World, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1994.
(Editor) Les Politiques de Dieu, Editions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1993.
(Editor) Exils et royaumes: Les Appartenances au monde Arabo-Musulman aujourd'hui, Presses de la FNSP (Paris, France), 1994.
A l'ouest d'Allah, Editions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1994, translation by Susan Milner published as Allah in the West: Islamic Movements in America and Europe, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1997.
Jihad: Expansion et declin de l'Islamisme, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2000, translation by Anthony F. Roberts published as Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, Belknap Press/Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Chronique d'une guerre d'orient (automne 2001): Suivi de brève chronique d'Israel et de Palestine (avril-mai 2001), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2002, translation by Pascale Ghazaleh published as Bad Moon Rising: A Chronicle of the Middle East Today, Saqi (London, England), 2003.
Kepel's works have been translated into numerous languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Gilles Kepel, described by Times Literary Supplement critic M. E. Yapp as a "prolific academic writer on modern Islam," attracted significant mainstream attention with the publication of Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. In this book, originally published in French in 2000, Kepel argues that militant Islam, which enjoyed a surge of popular support in the late twentieth century, has been in decline since the late 1990s. Updating the book after the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, Kepel states that "In spite of what hasty commentators contended in its immediate aftermath, the attack on the United States was a desperate symbol of the isolation, fragmentation and decline of the Islamist movement, not a sign of its strength and irrepressible might."
Kepel traces the rise of contemporary militant Islam to 1966, when the Egyptian government executed activist Sayyid Qutb. Through the 1970s the movement grew, aided by soaring population rates and increased literacy and urbanization in the Muslim world. The Iranian revolution in 1979 was a turning point; it was followed by Islamist uprisings in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, and the Balkans, as well as among the Palestinians. Yet, according to Kepel, these later episodes reveal the movement's ultimate failure to attract widespread support. Between 1996 and 1997, he writes, the "high season of jihad" began to wane. Two "entirely new phenomena" influenced this decline. The first, Kepel explains, "was the gradual opening of a gulf between the ideas of Islamist radicals and the needs of ordinary Muslims . . . Second, there began to emerge among those same ordinary Muslims a blueprint for a Muslim democratic society that went beyond the Islamist model. It was suggested that traditional Islamic culture could find a way to allow Muslims to embrace the modern world without betraying themselves."
Critics found Kepel's argument provocative, well-reasoned, and based on solid scholarship. Jihad, according to New York Times Book Review contributor Robin Wright, "is a compelling read that makes an appealing case." Similarly, Justin Wintle in the London Sunday Times found the book "deeply researched, deeply measured and deeply instructive." Some, however, did not find Kepel's thesis entirely convincing. In the Atlantic Monthly, Walter Laqueur observed, "It is to be hoped that reality catches up with Kepel's dream of a new dawn of freedom and democracy rooted in the great tradition of Muslim civilization. But it certainly won't happen soon." Times Literary Supplement reviewer M. E. Yapp also raised questions about Kepel's theory, pointing out that though it is sometimes persuasive, "the more one examines the situation in the contemporary Muslim world, the more the supposed common pattern seems to blur." Yet Yapp concluded that "Jihad is an excellent account of the development of radical Islam in the last quarter of the twentieth century, combining as it does a good knowledge of the recent history of several Muslim countries, an understanding of Islamic thought and an ability to bring together historical events and longer-term social changes to afford a persuasive explanation of the phenomenon he is describing. Whether Gilles Kepel's optimism about the decline if Islamism is justified remains to be seen."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: Expansion et declin de l'Islamisme, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2000, translation by Anthony F. Roberts published as Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, Belknap Press/Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Atlantic Monthly, March, 2002, Walter Laqueur, "The Failure of Intelligence," p. 127.
Booklist, April 1. 2002, John Green, review of Jihad, p. 1284.
Choice, June, 2002, B. B. Lawrence, review of The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in the Modern World and Allah in the West: Islamic Movements in America and Europe, p. SF7.
Economist, July 19, 1997, review of Allah in the West, p. S8.
International Affairs, October, 1997, Roger Hardy, review of Allah in the West, p. 821.
Journal of American Ethnic History, fall, 1999, Georges Sabagh, review of Allah in the West, p. 113.
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, winter, 1997, Yushua Sodiq, review of The Revenge of God, p. 150.
Journal of Intercultural Studies, December, 2001, Amandeep Sandhu, review of Allah in the West, p. 326.
Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Nader Entessar, review of Jihad, p. 96.
National Interest, winter, 1997, Herb Greer, review of Allah in the West, p. 94.
New Statesman, May 13, 2002, Mick Hume, review of Jihad, p. 50.
Newsweek International, May 8, 2000, "The Final Days of Jihad," p. 40.
New York Times Book Review, May 26, 2002, Robin Wright, review of Jihad, p. 10.
Partisan Review, summer, 2001, Walter Laqueur, "Fundamentalism," p. 499.
Publishers Weekly, March 4, 2002, review of Jihad, p. 68.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), May 12, 2002, Efraim Karsh, review of Jihad, p. 15.
Sunday Times (London, England), June 23, 2002, Justin Wintle, review of Jihad, p. 41.
Times Higher Education Supplement, April 25, 1997, Shabbir Akhtar, review of Allah in the West, p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement, May 30, 1997, Malise Ruthven, review of Allah in the West, p. 3; June 28, 2002, M. E. Yapp, review of Jihad, p.
Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2002, Adrian Karatnycky, review of Jihad, p. W10.
Washington Times, May 21, 2002, Sol Schindler, review of Jihad, p. A21.*