Stylistically, Tibi's studies are a challenge to read: verbose and verging on the pompous, they are replete with references to the author's prior publications and his self-importance. In this case, it is worth suffering through those drawbacks because The Challenge of Fundamentalism contains a powerful and important argument, one all the more effective because made by a Sunni Muslim from Syria. Tibi, professor of international relations at the University of Göttingen, forcefully argues that Islamism (in contrast to Islam) "poses a grave challenge to world politics, security, and stability."
He makes a number of interesting points in this regard: Islamists draw on "a steadily growing and increasingly anti-Western civilization-consciousness among Muslims." They invent their own new-fangled tradition of Islam; purveying a "modern phenomenon dressed up in traditional symbols." They "are far more dangerous as ideologues of power than as extremists who kill," for their main goal is nothing less than a radical overhaul of the existing system of nation-states that dates back to 1648 and its replacement by an Islamic order. He argues that Islamists cannot succeed in this dream, though they can certainly "create disorder, on a vast scale" along the way. Noting the near-absence of theological debates among Islamists, he concludes that their ideology is not "an expression of religious revival, but rather a pronouncement of a new order." And that order, he baldly states, "is nothing less than a vision of totalitarian rule." This leads Tibi to state that Islamists "constitute the most serious challenge to democracy in our age."
Rather than repeat the stale arguments about Islamism caused by economic travails, Tibi understands that identity problems are the key factor, a result of the traumatic Muslim counter with modernity. And this is just the tip of the insights in Tibi's slightly maddening but brave and brilliant analysis.